Today, 18th of December 2020, I join millions of migrants across the world in celebrating the “International Migrants Day”. As expected, many non-governmental organizations, human rights advocates, and migrant groups will celebrate it by holding various activities or events to recognize the important role of migrants in shaping the world.
However, as we celebrate this important day for international migrants, we also need to look into the condition of the undocumented people who always face risks of abuses and exploitation. Unless we take steps to promote and protect the rights of the migrants regardless of their status around world in compliance with the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international treaties, the spirit of the celebration will lose its very purpose and meaning.
It seems paradoxical that the world community has recognized widely the important contributions of migrants in the global economy, while it has remained half-hearted to enforce the basic rights of the undocumented migrants. In the United States and in some parts of Europe, governments have continued implementing some measures that hinder undocumented migrants from getting access to basic rights, notwithstanding the international obligations.
This only shows that the condition of the undocumented has not improved over the decades. We have witnessed violations of human rights of undocumented migrants which are ubiquitous in Greece, Poland and Hungary especially in this period of Covid- 19 pandemic crisis. They usually range from unreasonable arrests to illegal detention, to lack of access to proper legal services and healthcare. It shows that the movement to advocate the human rights for undocumented migrants around the world still has a long way to go. Many states have still been reluctant to respect their human rights, and continue viewing them as 'illegal" for entering the country irregularly or staying without valid papers.
Imprisonment and deportation of undocumented migrants are not a panacea to stop irregular migration. Besides, they are not criminals to be punished. This draconian policy will only exacerbate migration problems. As long as there is abject poverty, war, and political persecution, people from some parts of the world will continue migrating from one country to another to find security, peace and a better future. Human migration is a phenomenon. Throughout human history, people migrate to different places for a reason dictated by social circumstances.
Instead of punishing and branding undocumented migrants as illegal, the world should praise them for their contributions to humanity. They work hard in restaurants, private houses, and construction companies that benefit the economy, although they are underpaid and have no social securities. They bring new skills and ideas that enrich local peoples and build more inclusive societies free from bigotry and discrimination. They fill vacant jobs that natives do not want to do. Now, let me ask this question: Are they illegal for their contributions?
They deserve an accolade on this special day - Happy International Migrants Day to all undocumented migrants!