13 December 2001


Migration Called ‘Fact of Life’ of Modern World, Positive
Factor for Host and Home Countries; Exploitation of Workers a Concern

NEW YORK, 12 December (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the observance of 18 December as International Migrants Day:

This second International Migrants Day is an occasion to recognize the huge, but often unseen, contribution that millions of migrants make to the economies, societies and cultural advancement of countries throughout the world. It is also an opportunity to identify the challenges migration presents for the future.

In our globalizing world, growing migration is a fact of life. More than 150 million migrants -- 2 per cent of the world’s population -- live and work in a country other than that of their birth or citizenship. Migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers, permanent immigrants and others are all counted in this figure.

Migrants not only help enrich the fabric of their host countries. Many of them are also unsung heroes of their home countries and families. In addition to sending valuable remittances, they bring valuable skills, knowledge and experience when they return. Yet, too often, their contribution has been ignored.

The fate of many migrants lies in stark contrast to the aspirations reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights norms and labour conventions. They tend to be paid low wages, receive few or no benefits, and work without even minimal safety and health protection. They are often subject to discrimination and marginalization. Furthermore, unauthorized migration exposes migrants to shocking levels of abuse and exploitation. The scourge of trafficking, in particular, has placed many in horrific situations -- especially women and children.

Clearly, we must work together to ensure that migrants live in dignity and safety. The adoption in 1990 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families established a comprehensive framework to uphold the rights of migrants, while providing governments with tools to discourage unauthorized migration. And this year, the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance adopted a comprehensive plan to combat discrimination and xenophobia against migrants and refugees.

On this International Migrants Day, I call on all Member States who have not done so to ratify or accede to the 1990 International Convention, and I urge governments and civil society alike to act on the recommendations from the World Conference against racism. Protecting the rights and interests of migrants has never been more urgent, and is a responsibility that concerns us all.

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