With over one billion people on the move globally, and 250 million international migrants, the scale of the migration phenomenon often masks the fact that every migrant has a unique story.
This was the theme of a keynote speech delivered by IOM’s Regional Director Argentina Szabados on Wednesday (05/09) at a conference organized by one of Central Europe’s leading universities.
“There is an enormous focus on the numbers,” Szabados told a high-level audience of academics, ministers, media, international students and civil society leaders. “But we must never forget that migration is first and foremost about people, many of whom are vulnerable, scared and exploited, and in need of tailormade solutions to protect them, both on their journey and on arrival.”
The conference, Migration and Refugees in a Globalized World: Responsibilities and Responses, was held in the lakeside resort town of Ohrid, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It brought together a wide cross-section of society to promote a better understanding of the dimensions of the global migrant and refugee situation; to exchange experiences and lessons learned; to assist the academic community in approaching migration; to develop research projects; to raise public awareness; and to promote empathy for refugees and migrants.
Szabados noted that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia itself has also been affected by rapid and unexpected population movements: since 2015 up to a million refugees and migrants have transited on their way to EU countries. “IOM has provided significant support alongside the authorities of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, other international and national organizations, giving humanitarian assistance and protection to the vulnerable,” she added.
She further noted that forums like this are an excellent opportunity for IOM to deepen its relationship with academia, as well as more traditional partners such as government ministries and NGOs.
“Bringing all these great minds and energetic individuals together gives us a wonderful chance to find new and innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. We are pushing traditional boundaries of thought and coming up with exciting ideas to help respond to – and equally importantly, to prepare for – present and future migration challenges, and we are exploring how to tackle xenophobia and hate speech directed at migrants.”