Press Release GFMD Civil Society Days 2017: Walls come down!


“Walls come down!” Nearly three hundred civil society organizations from around the world gathered in Berlin demanding ‘Safe, Orderly, Regular Migration Now: Mechanics of a Compact Worth Agreeing to’.
Meeting before, during and after the states-led Global Forum on Migration and Development that began 28 June, they presented 10 demands to senior officials of 150 governments. Foremost was the demand for governments to honour the commitments that all 193 United Nations member states made in September, 2016 to develop, no later than September 2018, a new Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
More than half of the civil society participants were themselves migrants, refugees or children and grandchildren of migrants or refugees. Among them were mothers and fathers who spoke in a rally and multiple meetings of sons and brothers who disappeared while migrating; young people who were held in detention away from their family and deported for lack of the right papers; refugees of war - even the Second World War, and survivors of sea and land crossings.  Also active in the policy discussions were migrants and refugees who have formed or lead civil society organizations and businesses in their new countries. In her address to the governments, Civil Society Chair Ms. Wies Maas noted that For all of us, migration is not just politics, and policies, it is not just professional or practical: it is personal. It touches our lives, our families, and our communities.”
Beginning with a rally at the Brandenburg gate Wednesday evening, Ms. Maas and her civil society Co-chair, Berenice Valdez Rivera of Mexico, repeatedly asserted: “Walls come down!”

“Could there be a more symbolic to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the GFMD than the city of Berlin?”, Ms. Maas asked. “The city that was home to one of the most notorious walls ever built. A wall that for nearly three decades divided a people with concrete, barbed wire, soldiers and the threat of death for those trying to cross without papers. Notorious too, because the wall came down; led by ordinary people—literally breaking it down with their own hands—rebuilding unity in its place.  Hard as it may seem to imagine sometimes, walls do come down.”

Ms. Maas continued: “A 10th Anniversary is a time for celebration and contemplation. We live in a radically different world compared to 2006. Financial crises, rising inequality, spiraling conflict and violent extremism, further natural disasters and climate change have all posed extreme challenges to the global community over the past decade.
As a result, the number of forcibly displaced is at an all-time high. More and more migrants and refugees are dying en route, families are separated, and borders are closing, even to those forced to flee. Children are held in detention for lack of required documents, migrant workers’ rights are being violated in myriad ways, racism and xenophobia are on the rise, and many in society feel anxious, threatened and left behind.
Ms. Maas expressed both confidence in solutions within reach, and urgency.&nbnbsp; “We need bold solutions”, she said. The recent report of Sir Peter Sutherland, writing as the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Migration, “is filled with solutions”, she noted, “and so is the recent report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants”, Mr. Francois Crépeau.
“But, implementation cannot wait. Families must be reunited, urgently; children need to be taken out of detention, now; the hard labour and clear rights of migrant workers must be respected, today; solidarity funding is needed without delay. What we need -is, to use a great German word, a sense of ‘tatendrang’: a zest for action.”
The two civil society days Thursday 29 June and Saturday 1 July featured over 80 speakers animating debates—half participating in the GFMD for the first time.  15 roll-up-your-sleeves break-out sessions focused on elements that civil society thought essential for the new Global Compact, including protection of children and other vulnerable migrants on the move and at borders; fair treatment of migrants in the workplace; fighting xenophobia and promoting social cohesion with welcoming societies; and building safe migration opportunities especially for people forced to migrate—by persecution, lack of work, extreme poverty, natural disaster or climate change at home—in order to save their lives or families.
Friday 30 June brought all 500 government representatives together with the 300 from civil society, to discuss implementation of existing rights, standards and practical mechanisms to achieve these goals. Presenting the recommendations from the civil society deliberations, Ms. Maas urged more systematic implementation of existing mechanisms like “best interest determination” processes whenever child migrants are apprehended; more consistent differentiation and referral of the range of migrants in vulnerable situations, especially during their journeys or on arrival; ethical recruitment procedures for migrant workers; orderly departure programmes for refugees and migrants; and new labour migration and other channels for human mobility, including family reunification  and community-based private sponsorship programmes.   
Ten ‘tea tables’ Friday evening then saw nearly 100 leading governments and civil society delegates informally discussing these same themes and solutions.
“I count on you, civil society delegates”, stated Ms. Louise Arbour, who recently succeeded Mr. Sutherland as UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on International Migration. “We need bold solutions and practical ideas. We need to focus on the implementation of commitments.”

Read Wies Maas' full speech to the opening of the Government Days, 28 June and her address with 10 recommendations to the opening of Common Space, 30 June; Also take a look at the CSD and Common Space reports.

Top photo by Manuel Frauendorf