We Must Do More to Break Stranglehold of Smugglers, Better Protect Vulnerable Migrants, Secretary-General Tells International Migration Review Forum

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the International Migration Review Forum convened under the auspices of the General Assembly in New York today:

Migration is a fact of life; in fact, it is as old as human life itself.  But too often, it has been poorly managed, uncoordinated, misunderstood and vilified.  Today, over 80 per cent of the world’s migrants move between countries in a safe and orderly fashion.  But unregulated migration — the cruel realm of traffickers — continues to extract a terrible cost.

We must do more to break the stranglehold of smugglers and better protect migrants in vulnerable situations, in particular women and girls.  Thousands of migrants still die every year pursuing what we all pursue — opportunity, dignity and a better life.  We must do more to prevent the loss of life — as a humanitarian imperative and a moral and legal obligation.

We must expand and diversify rights-based pathways for migration — to advance the Sustainable Development Goals and address labour market shortages.  And we must ensure returns and re-admissions are safe, dignified and in full accordance with international law.  Human rights are an absolute value — they apply to each and every one of us, irrespective of whether we are on the move or not, whether that movement is forced or voluntary, or whether it is formally authorized or not.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration represents the international community’s resolve to put those values into practice in a spirit of solidarity and partnership.  To transform how we understand and manage migration.  To make it a source of prosperity, not a byword for inhumanity.  To end the tragic loss of life, the outrage of rights abuses, and the tinderbox of social tensions too often associated with migration.

To confront xenophobia and racism with a clearheaded understanding of the facts.  To view it not solely as a problem to fix but rather as a potential solution to many of the challenges we face.  And to achieve all this through strengthened international cooperation across all States and stakeholders at all levels.

Today, at this first-ever International Migration Review Forum, we have come together to take stock.  First, of our progress towards implementing the Compact.  And second, of the interplay between migration and broader concerns — from the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, development finance and the climate crisis to human rights and security, as well as health and labour.

This Forum opens a space to hear the experiences and learn from the expertise of a broad range of migration actors — and from each other.  For many Member States, the Compact has become an invaluable reference point to assess actions, achieve progress, and enhance cooperation.  I commend all those who have leveraged the Compact to improve the lives of migrants — by helping them to integrate into host countries; by expanding and diversifying in regular pathways; and by advancing collaboration between countries of origin, transit and destination.

Yet, too often, such measures remain the exception, not the norm.  The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully demonstrated how far we still are from realizing rights-based, child-sensitive and gender-responsive governance of international migration for all.

Migrants worked on the front lines of the crisis — risking their own lives to save those of others.  Their remittances are lifelines for families in countries often most exposed to skyrocketing food and energy prices and least able to marshal resources for recovery.

But too often, migrant workers and their families are excluded from sharing in the prosperity they themselves help generate.  Throughout the pandemic, we have seen migrants excluded from recovery measures and denied access to basic services, whether health care or social protection.

Migrants are part of our societies; they must be part of the renewed social contract that I called for in my report on Our Common Agenda to enable individuals, States and others to build trust, increase participation, and strengthen social cohesion, including migrants.

The Global Compact speaks to the heart of the mission of the United Nations.  It is a global response to a global phenomenon for which we need to be much better prepared.  We launched the United Nations Network on Migration to mobilize the full extent of our capacities and expertise to support you, Member States, in advancing the full implementation of the Compact.  The Network has since established a Capacity-Building Mechanism, including a Migration Network Hub and Multi-Partner Trust Fund — the first of its kind focused on migration.

I thank the Member States who have contributed and encourage others to follow suit.  And I count on all of you to secure a strong political outcome through tangible, credible, ambitious, and actionable pledges and strong monitoring and follow-up mechanisms.  Let us keep up the momentum as we work together for a safer and more prosperous future for us all, including migrants.

For information media. Not an official record.