International Migrants Day 2019

On 18 December 2019, IOM Office to the UN marked International Migrants Day at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Irish Ambassador to the UN, Ms. Geraldine Byrne Nason, opened the event emphasizing Ireland’s migrant history and reaffirming its promotion of migrants’ rights. Watch full event here.

                                                                                          Irish Ambassador to the UN, Ms. Geraldine Byrne Nason, left, and IOM UN Director Mr. Ashraf El Nour, delivering their opening remarks. Photo: IOM/2019

Her Excellency stated: “Today, more people than ever live in a country other than the one where they were born. We must reject the growing idea that these migrants don’t have the same rights as everyone else. Ireland believes multilateralism is key to safe, orderly, and regular migration and supports IOM.”

IOM UN Director Mr. Ashraf El Nour touched on the theme of ‘social cohesion’ and the importance of celebrating migrants and the communities in which they flourish. He reiterated that “we want to give recognition to migrants not as numbers, but as human beings. Migration is the key for a multicultural community.”

Haleh Liza Gafori, left, and Jessie Reagan Mann performing their music in conference room 12, UN HQ. Photos: IOM/2019

The program at the UN included a live musical performance by Ms. Haleh Liza Gafori, an Iranian-American poet and singer, and Ms. Jessie Reagan Mann, a celloist, which highlighted the beautiful ways music and migration connect.

Additionally, there was a screening of IOM Global Migration Film Festival feature “One Way Ticket.” The documentary depicts the real story of a Congolese family and their friend Isaiah who leave a refugee camp in Uganda after 20 years to start a new life in the United States.

Movie cast and audience watch “One Way Ticket.” Photo: IOM/2019

The director and co-stars of “One Way Ticket” were present for the event, speaking on a panel about the film and the refugee experience. Director Mr. Gregoire Gosset, said, “I think most of the time [films depict] sad stories showing suffering, but I tried to find a way to talk about migration issues in a positive way.”

[Left to right] Discussion after the screening of “One Way Ticket” with Jean Pierre Nttgyeye, James Purcell, Hajer Naili, Isaiah and Gregoire Gosset. Photo: IOM

After being in America more than three years the protagonists of the film spoke on what it means to be an American. Mr. Jean Pierre Nttgyeye, who came here with his wife and family, said, “I am American because I know that I am going to do the best to be at the same level as an American — to obey the rules and regulations of the country.” Mr. Isaiah Bahati reiterated, “Once you land here, you have freedom… I do whatever I need to do, and that’s why we put on things bearing the American flag. We are so excited to be here. We love the country.”

Former IOM Direct General Mr. James Purcell, Jr., who was included in the panel, stated: “We need leaders with vision and a sense of empathy. We need energetic governments to step forward to lead the global humanitarian system.” Additionally, he spoke about the United States Refugee Program and its founding, which he has wrote extensively on in his book “We’re in Danger! Who Will Help Us?”

 The Permanent Missions of Costa Rica and Mexico taking the floor during discussion. Photo: IOM/2019

The program at the UN was attended by many Permanent Missions. The Permanent Mission of Costa Rica stated, “Migrants add 11.9% to our GDP, all these people come to help us in our economy.”

The Permanent Mission of Mexico added: “Today is important because it helps us to go beyond statistics and put a face on a global phenomenon. At the same time, it is frustrating because of the disconnect globally between public policy and data evidence. We see public policy tends to be based on perception rather than evidence.” He reaffirmed that we must have a debate on evidence and data and congratulated IOM’s work on this.

IOM Tunisia’s Ms. Paola Pace launched the English version of Media Coverage of Migration Based on International Law and Evidence and held a discussion with journalists and media professionals. She emphasized, “Improving the narrative of migration will have a positive impact toward social cohesion.”

At the event, IOM Office to UN in partnership with Fordham University also launched the writing competition unmapped: migrant stories of New York. The unmapped project hopes to uncover stories of migration journeys from different perspectives and to provide an opportunity for people of immigrant backgrounds to share their experiences and participate in a form of media often criticized for its lack of diversity. Selected entries will culminate in the publication of the first unmapped collection.

For more information about unmapped, visit website here.

To see live coverage on social media, check IOM NY Twitter account here.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, December 18, 2019 - 15:00 to 18:00
Conference Room 12, UNHQ, New York