United Nations Summit on Migrants and Refugees

by | Sep 22, 2016 | News, Vincentian Family, Vincentian Family at the U.N.


United Nations Summit on Migrants and Refugees

Nur Gorayeb – Intern for the Congregation of the Mission

In many discussions ahead of the first ever UN summit on migrants and refugees in New York, several NGOs that represent civil society, including the representatives of the Vincentian Family, “emphasized that priority must be given to those fleeing harm, particularly women and children. This means ensuring full respect for international refugee and human rights law in responding to migrants’ and refugees’ needs. The UN summit on migrants and refugees on 19th September is considered a historic opportunity to strengthen the international migration response and to create a system capable of protecting the rights and responding to the needs of large movements of refugees and migrants.”

War, inequality, poverty, climate change and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any other time since the founding of the UN with over 65 million[1] forcibly displaced persons worldwide. This includes over 21 million refugees, three million asylum-seekers and over 40 million internally displaced persons.[2] This makes forced migration one of the major challenges of our lifetimes. Many people are exploited and more and more forms of exploitation exist.

“The past several years have witnessed an array of crises causing mass movements of refugees and migrants in different parts of the world. While humanitarian assistance has provided immediate relief to millions of people, long-term responses to the various crises have typically been ad hoc, incomplete and uncoordinated. Countries hosting large refugee populations have shouldered a disproportionate burden. Thousands of vulnerable migrants, especially women and children, suffer exploitation and abuse at the hands of human traffickers. By circumventing existing border controls, migrant smugglers contribute to irregular migration. Third-country responses to large movements of refugees and migrants have ranged from generously welcoming newcomers to closing borders. Thousands of migrants and refugees have lost their lives in search for safety and a better life. The absence of systematic approaches to the arrival and stay of large-scale population movements has undermined the public trust in many countries.

Today, large-scale movements of refugees and migrants are a reality, with countries playing various roles as places of origin, transit or destination depending on the circumstances. These growing movements are taking place against the backdrop of increased human mobility and interconnectedness as a result of globalization.”[3]

As I keep hearing the topic and about the Summit that is going to be held on Monday September 19, 2016 and how it will be the first time the United Nations will talk about and discuss Migration given the fact that migration has been so prevalent in our world today. I can’t help but think about why we did not try to address the issue before it was something this big? There are two types of migration; they are internal migration and international migration. People are being forced to leave their homes and migrate, whether it is forced by other individuals due to war, climate change or scarcity of food and resources amongst other many reasons, and this has been come an issue we all are involved in. When Pope Francis wrote about climate change he emphasized that this is one of the main cause of migration. If we start taking conscious care of our environment we will be able to prevent our world from crumbling apart, and prevent it from being inhabitable. Hearing personal stories of migrants at meetings you start to find out that they are not happy about moving to someplace else, and leaving everything behind. If they had the choice they would stay, therefore we now are trying to help stop migration and or help migrants feel more comfortable and involved in the community.

The world as a whole sees migration as a bad thing as something that has a negative impact on the where the migration is taking place, but it is time we start changing the way we think. Migration is what we allow it to be, migrants want to contribute to the society they are part of, and they want to feel like they belong. The way we treat and see migrants is neither positive nor welcoming, and therefore they can’t be a part of the community and contribute to it if we do not let them, which in turn lead us to see them as something negative to our communities. The first step we need to take in order to start solving this migration issue is to see migrants in a more respectful and a more positive way; after all they are people just like us who are looking for a better future. Migration just recently started to get attention, but it has been going on since the time of Jesus…even before that…finally we have to start seeing it as being positive, because if we allow them, migrants contribute to the community they are part of just like any other person in the community. “Exile is a dream of a glorious return. Exile is a vision of revolution: Elba, not St Helena. It is an endless paradox: looking forward by always looking back. The exile is a ball hurled high into the air. ” Salman Rushdie,

We think “all UN member states must express a clear commitment to protect and safeguard the rights of the displaced and these nations must act on these commitments swiftly through implementation of national policies. Safe and responsible migration policies, agreed as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), must ensure migration as a choice, not a necessity.

States need to meet the long-term needs of migrants and refugees living primarily outside of camps by supporting sustained livelihoods through vocational training and employment, as well as meeting basic needs through the provision of social services. At local and international level, the fight against trafficking in human beings is a priority in emergency programs as in long term action.

We urge the UN to review their current structures, assess comparative advantages of all actors, and more clearly delineate the role of the UN as coordinator and civil society as implementers. We also call for transparency of funding practices.

Further, we call for developed nations not to use overseas development aid to pay for the costs of refugees at home. We ask all countries to stop making such aid conditional on migration priorities of the donor country.

We denounce deportations and forced returns of people, and the reformulation or reinterpretation of international refugee and humanitarian law to prevent people from seeking refuge or to facilitate their return.

We call on the international community to share the responsibility of providing protection to those fleeing from their homes to avoid some countries shouldering the bulk of the responsibility on their own.”


[1] This is the first time that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.: http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/press/2016/6/5763ace54/1-human-113-affected-forced-displacement-hits-record-high.html

[2] Partly quoted from 2 UN sites

[3] General Assembly high-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants


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