“Focus on People” Regional Director Tells Key Academic Conference in FYR of Macedonia

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

With over one billion people on the move globally, and 250 million international migrants, the scale of the migration phenomenon often masks the fact that every migrant has a unique story. This was the theme of a keynote speech delivered by IOM’s Regional Director Argentina Szabados yesterday (05/09) at a conference organized by one of Central Europe’s leading universities.

“There is an enormous focus on the numbers”, Ms Szabados told a high-level  audience of academics, ministers, media, international students, and civil society leaders. “But we must never forget that migration is first and foremost about people, many of whom are vulnerable, scared and exploited, and in need of tailormade solutions to protect them, both on their journey and on arrival. “

The occasion was a conference entitled “Migration and Refugees in a Globalized World: Responsibilities and Responses” organized by the University of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Skopje in the lakeside resort town of Ohrid, FYR Macedonia.

It brought together a wide cross-section of society to promote a better understanding of the dimensions of the global migrant and refugee situation, to exchange experiences and lessons learned, to assist in how the academic community should approach migration, to develop research projects, to raise public awareness and promote empathy for refugees and migrants.

Ms Szabados noted that FYR Macedonia itself has been also affected by rapid and unexpected population movements: since 2015 up to a million refugees and migrants have transited on their way to EU countries. “IOM has provided significant support alongside the Macedonian authorities, other international and national organizations, giving humanitarian assistance and protection to the vulnerable.”

She further noted that forums like this are an excellent opportunity for IOM to deepen its relationship with academia, as well as more traditional partners such as government ministries and NGOs. “Bringing all these great minds and energetic individuals together gives us a wonderful chance to find new and innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. We are pushing traditional boundaries of thought and coming up with exciting ideas to help respond to - and equally importantly, to prepare for – present and future migration challenges, and we are exploring how to tackle xenophobia and hate speech directed at migrants.”

Following her opening speech Ms Szabados was presented with a plaque by Ratko Duev Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Saints Cyril and Methodius.