As we acknowledge International Migrants Day, it is important to note the complexities of the world where more people than ever live on the move or in a country they were not born. These individuals and families are fleeing personal violence, state sponsored genocide, poverty, religious or ethnic persecution, and starvation. The simple adage that people are moving for a “better life” is not, and never was applicable to the large scale movement of people.
We must acknowledge the constant physical and mental danger that forces people to leave behind all they have and know, in order to protect themselves and their families from the growing threats of all forms of extremism, climate change, failed economic development, and violence. More importantly, we must support international cooperation to ensure the safe passage and integration of migrants into new communities. This is, and has always been, the purpose of the International Social Service network.
Twenty-five years after the founding of the International Migration Service (later changed to International Social Service) in 1924, an internal survey of the agency included the statement:
Normal movement of population, displacement due to war,
political or religious oppression, international marriages,
all of these create a need for people and agencies to work
together across borders and frontiers to prevent the
discouragement and suffering which contribute to break-down in
family unity, waste of individual potentialities, and
More importantly and apropos of the current political climate in the United States, the founding documents assert, “(m)any laws and regulations have been enacted without consideration of their possible effects on human well-being.”
As a social service network, International Social Service’s primary concern is the physical and emotional safety of our clients; all of whom are, for a variety of reasons, separated from their families across an international border. Our unique and enduring legacy since our founding in 1924, is the ability to cooperate with our partners in dozens of countries to achieve that goal. The network currently operates in 130 countries and serves over 75,000 individuals and families each year. We advocate for the inclusion of immigrants, refuges and asylees in our communities, and for their social and emotional needs to be met alongside their legal battles.
The theme of this year’s International Migrants Day is “safe migration in a world on the move.” This is a time when international cooperation among agencies, governments, and individuals is more crucial than ever.