Migration, globalization and human rights emerged as central social, economic and political challenges reshaping the world since the turn of the century. The most immediate challenge facing many societies worldwide now is the appalling rise in violence against migrants and increasingly restrictive government measures that undermine the fundamental basic human rights of millions of migrants and their families.
According to UN estimates, over 200 million people are now living permanently or temporarily outside their countries of origin. One out of every 35 people worldwide is currently an international migrant. This vast number includes migrant workers and their families, refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. However, this does not take into account those of irregular or undocumented status, for which there are no reliable estimates.
Migrants often become universal “scapegoats,” targeted for violence and excluded from legal protections in many places due to their immigration status or nationality. The increased designation of migrants as “illegal” further aggravates the deprivation of rights entitled to everyone under international human rights law. Historically, little international attention, advocacy, and public education had been devoted to upholding the human rights and dignity of migrants other than refugees, despite the elaboration of international human rights standards for migrants and declarations in international conferences calling for cooperation towards the protection of migrants’ rights.
Thus, in 1994, international representatives of church, human rights, migrant and trade unions, inter-governmental agencies, national and grassroots civil society organizations came together to establish the “International Migrants Rights Watch Committee,” which was later renamed Migrants Rights International (MRI) in 2000.