16 December 2003

Secretary-General, in International Migrants Day Message, Underlines Need to Maximize Benefits of Migration

NEW YORK, 15 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on International Migrants Day, 18 December 2003:

Every day, in countries all over the world, people leave their home countries in search of a better life for themselves and their families.  The phenomenon of migration has a profound effect on the countries migrants leave, those through which they transit, and those to which they move.

A key challenge for our world in the twenty-first century is to manage migration better.  We need to maximize its many real benefits and minimize the difficulties that it can cause.  Many United Nations agencies, as well as the International Organization for Migration, work hard to do just that.

The recently launched Global Commission on International Migration can help us take international cooperation to a new level. The Commission is the initiative of States from both North and South, and has my full support. I hope its final report will contribute to better public understanding of migration, and help build a framework for greater cooperation among States to manage migration for the benefit of all.

In building that framework, let us remember the people at the heart of this issue -- migrants themselves. Many migrate under duress, endure a perilous journey, and face hardships in their new home countries. Many remain vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by unscrupulous traffickers, smugglers and employers.  Moreover, in recent years, migrants have been vilified in certain societies, while some have been denied their rights in the name of national security.  Despite all these obstacles, the vast majority of migrants contribute greatly to their new societies, and many send back remittances which support the economies of their countries of origin.

More must be done to ensure the respect of the human rights of migrant workers and their families -- be they regular or irregular, documented or undocumented.  That is why I call on States to become parties to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, which entered into force this July.  The Convention establishes for its ratifying countries the obligation to respect the core human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrant workers in their State of immigration.  It is a vital part of efforts to combat exploitation of migrant workers and members of their families.

The States which are already parties to the Convention held their first session on 11 December 2003 in New York, where they elected the members of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.  This Committee will consider reports on measures taken by participating States to give effect to the Convention.  I encourage all participating States to recognize the Committee’s competence to receive and consider communications from individuals subject to their jurisdiction who claim that their rights under the Convention have been violated.

On this fourth International Migrants Day, let us resolve to manage migration better, and redouble our efforts to protect the human rights of migrants.

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