Every 18 December, we celebrate International Migrants Day. On this day we recognise the contributions and celebrate the vitality of the world’s migrants. With some 244 million migrants living outside their country of birth, the highest number in history, the international trade union movement is calling for the UN Global Compact on Migration to deliver equal rights and decent work for migrants, two-thirds of whom are workers.
Throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Today, globalisation, 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.
Evidence overwhelmingly shows that migrants generate economic, social and cultural benefits for societies everywhere. Yet hostility towards migrants is unfortunately growing around the world. Hate Speech, Racism and Xenophobia is on the rise. Solidarity with migrants has never been more urgent.
“We are looking to the UN process to advance solutions, which will provide justice and assist, not impede, economic and social development. Migration has always been central to human development, and with xenophobic and racist sentiment on the rise, boosted by racist discourse from an increasing number of politicians, global solutions are vital to ending the discrimination and demonisation that so many migrants and refugees face today,” Sharon Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Migration draws increasing attention in the world nowadays. War and conflict, climate change, demographics, growing inequalities and aspirations for a better life — as well as unmet needs in labour markets — mean it is here to stay. Many migrants have no option but to undertake risky and dangerous journeys to fulfill their dreams or to simply feed their family. They often do not have real access to safe routes.
Along with those who have voluntarily moved, mostly to seek jobs, 60 million people have been permanently displaced by war and conflict. There are 400,000 displaced Somalis living in Kenya, and three million displaced Syrians are spread across the Middle East and Europe. Tens of thousands of migrants are exposed to slavery in Libya. Over the past two decades, over 60,000 adults and children have died in the course of migration journeys across dangerous land and sea routes. In 2016, an estimated 5,000 people drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa in perilous boats. Families have been fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. In 2017 there has been a 17% increase in recorded deaths of migrants along the US/Mexico border.
Mixed with elements of foreseeability, emergency, and complexity, the challenges and difficulties of international migration require enhanced cooperation and collective action among countries and regions. We need effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed and that human rights of all concerned are properly protected — as recognized by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Last year, world leaders committed to adopting a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in 2018. On September 19, 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of commitments during its first ever summit on large movements of refugees and migrants to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants. These commitments are known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (NY Declaration). The NY Declaration reaffirms the importance of the international protection regime and represents a commitment by Member States to strengthen and enhance mechanisms to protect people on the move. It paves the way for the adoption of two new global compacts in 2018: the global compact on refugees and the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. By February 2018 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will prepare a draft of the Global Compact on Refugees and formal consultation with Member States and other relevant stakeholders will commence.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), working with Global Union Federations in the different economic sectors, is calling for the Compact to ensure that all migrants and refugees have the right to organise in unions and bargain collectively, and to guarantee equal treatment and non-discrimination. Other core demands include an end to “tied” residence or “sponsorship” systems for employment of migrants, action in countries of origin and destination for decent work and sustainable development, attention to the rights of women migrants, access to justice and social protection, pathways to regularisation and regulation of the recruitment industry.
What you can do as a union activist
In marking International Migrants Day it is important to talk with other union members about why trade unions must take action to ensure equality and non-discrimination for all migrant workers…
…Migrant workers’ rights are HUMAN RIGHTS; these are central to trade union activities, so it is impossible today not to support them.
…Recruiting and organising migrant workers helps build union membership and make unions REPRESENTATIVE of increasingly diverse societies.
…Only a UNITED workers’ movement that protects every worker will be strong enough to face the global economic pressures and fight precarious work.
…Discrimination against migrant workers is NOT DIFFERENT from discrimination against other groups (because of gender, age, race, ethnic origin, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity), and migrant workers also face multiple discrimination on these grounds.
…All migrant workers have the right to be PROTECTED against any kind of discrimination, exploitation, or abuse.
Don’t forget you can get support from SIPTU through our Migrant and International Workers Support Network:
Links for more information :
- Labour’s Demand for the Global Compact on Migration : https://www.ituc-csi.org/labour-s-demands-for-the-global
- In 2017, SIPTU together with other unions produced a short documentary on refugees arriving to Europe. You can view this film on the following link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcFstatiVys
- ETUC Leaflet “Trade Unions Organising and Protecting Undocumented Migrants Rights” : https://www.etuc.org/press/trade-unions-organising-and-promoting-undocumented-migrant-workers-rights#.Wjea3t-RrIU