IOM DG Antonio Vitorino's message on International Migrants Day
Last year, on International Migrants Day, we highlighted the importance of social cohesion and recognized the generosity of societies supporting migrants in their communities, unaware of what 2020 would bring.
We declared migrants to be “champions of resilience when times are tough,” unaware of how they – and we -- would be put to the test.
This year we have all witnessed -- first-hand -- the critical role migrants have played in our societies, on the front lines of our fight against COVID-19, caring for the sick, working to maintain essential services.
The dedication and entrepreneurial spirit we have seen this year reminds us that, as we move from pandemic response to recovery over the coming months, migrants will be an integral part of that return to normal life.
But, for this to happen, we must reinforce the efforts already made by many countries to ensure migrants are fully included in our COVID-19 responses, including access to social services, and ensuring they do not get left behind.
Many migrants have found themselves reduced to poverty, the first to be let go and the last to be rehired.
Economically disadvantaged, many have become stranded, unable to return home, while still more have been forced to return without due regard for their safety. At the extremes, migrants may be prey to the criminals who would exploit their vulnerability for profit.
Human rights are not ‘earned’ by virtue of being a hero or a victim, but are an entitlement of everyone, regardless of origin, age, gender and status. But support and protection are needed if migrants are to contribute fully to their, and our, recovery.
As vaccines become available, migrants regardless of their status must be ensured equitable access to national programming, not as a special class of people, but as friends, neighbours and co-workers.
The global response to COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity to reimagine human mobility from the ground up, to implement the vision of the Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration, and build prosperous, healthy and resilient communities.
We, together, can make it happen.