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  • INSMS International Network for Students of Migration Studies

International Migrants Day: Theme and Celebrations

by Tashryn Mohd Shahrin

Since the year 2000, International Migrants Day has been observed on December 18th. The General Assembly of the United Nations designated this day to celebrate migrants while taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants worldwide. In commemoration of this day, we are essentially doing two things:

1. Recognizing the contributions made by migrants

2. Promoting respect for the basic human rights of migrants

Migrants contribute their knowledge, skills, and networks to build stronger, more resilient communities. The global social and economic landscape can be shaped through impactful decisions to address the challenges and opportunities presented by global mobility and people on the move.

International Migrants Day 2021: Harnessing the Potential of Human Mobility

For the second time, the commemoration of International Migrants Day during the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the many challenges migrants are facing around the world: uncertainty about the future, loneliness, isolation or being trapped due to economic woes, separation from loved ones, inability to move freely and the list goes on. While the pandemic has shaken us hard, it has made the vulnerabilities of migrant workers more significant and shed some much-needed light on their struggles.

Individual and societal perceptions of migration do not reflect the lived realities of those on the move, but are more so influenced by dominant political and media narratives. Attitudes towards migration have changed over time and in response to particular events, where people are not strongly in favour of or against migration but have diverse opinions and concerns about how it happens and its consequences.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) offers the opportunity and guidance to actualize human mobility and seize the opportunities it presents. It is a milestone, a vision to be conceived among countries in implementing a common framework to manage migration – a historically sensitive area of division between the Global North and South. While there has been some positive practices in response to COVID-19, the same chasms between North and South risk being replicated again unless efforts are steered back to the spirit of the GCM.

As migration continues to see an upward trend even despite the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, let us all reflect on our various roles, capacities, and relationship with migrants. If given more thought, do we really need a GCM to tell us how to be humane towards migrants?

How to Celebrate International Migrants Day

It is really quite simple.

Educate. Try to break down your own assumptions and stereotypes by challenging the narratives that consume media and political spaces. Start conversations and gather perspectives then formulate your own thinking. Diversity is all around us, and as long as migrants are around, we should appreciate them and treat them as the human beings they are.

Act. You can provide daily necessities such as food, water, shelter to the migrants in your area or country. Help them to live a peaceful life and acknowledge their work by recognizing them completely. Welcoming them into shared spaces will do more good than harm.

Build support. You can get involved in the organizations who are actively playing a huge role in promoting this day or migrants in general. Let people around you know about the issues and concerns faced by migrants. The more informed people are, the less afraid they will be.

Together, we can move the needle and shift the paradigm on migration.

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