About 50 years ago, my father made the choice to leave because he faced hunger and war. He found courage to leave everyone and everything that mattered to him behind, facing two months in the basement of a ship to get to an unknown place where people spoke an unknown language.
When my mind goes back in time and I try to think of an image representing migration, I can’t help but imagine a big fleet of ships sailing 500 years ago, moving into the unknown. An act of bravery, filled with pioneering spirit. Then I remember that inside the same ships there were also people who had absolutely no choice to be there. Thousands of people squeezed together, tied up to each other, like cheap merchandise.
As I go a bit a further in time, the image of people trying to escape conflicts, massacres or harsh climate conditions adds up to the previous ones. People trying to escape, run away.
Still today, people migrate to run from something terrible or to run to something better. People migrate for all sorts of reasons and often personal reasons are a corollary of economical, political or natural conditions. But regardless of why, people should not be denied access to basic services such as health, education or legal protection. Unfortunately, it is widely known that a good deal of people find themselves in such situations today. Should a piece of paper determine whether or not someone is more or less of a person?
Today, migration is one of the main topics of discussion with governments at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent being held in Geneva, Switzerland. The ambition of the participants is to find ways to improve the situation of all vulnerable migrants, to provide them with the required protection and assistance, and to make sure the Red Cross and Red Crescent has access to all vulnerable migrants and in turn they have access to humanitarian services.
According to the International Organization for Migration there are about 215 million international migrants worldwide, meaning that one out of every 33 people today in the world is a migrant. The figures may be even higher, considering illegal migration is difficult to quantify due to its very nature.
My father never saw his trip as a choice – had he stayed, would he have survived?
Five thousand, five hundred, fifty, five years, months, weeks, days or minutes ago. Migration concerns us all to some extent.
To learn more about what will be discussed during the conference, go here.