The United Nations has marked International Migrants Day with an array of events and ceremonies aiming to highlight the contributions made and challenges faced by migrants and refugees.
Wednesday’s commemoration – the 19th successive year the UN has celebrated the international day on December 18 – took place as the number of migrants and refugees worldwide continues to rise.
The global migrant and refugee population reached an estimated 272 million this year, an increase of 51 million since the beginning of the decade, according to the UN.
“Throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
“Today, globalisation, together with advances in communications and transportation, has greatly increased the number of people, who have the desire and the capacity to move to other places,” he added, while also calling for the “equal protection of all their human rights”.
The UN Migration Agency (IOM) defines a “migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a State away from his/her habitual place of residence”.
Migrants, according to the IOM, are classified as such “regardless of the person’s legal status; whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary; what the causes for the movement are; or what the length of the stay is”.
Women make up 48 percent of the total number of migrants and refugees worldwide, according to the UN, while one out of every seven is younger than 20.
To mark Wednesday’s event, the UN rolled out the #WeTogether hashtag on the world body’s social media channels in order to draw attention to testimonials of migrants and refugees in different parts of the world and the daily predicaments they face.
Depression, loneliness, unemployment and fear of deportation are just a few of the many challenges such individuals often confront.
1.with or in proximity to another person or people.
"together they crossed the sea"
— IOM – UN Migration (@UNmigration) December 18, 2019
“Many migrants have crossed a nearby border for opportunities in countries not very different from their own,” Antonio Vitorino, IOM’s director-general, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Indeed, more and more, we see workers routinely crossing borders, living in one country, working in another,” he added.
“Others cross continents or oceans, taking giant steps – and giant risks – to join new societies with different languages, religious practices, foods and cultural norms. They risk a great deal to succeed among us.”
Wednesday’s developments came as the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva drew to a close. Opening the proceedings on Tuesday, Guterres called for the “international community” to do “far more” to shoulder the responsibility of refugees together.
The forum took place exactly a year after the UN General Assembly adopted a framework aimed at creating a more predictable and equitable approach to providing assistance to refugees and host communities.
The meeting was the first of its kind, pooling together heads of state, government ministers, as well as business leaders, humanitarians and refugees themselves, to offer ideas and pledges for more efficient support.