Migrants must be included in all COVID-19 recovery plans – UN and regional experts

18 December 2020: OHCHR International Migrants Day

GENEVA (17 December 2020) – Migrants and their families, no matter what their migration status, must be included in the national COVID-19 response and recovery plans of all countries, human rights experts* said today in a statement marking International Migrants Day. Their full statement is as follows:

“The pandemic has manifested globally the vital contributions migrant workers provide to local economies. Migrant workers form a crucial workforce in various sectors that are contributing to the delivery of essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in domestic households. Among them, migrant health and care workers have been on the frontline.

On this day where we pay tribute to all migrants, in a context of a continuing global health crisis that also has a severe impact on the governance of migratory movements, we must remind States to treat all migrants with dignity and provide them with equal access to services, benefits, information, and assistance.

In national socio-economic response and recovery plans, States should consider migrant workers positive assets who bring labour, skills and diversity to host communities. Migrants and their families should be fully integrated in national plans to build back better and States should embrace a more inclusive and sustainable recovery from the pandemic, while implementing public health imperatives.

With limited access to social protection and to decent work conditions, many migrants and their families are at serious risk of exploitation. Preventing exploitation is a core human rights obligation of all States.

Migrant workers also contribute to economic resilience in host countries. States should invest in enhancing resilience for migrants and their families by providing access to basic services, including health services, to all migrants, particularly those in precarious socio-economic conditions. When vaccines for COVID-19 become available, migrants, regardless of their migration status, should be granted access to vaccines equal with provisions for others on a voluntary basis. States must lift, as soon as warranted, restrictive measures that have been imposed and had an impact on human mobility, migration and protection protocols in response to the pandemic.”


*The experts: Mr. Felipe González Morales (Chile) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2017 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years. As a Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. He is Professor of International Law at the Diego Portales University, in Santiago, Chile, where he is also the Director of a Master’s programme in International Human Rights Law.

Mr. Can Ünver, Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW), which is a body of 14 independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families by its State parties. It held its first session in March 2004.

Ms. Siobhán MullallySpecial Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children

Ms. Julissa Mantilla Falcón, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrantsof the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is a principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence. 

Ms. Sahli Fadel MayaSpecial Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

For more information and media requests, please contact Yiyao Zhang (+41 22 917 85 94 / yzhang@ohchr.org) and Gotzon Onandia (gonandia@ohchr.org) or Idrissa Kane, Secretary of the CMW Committee (+41 22 917 92 73 / ikane@ohchr.org) and Nikolaus Schultz (+41 22 917 92 28 / nschultz@ohchr.org)

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org), Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 22 917 7578 / jlaurence@ohchr.org) and Kitty McKinsey (kmckinsey@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter: @UN_SPExperts.

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For thousands of years, we have been on the move. We have been moving to follow a dream, a love, or in search of a better life. To go to school, to work, or to be safe. As a result, we have created bridges between peoples and cultures and enriched each others’ lives in our old and new homes.

And yet we frequently hear and read hurtful words implying that migrants don’t belong where they are; that they have no place nor rights among us. These are words that dehumanize, and turn people who are just like you and me into “the other”.

Such words can truly hurt.

Harmful narratives have significant consequences for migrants, for the communities that welcome them and for those who defend their rights.

They harm us all. COVID-19 has shown us that excluding and discriminating against groups of people makes us all weaker. 

To build societies that can be more resilient and resistant to all kinds of shocks, we need to act with greater solidarity.

Instead of repeating harmful narratives of fear and exclusion, it’s time to welcome people into our communities, to reimagine our collective future.

Join us in reshaping the narrative.

We need stories that show that the values we hold in common are stronger than what divides us.

Stories that inspire and connect us, rather than tearing us further apart.

Stories that paint a hopeful picture of the future we share. 

And stories told by migrants themselves.

I know it is often difficult to be hopeful, especially after the challenges and turmoil caused by COVID-19.  But I am.  Because I know that crises can also bring transformation.

I am convinced we can make this change for the better, into the future we want.
If we work together. If our work includes everyone. And if it is grounded on everyone’s human rights.  

Join us in standing up for migrants and their rights!