Message on International Migrants Day
18 December 2012
With approximately 214 million people currently living outside their countries of origin, international migration is a global phenomenon affecting virtually every country in the world. While, for many, migration is a life-enhancing experience, too many migrants suffer considerable harm at all stages of the migration process, from preparation for departure to the return home.
Violence against migrants takes many forms, including exploitation through human trafficking or the risk to life and safety that may be linked to migrant smuggling - crimes directly addressed by the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol and the Migrant Smuggling Protocol, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. While ratification of both instruments is steadily increasing, the challenge is for all countries, rich and poor, to fully implement both Protocols. By doing so, countries will be targeting criminals who exploit desperate people, while at the same time, protecting and assisting the victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants. Many of these individuals have endured unimaginable hardships in their bid for a better life.
The challenge for UNODC, and its sister agencies in the Global Migration Group, is to support governments and their practitioners in these efforts. With detailed information drawn from more than 130 countries, UNODC's recently published Global Report on Trafficking in Persons has highlighted the global nature of this challenge.
As they move, migrants can become the victims, and witnesses of, robbery, kidnapping, extortion, sexual violence, torture and other crimes. The vulnerability of migrants to such violence varies greatly depending on their nationality, gender, age, ethnicity, cultural identity, education and migration status.
Some of the worst violence and abuse occurs to smuggled migrants, who can experience harm ranging from travelling in inhumane and life-threatening conditions to severe beatings and even death. Violence, however, is not only perpetrated by criminal profiteers. Sometimes, migrants have to deal with violence perpetrated by state actors, who instead of protecting migrants from violence sometimes are themselves perpetrators. Further, when migrants reach their final destination, they may be exposed to acts of violence resulting from racial discrimination or hate crimes.
UNODC plays a leading role in strengthening and coordinating the criminal justice response to such issues, providing Member States with legislative assistance, strategic planning and policy guidance, capacity-building for criminal justice actors, and protection and support to victims of trafficking in persons and smuggled migrants.
More than sixty years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserted that all persons have the right to life, liberty and security of person. As the United Nations General Assembly readies itself for its second High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development at the General Assembly in late 2013, this most fundamental commitment to the people of the world - a commitment to uphold the rights of all to live free from fear and violence - is more important than ever.
For this reason, on International Migrants Day, I urge all Member States to reaffirm their commitment to ensure the security of all migrants, so they in turn may secure their inherently human wish for a better future.