Conference on Migration and Asylum: Input to Forthcoming UN High-Level Dialogue

KUALA LUMPUR, 1 August 2006 - A Conference on the Challenges of Global Migration and Forced Displacement organised by the United Nations in Malaysia today called for Governments and regional, international and non-governmental organisations to work together towards pragmatic solutions to uphold the rights of migrants and refugees in mixed migratory movements.

"International migration has come to the fore in recent years as a major global issue to be tackled, not just from an economic viewpoint but also from a human rights and humanitarian perspective," said Dr Volker Türk, head of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). "The main challenge is for States, the UN and other stakeholders to develop a coherent regional response to address this.

"While it is important to maintain a clear distinction between forced displacement and labour migration, there is an increasing realisation that the two intersect. It is important to understand the broader migration context, and analyse how forced displacement comes into play, especially in the Asia Pacific region."

Pragmatic, solutions-oriented arrangements include revisiting and updating migration policies and laws to fit current realities of human movement, such as establishing screening procedures in deportation to filter out specially protected categories of foreigners such as refugees and asylum-seekers, and trafficked persons.

At the same time, efforts need to be increased to improve the standard of treatment of asylum-seekers and refugees, such as in health care, education and employment.

The Conference is the United Nations’ contribution towards encouraging constructive debate at the national and regional levels on issues related to the contemporary migration movements in Southeast Asia, the implications for Malaysia and the region, and the need for regional cooperation on migration and refugee matters.

This Conference is also a prelude to the 61st UN General Assembly where a high-level dialogue on international migration and development will be held. The purpose of the dialogue is to discuss the various aspects of international migration in order to identify appropriate ways and means of maximizing its benefits for development while minimizing negative impact.

Some 120 participants from Government agencies, NGOs, academia and international agencies attended the conference.

Areas discussed during this Conference include the implications of people on the move today; the human rights, legal protection and social inclusion of migrant and refugee populations; health, children and gender issues among displaced populations; the socio-economic dimensions of migration and forced displacements; and the issues of governance and dialogue on the issue.

Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, presented a keynote address at the opening ceremony of the Conference.

Other speakers from Malaysia included Datuk Dr Raj Karim who spoke about gender issues within the refugee-migrant construct, while Syed Shahrir Syed Mohamud, President of the Malaysian Trade Union Council spoke on the protection of migrant and refugee workers in Malaysia.

© UNHCR 2001 - 2011