To mark this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the United Nations Network on Migration calls on Member States to step up efforts to combat racism and racial discrimination in the context of migration governance.
Racism, xenophobia and intersecting forms of discrimination have harmful consequences for migrants and diasporas, who may already find themselves in precarious situations, particularly migrant women and girls, and have profound effects on communities.
Racial discrimination of migrants can manifest itself in violations of migrants’ human rights, including in the lack of access to basic services such as health, education, and justice, or discrimination in employment resulting in occupational segregation of migrant workers and lower remuneration received for work of equal value.
The criminalization of irregular migration drives negative public perceptions of migrants, fueling anti-immigration public discourses, discrimination and xenophobia. Racial discrimination deprives migrant victims of crime of their rights, increases risks of arbitrary immigration detention and creates barriers to regularization of undocumented migrants and migrant integration. Too often, racial discrimination has led to death, either following denial of care, negligence towards safety in the workplace or hate crimes, and to unlawful deportation as a result of increasingly restrictive policies and controls at international borders.
The lack of awareness of racial discrimination faced by migrants, compounded by a lack of disaggregated data by race, ethnicity and migratory status, can keep such experiences invisible. The lack of trust in officials and institutions, caused by systemic and institutional discrimination, often prevents migrants from reporting human rights violations, abusive and exploitative practices or seeking health care, thus silencing their voices, contributing to further marginalization.
Ending racial discrimination is key to implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). Recalling the body of international human rights law, including international labour standards, the Network reaffirms that human rights, equality and non-discrimination are a cornerstone of the GCM and must be reflected in migration policies and practices at all levels. For efforts to have an effective and lasting impact, an intersectional approach to combating discrimination, taking into account grounds of discrimination, such as sex, gender, age, migration status, and race, should focus both on remedy and prevention.
In the Progress Declaration of the Global Compact’s first International Migration Review Forum adopted in May 2022, Member States, as primary duty bearers in guaranteeing human rights for all, took a stand against systemic racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and reiterated their commitment to eliminating all forms of discrimination targeting migrants. They also pledged to take action against harmful stereotyping, hate speech and hate crime, as well as misleading narratives that generate negative perceptions of migrants. They reiterated the need to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their status, recognizing their role as agents of sustainable development and as rights holders.
These commitments must be turned into reality. Pursuant to the obligations outlined in international human rights instruments, notably the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the 2030 Agenda’s pledge to ‘leave no one behind’, and the commitments made in the GCM, the Network calls on States to address racial discrimination in all sectors of society such as labour markets, housing, education, health, social protection, and justice. Such actions should be informed by the voices of migrants, drawing on their experience and expertise in addition to those of governments, the UN system and relevant stakeholders.
In line with the objectives enshrined in the GCM, the Network calls on States to:
- Take measures to eliminate laws and policies and address perceptions that lead to racial discrimination and profiling of migrants;
- Promote campaigns to combat hate speech, and racist, xenophobic and discriminatory discourse;
- Foster an evidence-based public discourse about the opportunities and challenges of migration and the contributions of migrants to sustainable development in countries of origin, transit and destination;
- Establish effective mechanisms to respond to occurrences of xenophobia, discrimination and stigmatization against migrants, diaspora groups and minorities associated with migration;
- End the criminalization of irregular migration which feeds negative perceptions of migrants as well as narratives presenting migrants and migration as a threat;
- Expand regular pathways and regularization for migrants as a means of supporting sustainable development and addressing racial and other intersecting forms of discrimination;
- Recognize and promote the rights and dignity of migrants and address inequalities due to migratory status by ensuring equality of opportunity and treatment with respect to access to health, education, housing, social protection, and decent work;
- Support whole-of-society approaches grounded in migrants’ freedom of association in all contexts, to enable self-organization to advocate for migrants’ rights and support organizations that protect the rights of migrants and deliver life-saving assistance; and
- Ensure inclusivity and consistency in regional approaches to the reception and protection of migrants, regardless of nationality, race, migration status and ethnicity.
The UN Network on Migration is dedicated to working with governments, communities, and stakeholders to develop advocacy tools to eliminate racial discrimination towards migrants.
Racial discrimination undermines decades of progress toward equality within and between communities. The lack of access to and the violation of migrants’ human rights undermine the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and its commitment to leave no one behind. We need to act now, together, to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms, for the benefit of all.
On April 27, 2023, the UN Network on Migration, through its Gender and Anti-Racial Discrimination Workstreams, will launch its anti-discrimination advocacy tool exploring how to bring a racial justice, gender and LGBTQI+ rights lens to migration policy at all levels. More information will be available on the Network’s website.
If you are working on an initiative to further these objectives, please submit your practice here as an example of GCM implementation here.
If you are planning an initiative to advance the anti-discrimination agenda, please submit your pledge here.