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UN chief calls on member states to better handle migration

2022 Feb 17, 13:37, New York
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres briefs the General Assembly on his report on the Global Compact for Migration at the UN headquarters in New York, on Feb. 16, 2022. Guterres on Wednesday called on member states to better handle migration and protect migrants. (Evan Schneider/UN Photo/Handout via Xinhua)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on member states to better handle migration and protect migrants.

In a briefing to the General Assembly on his report on the Global Compact for Migration, Guterres highlighted four priorities.

The first priority is to promote inclusive societies and include migrants in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, he said.

Migrants have been severely impacted by the pandemic and played an outsized heroic role on the front lines of responding to the crisis, often putting themselves at risk to help others. Yet migrants, particularly those with irregular status, are often excluded from recovery measures and denied access to basic services, he said.

Many are experiencing growing stigmatization, racism, and xenophobia. Women and child migrants are facing higher risks of trafficking and exposure to gender-based violence, abuse, and exploitation. And others continue to be forcibly returned -- often with insufficient regard to health risks, due process, or procedural safeguards, including the best interest of the child, he said.

The second priority is to promote safe and regular migration, said Guterres.

Today, over 80 percent of the world's migrants move between countries in a safe and orderly fashion. But unregulated migration continues to extract a terrible human cost. Large migration flows today are essentially managed by smugglers and human traffickers. These criminals are robbing people of their fundamental rights, stealing their dreams, and causing serious problems in many countries around the world. Women and girls are targeted again and again, he said.

The only way to break the stranglehold of smugglers and traffickers is to establish pathways for regular migration in close cooperation between countries of origin and countries of destination, he said.

"We must better protect migrants in vulnerable situations, including those affected by disasters and the climate crisis. And we must expand and diversify rights-based pathways for regular migration to address labor market shortages and advance the Sustainable Development Goals. We must do more to ensure returns and readmissions are safe, dignified and in full accordance with obligations under international law. Governments everywhere must work together so that any reintegration into home communities is safe and sustainable."

The third priority is about preventing loss of life and other tragedies during migration, said Guterres.

In the last seven years, nearly 50,000 migrant deaths were recorded across the world. And the actual numbers are certainly higher. Behind each number is a human being. Each perished in pursuit of opportunity, dignity, and a better life.

"Their deaths are a source of collective shame. And preventing the loss of life, including through rescue at sea, is a humanitarian imperative and a moral and legal obligation. Whether their movement is voluntary or forced, formally authorized or not, all human beings must have their rights respected and their dignity upheld. We must eliminate smuggling and human trafficking. We must end the exploitation of vulnerability," he said.

The fourth priority is about building capacity, said Guterres.

He asked member states to work with the UN Network for Migration, which has established a capacity-building mechanism, in advancing the full implementation of the Global Compact for Migration.

The cornerstones of the compact are collaboration and cooperation across all states and stakeholders at all levels, he said.

"Together, we can secure a strong political outcome. Together, we can draw on the Global Compact to foster global solidarity toward migrants, recover better from COVID-19, and build more resilient and inclusive societies. Together -- and only together -- can we safeguard our common humanity and secure the rights and dignity of all," said Guterres.


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres United Nations migrants migration General Assembly Global Compact for Migration pandemic covid-19 exploitation
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