International Migrants Day

UN Women Statement for International Migrants Day

Date: Friday, December 18, 2015

Today we commemorate International Migrants Day amidst the highest levels of displacement since World War II, with some 59.5 million people displaced globally.

Around the world, violent conflicts, disasters and the adverse impacts of climate change are driving vast numbers of people to seek a better and safer future. Ongoing crises have led to some 200,000 refugees and nearly 90,000 internally displaced persons in Cameroon; more than half a million Rohingya are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh; and the ongoing conflict in Syria has caused the displacement of more than 4 million Syrians. The majority of these migrants are women and girls.

Mass migration, particularly in the short-term, can carry substantial adjustment costs. However, UN Women recognizes the energy, innovation and cultural diversity migrants can bring to their new communities. Migrants can contribute to sustainable development processes in their communities of origin both by sending financial remittances when they are away, and by bringing back the skills acquired abroad when they return. That is why UN Women is working on long-term, human-rights based solutions to improve the status of all migrant women and girls.

Too often migrant women lack access to basic and essential services and the tools for political, economic and social empowerment. Women who migrate in search of viable economic options must have their labour and human rights protected and have support to access higher-value job and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Many women are fleeing extremism and war in their home countries only to encounter further exploitation and danger at the hands of human traffickers and smugglers, both in areas of transit and destination. In urban environments and refugee camps, the lack of locked doors, adequate lighting and proper sanitation facilities increases women’s risk of physical and sexual violence. Women can be left behind in conflict zones or refugee camps by husbands or family members who go ahead of them, increasing their vulnerability. The threat of gender-based violence and the high economic costs of migration can also lead to migrant girls being forced into early marriage.

UN Women is working to build the capacities of migrant women around the globe. In the EU and Nordic countries we are working with governments and increasing humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers and refugees, and in Eastern and Southern Africa we are responding to mass migration towards the EU through country consultations and preliminary issue-mapping. UN Women is establishing safe spaces and community centres for women refugees and their host communities in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt, which offer skills training, work opportunities and psycho-social support. In Cameroon we are providing migrants with training and medical care on gender-based violence.

We will continue working with our partners to build support for women migrants, opportunities in host communities, and to create conditions in their places of origin so that migration can be a matter of choice. It is up to us to fulfil the universal, human rights-based goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and promote its narrative of peace, tolerance, plurality, gender equality, and sustainability. Let this day be a clear reminder of our obligations and priorities to leave no one behind as we work to empower migrant women around the world.

Read more about women migrants on UN Women’s regional website for Asia and the Pacific