New Internationalist

Celebrating International Migrants Day


International Migrants Day is a chance to speak up for migrants. Photo: idleformat, under a CC License.

International Migrants Day, on 18 December, is a global day of celebration and recognition for the interests and rights of migrants...

As 2012 draws to a close, it is clear that these are increasingly difficult times for migrants’ rights across the world. As outlined by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in a statement on 17 December 2012, hostile immigration policies are intensified by the current economic climate, increasing the divisions between migrants and natives in many countries.

‘As budgets tighten, we are seeing austerity measures that discriminate against migrant workers, xenophobic rhetoric that encourages violence against irregular migrants, and proposed immigration laws that allow the police to profile migrants with impunity. During economic downturns, it is worth remembering that whole sectors of the economy depend on migrant workers and migrant entrepreneurs help to create jobs.’

In Britain the political and economic context making life more difficult for many migrants. Tough policies on migrant workers, increasingly limited access to settlement, discriminatory rules on family migration and continued persecution of irregular migrants are denying rights, at a time when austerity measures are squeezing the advice and support available to those who need it. But those of us working in Britain to mark this day should feel confident that we are acting in concert with many others across the world, to assert the rights and interests of migrants.

The Migrants’ Rights Network launched a new campaign called ‘Our Day – Standing together for International Migrants Day’. The idea for coordinating the activities across Britain came from our conversations with migrant groups at this year’s Annual Summit. We all agreed that we wanted to mark International Migrants Day together, to celebrate the contribution of migrants, and to build recognition of the challenges that many migrant communities still face in Britain.

As this was the first year, we agreed we should be realistic about the whole thing. A few tweets, a small website and an easy to do action that a couple of the most enthusiastic people would do. You know, nothing much. Well, we were very wrong in predicting the interest in celebrating International Migrants Day.

Since we launched the campaign in November 2012, we have been overwhelmed with the positive energy from individuals and groups. The Our Day campaign is now supported by over 50 migrant community organizations, social enterprises, local government initiatives and trade unions and we have logged over 5,000 page views on the Our Day website in the first month alone. The wonderful Migrant Manifesto video [see below] performed by Musa Okwonga is just a couple views shy of reaching 2,000 views in 3 weeks.

Supportive MPs from across the political parties tabled an early day motion in Parliament to acknowledge contribution migrants make and to mark the International Migrants Day. So far it has had 35 signatures from MPs, mostly because their constituents took the time to write to them.

Across Britain people have held events marking International Migrants Day – in London, Manchester, Sheffield, Hertfordshire. There was even a special event in the Scottish Parliament organized by Migrants Rights Scotland.

International Migrants Day is an opportunity to speak up against discriminatory and divisive policies, wherever they are. Colleagues and friends are rising up in places including the United States, Belgium and Hong Kong to assert the rights of migrants, and to call on political leaders as well as wider society to recognise migrants’ contributions and demand better protection of vulnerable individuals. Many groups, such as the Migrant Forum of Asia, are using this as an opportunity to ask governments to sign the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families – a convention which remains unsigned by many host countries.

Today we send a message of solidarity to our colleagues across Britain and around the world for their campaigns in support of migrants’ rights. Together we are stronger!

Finally, we think the wonderful Migrant Manifesto brings together the message underlying International Migrants Day best:

‘We witness how fear creates boundaries, how boundaries create hate and how hate only serves the oppressors. We understand that migrants and non-migrants are interconnected. When the rights of migrants are denied the rights of citizens are at risk. Dignity has no nationality.’

Jan Brulc is from the Migrants’ Rights Network.
This article first appeared on the Migrants’ Rights Network blog. Crossposted with permission.

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