On International Migrants Day, 18 December, 2016, IOM is asking the world to support TOGETHER – a global campaign that aims to change negative perceptions and attitudes towards migrants and refugees. The initiative, which aims to strengthen the social contract between host countries, communities, refugees and migrants, was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016 in New York. 

Migration benefits both migrants and societies. Migrants enrich the world’s civilizations by bringing new skills, experiences, cultures and innovations to host communities. At the same time they send home remittances, launch development initiatives and create resource networks.

In host countries, discussions of migration are often toxic and vilify migrants and refugees, ignoring migration realities and undermining the benefit that migrants bring. Combating the negative rhetoric surrounding migrants is a critical step toward well-managed, mutually beneficial migration. Unease and suspicion toward migrants, often stemming from stereotypes associating them with criminality, frequently surfaces in public discussion as concerns surrounding security and the threat of terrorism dominate news headlines. 

The role of the media  and politicians in combating xenophobic reactions and fears can be paramount in shaping – or re-shaping – the public discourse and the political response. Political leadership is imperative to combating the toxic discourse which today promotes a harmful, blinkered perception of migrants. Compassion and understanding based on the facts need to be the cornerstone of the way in which politicians respond to migration. 

As more and more people are on the move, diverse and multicultural societies are more likely to be the norm rather than the exception. Consequently, promoting social, cultural, religious and ethnic diversity to benefit all communities is one of our most important goals. Integration is a multidimensional, multifaceted process that requires inclusive and coherent engagement from a diverse set of actors – politicians and local authorities, community leaders, migrants and host country residents alike.

The integration of migrants fosters inclusive, vibrant and participatory societies; and it helps avert marginalization, discrimination and the exclusion of vulnerable groups. When migrants are not fully integrated, their potential contributions to host communities are undermined and the opportunities offered by migration are left untapped.

In this polarizing world, migrants connect countries of origin, transit and destination – as more people migrate, more cultures intertwine and societies become more diverse. When people move, they carry with them not only their skills, but their traditions and heritage as well, expanding upon existing cultural identities.

Governments, the private sector, host communities, migrants and all other relevant actors must work together to achieve common objectives – the promotion of social cohesion and intercultural understanding – objectives which are rooted in shared values of a world free from discrimination. 

Please show your support for the TOGETHER initiative by sharing this video on social media on from 15-18 December 2016.