This September, the Leave No One Behind Dialogue Series continued its efforts through advocacy and had a lunch dialogue on Migrants and Refugees on September 14th, 2016. It was co-convened by the Baha’i International Community, the International Movement ATD Fourth World, SOS Children’s Villages International, and the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations.
Held just prior to the UNGA High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants, an array of stakeholders attended this 2nd lunch dialogue to discuss challenges and opportunities in the context of migration and identify practical solutions to ensure that no one is left behind. The dialogue sought to explore the inter-linkages between the movement of people and the implementation of Agenda 2030. While the movement of people has been constant throughout history, it still presents questions and challenges as well as new opportunities for increased understanding and solidarity among all the peoples of the world.
During the opening remarks, the example of Argentina as a member state with a long tradition of welcoming refugees – it illustrates how the incorporation of refugees into society can help shape its identity, creating the “basic DNA” of Argentina. Issues like xenophobia correlate to criminalization and legal pathways of immigration as the means by which member states can counter it. Vulnerable groups like women and girls, children, persons with disabilities, LGBT need to be considered in any action that addresses the needs of migrants. It is also vital to recognize that like anyone else migrants and refugees also have a need to contribute to the economy. Any solutions aimed at addressing refugees must be arrived at after including them in the process to be authentic as refugees are more likely to have the solutions to the very problems that they endured during their migration process. Refugees and migrants require the same benefits, services and access in order to be integrated into society and to contribute to its advancement.
Additionally the general remarks also concluded that governments should approach the refugee situation with a people-centered approach, thinking of migrants as people first. The concept of inalienable rights and dignity needs to inform all other steps of consultation and action. In the context of the three phases of migration, different things can be done starting with
- implementing measures in countries of origin to protect people (e.g. protecting women from domestic violence)
- implementing measures to protect people, especially children, during transit and providing forms of accompaniment for minors during this phase and
- improving the legal pathways of reuniting families in the country of destination.
Also important to note was the remark that dialogue is crucial to facilitate the sharing of ideas and have the capacity to break down barriers and to ‘build bridges’. A focus on the well-being, safety and rights of children in the context of immigration is also essential.
Participants in the dialogue offer the following policy recommendations:
- Free access to legal assistance for those seeking asylum
- Consultation with affected populations, in this case migrants, is vital to articulating effective policies.
- Childhood detention of migrants is never in the interest of the child.
- Countries of origin, transit and destination have different responsibilities, but all must abide by international human rights law.
- The state has a role to play in promoting narratives and it should use this role to further positive understandings.
Link to civil society statement presented at the UNGA High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants: 7 Actions World Leaders Need to Take