What is International Migrants Day?
It’s a hot topic of conversation right now – migrants crossing the English Channel. More than 25,000 have risked their lives to do so this year alone, and as recent tragedies have shown, sadly not all of them make it. Migration is nothing new; it has been happening for centuries. Many move out of choice, but most are forced to leave their homes due to circumstances out of their control. Whatever the reason may be, it’s fair to say that the majority of us are woefully undereducated on the subject; so step forward, International Migrants Day.
In 2000, to recognize the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, The United Nations proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day. Aiming to raise awareness of the growing number of migrants, this year’s theme is ‘harnessing the potential of human mobility’. Whether you’re highly knowledgeable about global migration or your understanding is minimal, 18 December is a great opportunity to expand your awareness. Here are three quick and simple suggestions on how you might wish to do this:
Learn more about migrants
The aim of International Migrants Day is to make the challenges, difficulties and adversities faced by migrants visible around the world, as well as to call on nations to ensure migration is a safe, regular and dignified process. The main reason why people migrate is the possibility of improving the quality of life for themselves and their families, as well as overcoming economic, social and demographic inequalities in their countries of origin.
Migration is a far more complicated and in-depth subject that many of us truly understand, so why not take some time to read and better educate yourself? The International Organisation for Migration website is a great place to start, as is the The United Nations’ dedicated page. There are also some excellent data portals providing more information on migration to and from different countries such as the Migration Data Portal and Migration Policy Institute.
Find a story
Heartbreaking, humbling, and happy stories of immigrants are truly an eye-opener. Every day, new articles about migrants appear in our feeds. It’s no surprise when approximately 281 million people were classified as international migrants in 2020: it leaves a lot of individual stories to be told.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook or dismiss these news stories because, unfortunately, they do occur frequently. If you want to give yourself more time, and focus on individual stories, perhaps these documentaries may be of interest to you
Minari (USA. Director: Lee Isaac Chung. Year 2020): in the mid-1980s a Korean-American family moves to a small farm in rural Arkansas in search of their American dream.
God's Country (UK. Director: Francis Lee. Year 2017): A young Yorkshire farmer's life changes when a Romanian immigrant arrives in town to work with his family.
Dessert (Mexico. Director: Jonás Cuarón. 2015): A man and other undocumented immigrants cross the border between Mexico and the United States on foot amidst enormous difficulties, in the hope of finding a better future for his family.
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Experts have warmed that the upcoming Nationality and Borders Bill will make it even more perilous for people to seek asylum in the UK, as the legislation is set to criminalise those who arrive across the channel by dinghy and those who help people travel to the country for what the government deems illegal reasons. They may have left behind the danger which initially put them at risk, but life in the UK isn’t easy for refugees and asylum seekers.
Here are some refugee charities doing invaluable work to support people fleeing persecution abroad, and those who support people who often find they still face discrimination and persecution after they have arrived on British shores.
Refugee Council – The Refugee Council campaigns to make the system fairer while working directly with people as they arrive in the UK, providing practical support, counselling and help integrating into their communities.
The Joint Council For The Welfare of Immigrants- The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants challenges UK laws and policies which discriminate against migrants.
Refugee Action- Refugee Action has been fighting for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers since 1981. In 2019/20, the organisation supported 875 people to rebuild their lives in the UK while helping another 3,000 access housing and other essential services.
British Red Cross - The British Red Cross is part of the international Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, meaning the organisation supports people around the world who are forced to flee their homes.
Whether you have 10 minutes or several hours, any time given up to better educate yourself on migration would be time well spent. Much of the conversation around migrants is loaded, discriminatory, and lacking in empathy. It’s only through our improved understanding that we can begin to truly understand the thousands of migration stories that are occurring right this very second – and realise our preconceptions about them may be very wrong.