Message by H. E. Jan Kavan, President of the 57th Session of the
United Nations General Assembly
18 December 2002
years ago, December 18 was declared International Migrant's Day
by the United Nations General Assembly, in recognition of the
role of some 150 million persons living outside their country
of birth or citizenship. Through past decades, many states have
experienced a large rise in the number of migrants and estimates
by the International Migration Organization shows that the international
community has to be prepared for a further huge increase in the
is the manifestation of the very natural desire of people to exercise
freedom of movement. It has, like all complex and crosscutting
phenomena, positive and negative aspects. However, there is often
very little recognition of the positive contributions of migrant
workers to the development of home as well as host countries.
The value of remittances of migrant workers to their country of
origin plays a significant role in some economies. Also the transfer
of knowledge and culture that the migrants bring, has not been
given full recognition yet.
migration, which is often driven by poverty, armed conflict or
lack of human rights in some parts of the world, raises many questions
and problems for the international community. Many countries have
to deal with a situation where a large proportion of migrants
are irregular and unauthorized. Under such circumstances, migrants
often become victims of organized crime and traffickers. Women
and children especially represent the most vulnerable group. It
is therefore necessary to tackle the issue of trafficking in women
and children and their sexual exploitation on international and
national level. But even if the movement of migrants is legal,
migrant workers face high levels of discrimination and exploitation.
They are frequently subjected to abuse and violence, often simply
because of their different cultural identity or gender or because
of racism and xenophobic attitudes in host countries. Another
issue is that migrants sometimes face severe obstacles concerning
the right to leave and return to their home country.
and cooperation between all the involved states is a necessary
precondition of managing migration with dignity. The debate on
migration should not polarize the international community since
the protection of human rights of migrants is not incompatible
with either the exercise of sovereignty by States or the practical
implementation of national security. To see it happen, there has
to be a legal framework. The Convention on the Protection of the
Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families provides
one such example, which covers some of the aspects. Also, national
legislation on this subject has to be strengthened and many countries
have to formulate effective strategies to combat the spread of
illegal migrant smuggling networks. Effective policies are needed
to prevent illegal migration, starting in the countries of origin
via transit countries to destination countries. This is absolutely
essential if we are serious about halting the spread of organized
transnational crime networks.
have a long way to solve all the problems in connection with migration.
Let us on this occasion reaffirm our commitment towards overcoming
the challenges on a basis that respects the right of migrants
as well as the rule of law.