MoS Ciarán Cannon, T.D. - A Virtual Meeting of the Friends of Migration Group, New York
Speech04 June 2020
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to begin by thanking the Friends of Migration Co-Chairs for organising with us today’s event, and for giving me the opportunity to make a few brief opening remarks.
Migration is an issue close to the heart for us as Irish people, given our long history of outward migration in difficult times - and more recently of inward migration, which has transformed Ireland into the multi-cultural and globally-orientated country that it is today.
As Secretary-General Guterres put it when launching the most recent UN Policy Brief on the Covid-19 crisis yesterday, people on the move - whether they are refugees, internally displaced persons or migrants in precarious situations - are in fact facing three crises: a health crisis; a socio-economic crisis; and a crisis of protection. While the issue of protection is not specifically on our agenda today, this event gives us a very timely opportunity to explore the other two.
I would, without wanting to be in any way presumptuous, go somewhat farther than the Secretary-General regarding the position of migrants during this pandemic. It is not only those migrants who find themselves in what we would usually recognise as ‘precarious’ situations who face particular challenges. Migrants are over-represented both among those who find themselves at greater risk on the front line – for example in the health sector or working in care homes – and among those whose jobs have been lost or whose incomes have been greatly reduced. In turn, migrants are very much under-represented in jobs that can continue remotely, where staff are retained and are protected from infection. This pandemic therefore is exposing further the inequalities that migrants face in so many contexts.
So one of the challenges we face is to move beyond recognising or analysing or understanding the specific ways in which migrants are affected by the Covid-19 crisis; we also need our non-migrant fellow citizens, many of whom are themselves going through a very difficult period, to be aware of these vulnerabilities, and to be part of efforts to address the issues. We need a bedrock of understanding and awareness, not divisiveness and misunderstanding amongst populations. And that needs responsible leadership, clear communication, and mutual understanding.
And here we touch on something that was as true before this crisis began as it is now and will still be just as true when this crisis is behind us: we need people to understand just how much migrants and migration contribute to our societies. We need people to understand that it is not just in the context of public health that no-one’s welfare is really guaranteed unless everyone’s welfare is guaranteed.
But today our immediate ambitions are somewhat more modest and I will let those who are more qualified that I am share their expertise with us. Thank you again to the Friends of Migration Co-Chairs - Bangladesh, Benin, Mexico and our own Ambassador, Geraldine, for your ongoing work and leadership in this area and for inviting me to speak here today.