Declaration on the occasion of International Migrants Day, 18 December 2023


Every year on 18 December, International Migrants Day is celebrated in memory of the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in 1990.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights joins the international community in commemorating this event and recalling that all migrants must enjoy all their human rights, as guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, on the sole basis of their humanity and dignity, whatever their migratory status, and that migrants play a central role in contributing to development in their countries of origin and host countries, as active agents of change.

While it is undeniable for the Commission that migration is a global phenomenon, in recent years Africa has witnessed the evolution of increasingly complex migration patterns. Despite the international focus on migratory flows to Europe, it should be remembered that over 80% of African migration takes place within Africa (intra-regional and inter-regional). This is due to a multitude of factors, such as conflict and political instability, terrorism, climate change (water scarcity, drought, floods), poverty, poor governance, precarious and unfavourable socio-economic conditions, human rights violations, etc., leading to an increase in migration on the African continent, and sometimes even representing a survival strategy for many people. 

Migrants, in the broadest sense of the term[ Migrant: broad definition, including "any person who is outside a State of which he or she is a citizen or national, or in the case of a stateless person, who is outside his or her State of birth or residence". It thus encompasses refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and even victims/survivors of human trafficking, regular and irregular economic migrants and climate migrants.], move, voluntarily or forced, regularly or irregularly, in search of better living conditions, creating a real migration dynamic on the continent, with a multitude of humanitarian, economic and political challenges. 

Migrants, often in vulnerable situations, are stigmatised, victims of violations of their fundamental rights and targets of trafficking, human smuggling and xenophobia.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is deeply concerned by the increasing number of cases of detention for migratory reasons, with repercussions on the health and physical and mental well-being of migrants. In this context, it recalls that detention for migration reasons must be an exceptional practice, a last resort, legal and necessary, and must be replaced, whenever possible, by alternatives to detention that are more humane and respectful of the dignity of migrants.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is also alarmed by the fact that the year 2023 saw a record number of migrants who died or disappeared in various circumstances, a significant percentage of whom were children, with all that this can have in terms of consequences for the members of their families. The year was also marked by multiple campaigns of collective expulsion of migrants in various African States. The Commission takes the opportunity of this commemoration to remind States once again of the ban on collective expulsions of foreigners, as set out in the various instruments to which they are party.

On this International Migrants' Day, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, in line with the Revised Migration Policy Framework for Africa and Plan of Action (2018-2030), wishes to remind African States of their various commitments towards migrants, stemming from universal and regional texts, in particular the provisions of Article 12 of the African Charter, which guarantees every individual the right to freedom of movement and residence, as well as its various relevant resolutions such as ACHPR/Res.114 (XXXXII) 07[ On migration and human rights.] ,ACHPR/Res.131(XXXXIII) 08[ On the situation of migrants in South Africa.] , ACHPR/RES. 333 (EXT.OS/XIX) 16 [ The situation of migrants in Africa.], CADHP/RES. 486 (EXT.OS/ XXXI1I) 2021[   Missing migrants and refugees in Africa and the consequences for their families,] , and CADHP/RES.565 (LXXVI) 2023[ On the inclusion of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced and stateless people in national socio-economic systems, services and economic opportunities in Africa.]

Finally, this day is a special opportunity for the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to reiterate to African States, the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities and other stakeholders, its invitation to implement, in the spirit of African solidarity, the "African Guiding Principles on the Human Rights of All Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers", adopted in May 2023, and officially launched at its 77th Ordinary Session in Arusha in October 2023.

Commissioner Selma Sassi-Safer
Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa