International Migrants Day 2023, History, Theme & Significance

International Migrants Day 2023

International Migrants Day, celebrated annually on December 18th, recognizes the contributions and challenges faced by migrants worldwide. It serves as a crucial reminder of the interconnection between migration and global development, and the importance of upholding the rights of all individuals, regardless of their migratory status.

International Migrants Day Theme 2023

International Migrants Day 2023 focuses on the theme “Promoting Safe Migration”. This theme underscores the vulnerability and marginalization often experienced by migrants and displaced individuals. Despite these challenges, migrants contribute significantly to prosperity, innovation, and sustainable development in countries of origin, transit, and destination.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM) serves as a framework offering opportunities and guidance for the realization of human mobility while addressing the associated challenges. On International Migrants Day and beyond, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reaffirms its commitment to advocating for a humane and well-managed approach to migration that benefits all, including communities of origin, transit, and destination.

International Migration

Human migration has been a fundamental aspect of human history, driven by various factors such as economic opportunities, family reunification, education, and the need to escape conflict, persecution, or environmental challenges. As of July 1, 2020, the global number of international migrants reached an estimated 281 million, constituting about 3.5% of the world’s population. This figure has steadily increased from 2.3% in 1980 to 2.8% in 2000.

Migration occurs for a variety of reasons, with some individuals choosing to relocate for personal or professional reasons, while others are compelled to move due to circumstances beyond their control. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that by the end of 2022, the world hosted approximately 35.3 million refugees, including 5.9 million Palestine refugees under UNRWA’s mandate, and an additional 5.4 million individuals classified as asylum-seekers.

Who is an International Migrant?

The United Nations adopts a comprehensive definition of international migrants for statistical purposes, considering any person who has changed their country of residence as an international migrant. This definition encompasses individuals irrespective of their legal status, the nature of their movement, or the motives behind their migration.

Migrants and the SDGs

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges the positive contributions of migrants to inclusive growth and sustainable development. The core principle of the Agenda, “leave no one behind,” explicitly includes migrants. Several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the Agenda incorporate targets and indicators relevant to migrants and migration. For instance, SDG target 10.7 urges countries to “facilitate orderly, safe, regular, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.” Other targets directly related to migrants or migration encompass areas such as the health workforce in developing countries (3.c), mobility of international students (4.b), human trafficking (5.2, 8.7, and 16.2), labor migration (8.7 and 8.8), remittances (10.c), legal identity (16.9), and data disaggregation by migratory status (17.8).

History of International Migrants Day

International Migrants Day, observed annually on December 18th, has a rich history that traces back to the recognition of the growing importance of migration in the globalized world. The United Nations, recognizing the need to address the challenges and opportunities associated with migration, established this day to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of migrants worldwide.

Key Milestones in the History of International Migrants Day

  • 1945: Establishment of the United Nations, laying the groundwork for international cooperation on migration issues.
  • 1951: Adoption of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, defining the rights of refugees and establishing legal protections.
  • 1965: The International Labour Organization (ILO) adopts the Migrant Workers’ Convention (No. 118), addressing the rights of migrant workers.
  • 1990: Adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, providing comprehensive protections for migrant workers.
  • 2000: Proclamation of December 18th as International Migrants Day by the United Nations General Assembly, highlighting the importance of migration and the need to protect migrants’ rights.
  • 2015: Adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries, which recognizes the role of migration in achieving sustainable development.
  • 2018: Adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, a framework for international cooperation on migration governance.

Significance of International Migrants Day

International Migrants Day serves as a crucial reminder of the interconnectedness of migration and global development. It highlights the contributions of migrants to their host countries, the challenges they face, and the need for inclusive and sustainable solutions to address migration issues. The day also promotes dialogue, understanding, and respect between migrants and host communities. It fosters a more just and equitable world for all.

International Migrants Day continues to play a vital role in raising awareness, advocating for migrants’ rights, and promoting inclusive societies. As we strive to create a more just and equitable world, let us remember the importance of harnessing the potential of human mobility and building sustainable futures for all.

Quotes on Migrants

Here are some inspiring quotes about migrants and their contributions to society:

  • “Migrants are not a burden. They are a gift.” – Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • “Migration is a human right, not a crime.” – António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • “Migrants are not just workers. They are individuals with dreams, hopes, and aspirations.” – Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile
  • “Migration is a positive force that has enriched societies for centuries”. – Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • “We should not fear migration. We should embrace it as an opportunity to learn from each other and build a more inclusive world”. – Malala Yousafzai, activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

These quotes remind us of the humanity of migrants and their important role in shaping our world. They challenge us to see migration not as a problem, but as an opportunity to create more inclusive and prosperous societies for all.


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