On the eve of a landmark United Nations conference on the world’s refugees and stateless people, the General Assembly President has called for a reframing of the debate about international migration to ensure that its benefits are better
“Migration provides a force for good, contributing significantly to human development,” said Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser in an address
to the Council of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva, citing the businesses established, the jobs created and the millions in remittances sent home by migrants.
Migration is no longer dominated by moves from developing countries to affluent
States, with “new migration poles” emerging in Asia, Africa and South America to
meet labour demands in those areas.
Mr. Al-Nasser warned that the discussion about migration “has reached a worrying
imbalance. The fear of the ‘other’ has become more acute since the onset of the
other world financial and economic crisis. Migrants have increasingly become the
targets of racist and intolerant attitudes and practices.”
Mr. Al-Nasser called on countries to strengthen their cooperation to maximize
the benefits of international migrants and to minimize its negative
The Assembly President spoke at the launch of IOM’s annual global migration
report, which found that migrants’ voices need to be better heard in the debate
about migration, especially during economic downturns when discussions often
include negative stereotyping and even xenophobia.
The report stresses that this does not mean the debate on migration should be
uncritical. Rather, it should be based on an open discussion that tackles
“Accurately informing the wider public about migration may be the single most
important policy tool in all societies faced with increasing diversity,” said
William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General.
In a separate Newsmaker interview with the UN News Centre, Mr. Swing noted that
“there are more people on the move than at any other time in recorded history,”
with about 215 million international migrants and 740 million domestic migrants.
“You would think at a time like this that migration would be something that is
very welcome, but in point of fact, the cruel irony is that more and more
governments are turning inward, borders are being closed, visa regimes are being
tightened and there is less and less opportunity for migration to occur on a
legal basis, so a lot of people are being pushed into the hands of traffickers,”
Tomorrow, representatives of at least 145 countries are set to gather in Geneva
for the start of a two-day conference on refugees and statelessness that is
being organized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The conference, which will be addressed by High Commissioner António Guterres,
is being held to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention and
the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.