Secretary-General's Message for 2016

 

This has been another turbulent year for refugees and migrants.  We have seen the continued devastating effect of armed conflict on civilian populations, leading to death, destruction and displacement.  We have witnessed the unacceptable loss of thousands of lives of people in transit in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.  And, to add insult to injury, we have witnessed the rise of populist movements that seek to alienate and expel migrants and refugees, and to blame them for various ills of society.

Yet, within this turbulence we also find rays of hope, with concerned citizens and communities opening their arms and hearts.  We have also seen a promising international response, culminating with the New York Declaration adopted in September at the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants.  It is now crucial that governments honour and build on their commitments to govern large movements of refugees and migrants in a way that is compassionate, people-centred, gender-responsive and rooted in fundamental human rights.  

Every migrant is a human being with human rights.  Protecting and upholding the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their status, is a foundational element of the New York Declaration.  To accomplish this, we need stronger international cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination that is guided by international law and standards.  We must reject intolerance, discrimination and policies driven by xenophobic rhetoric and the scapegoating of migrants.  Those who abuse and seek to harm migrants must be held to account.

A sustainable response to migration needs to address the drivers of forced and precarious movements of people.  These include poverty, food insecurity, armed conflict, natural disasters, climate change and environmental degradation, poor governance, persistent inequalities and violations of economic, social, civil, political or cultural rights.  Good governance of migration also demands expanding legal channels for safe migration, including for family reunification, for labour mobility at all skill levels, and educational opportunities for children and adults, as well as decriminalizing irregular migration and regularizing the status of undocumented migrants.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers an opportunity to ensure that the needs of the most marginalized, including migrants, are made a priority so that no one is left behind.  On this International Migrants Day, I call on the international community to act on the global compact on safe, regular and orderly migration as an important contribution to building a world of peace, prosperity, dignity and opportunity for all.

Ban Ki-moon