International Migrants Day: Meaning, History and Celebration
Today, globalization, 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. Migration draws increasing attention in the world nowadays. Mixed with elements of unforeseeability, emergency, and complexity, the challenges and difficulties of international migration require enhanced cooperation and collective action among countries and regions.
To mark International Migrants Day, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is calling on the international community to come together and remember the refugees and migrants who have lost their lives or have disappeared while trying to reach safe harbor after arduous journeys across seas and deserts.
IOM invites people all over the world to hold the first global Candlelight Vigil on December 18 to commemorate the migrants whose lives have been lost this year. Each of them has a name, a story, and left their homelands seeking better opportunities and safety for themselves and in many cases for their families - aspirations that all of us strive for.
International Migrants Day Background
According to a Global Commission on International Migration report in 2005, the number of international migrants increased from 75 million to about 200 million in the past 30 years, and migrants could be found in every part of the world. The report also found that the migration could accelerate due to the growing developmental, demographic, and democratic disparities that existed between different world regions. Moreover, migration is driven by powerful economic, social, and political forces that governments need to acknowledge as a reality.
On December 4, 2000, the UN General Assembly, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed December 18 as International Migrants. On that day, a decade earlier, the assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Earlier celebrations of the day can be traced as far back as 1997 when some Asian migrant organizations marked December 18 as the day to recognize the rights, protection, and respect for migrants.
History of International Migrants Day
On 4 December 2000, the UN General Assembly (UNGA), taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day (A/RES/55/93).
The day was selected to mark the anniversary of the 1990 adoption by UNGA of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (A/RES/45/158).
Reasons for the Day
In 1997, Filipino and other Asian migrant organizations began celebrating and promoting 18 December as the International Day of Solidarity with Migrants. This date was chosen because it was on 18 December 1990 that the UN adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Building on this initiative, 18 December with support from Migrant Rights International and the Steering Committee for the Global Campaign for Ratification of the International Convention on Migrants' Rights and many other organizations – began late 1999 campaigning online for the official UN designation of an International Migrant's Day, which was finally proclaimed on 4 December 2000.
The United Nations proclamation of the International Migrants Day is an important step, offering a rallying point for all those concerned with the protection of migrants. The UN invited all UN member states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to observe this day by disseminating information on human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, sharing experiences, and undertaking action to ensure the protection of migrants.
International Migrants Day is seen as an opportunity to recognize the contributions made by millions of migrants to the economies of their host and home countries to promote respect for their basic human rights.
What Do People Do?
Each year the UN invites governments, organizations, and individuals to observe International Migrants Day by distributing information on human rights and migrants’ fundamental freedoms. People are also invited to share their experiences and contribute to designing action plans to ensure their protection. Organizations actively involved in promoting the day include:
- “December 18”, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status with the UN.
- Radio 1812, an initiative that brings together radio stations to celebrate the day.
- Amnesty International.
- The International Organization for Migration.
- The National Network for Immigrants and Refugee Rights.
Many organizations and communities celebrate the day through various activities to alert the general public with facts about migrants, problems with human trafficking, the lives of migrant workers’ children, the plight of refugees, and ways to combat racism. Online organizations, such as brick, give people the opportunity to have a virtual experience of what it is like to come from a migrant background. Lobby groups may also use this day as an opportunity to pressure local public officials to look at issues concerning legalization, immigrant enforcement, and migrants’ human rights. Special films and documentaries about migrants are also screened or broadcast on this day.
The UN emblem may be found in material promoting International Migrants Day. The emblem consists of a projection of the globe centered on the North Pole. It depicts all continents except Antarctica and four concentric circles representing degrees of latitude. The projection is surrounded by images of olive branches, representing peace. The emblem is often blue, although it is printed in white on a blue background on the UN flag.
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