“I lived in Raqqa, Syria, with my family. Before the war, I worked as a carpenter, I had my own handicraft shop, the business was going well, there was money, and we lived very well. The entire Raqqa lived very well; people were not even thinking about politics. Then the war started between Assad and the Free Syrian Army, the bombs were dropped every day. We were scared to go out in the street, to stay at home; you never knew where the bomb would fall. Then the poverty started, the business stopped. Dollar rose twelvefold, people were starving to death. But we were still not thinking about leaving. It would stop, we thought, it would pass, it was our home after all. Then ISIS came. “
Ahmad (37), Belgrade, October 2016
On the occasion of December 18, International Migrants Day, we would like to point out to the importance of protecting the rights of migrants, as well as to highlight that the problems migrants are facing all over the world, are the same problems they are facing in our immediate surrounding too.
Ten years after the adoption of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, to highlight the importance of these rights, in 2000 the United Nations General Assembly declared this day as the International Migrants Day. Sixteen years later, while we are faced with one of the greatest migrant crises in a modern history, marking this day seems more important than ever.
During the past two years, thousands of migrants died trying to reach the countries of the European Union. On their way, migrants have been exposed to the arbitrary violence, beatings, exhausting and uncertain journey through the often hardly passable areas, to smugglers, severe weather conditions and to the absence of any security.
According to the Ministry of Interior, from the beginning of the migrant crisis around 900,000 people passed through Serbia. According to UNHCR estimates, around 6,900 refugees/migrants are in Serbia at the moment. Every day we witness their stories.
Unfortunately, at the same time, with the growing number of migrants, we also witness the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric, hate speech and xenophobic, racist actions. By marking this day, we would like to remind that the migration has always been inherent to humanity, and that the movement of people has significantly contributed to global development, be it in culture, science or economic progress. More importantly, for most migrants whom we met in the past two years, just like Ahmad, the decision to leave their home had been imposed, and thus one of the most difficult decisions they had ever taken. Yet, their journey of difficult decisions is inseparable part of our journey. While providing support to migrants and taking a stand for their rights, we also stand out for respect of rights of every person, the rights of each one of us.