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International Migrants Day: A Call for Communities to Welcome Newcomers

Street Scene, Santiago City Philippines" by nigel@hornchurch is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
December 18, 2019

Today — December 18 — marks International Migrants Day. The number of international migrants — people residing in a country other than their country of birth — has risen from 221 million in 2010 to 272 million today. International migrants now constitute 3.5% of the global population. Meanwhile, 70.8 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from home. 

Today is a day to celebrate the shared history and reality of migration that exists in almost every corner of the world, and enriches communities everywhere. Most of us have someone in our family who came from somewhere else. Migration can be an expression of courage, a symbol of opportunity, and a pathway to a better life. But it can also be an act of survival. Today is also a day to remember the millions of people around the world who have lost their lives trying to flee from desperate circumstances as well as the millions who have been treated as criminals for crossing a border to seek safety and separated from their families or put behind bars. It is a day to remember the human consequences of fear-driven policies that deter, detain and deport rather than protect and uphold dignity. 

This morning, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, called on leaders and people everywhere to bring the UN Global Compact on Safe and Orderly Migration to life. The International Organization for Migration has made the theme for International Migrants Day 2019, social cohesion, “in recognition not just of migrants, but of the communities in which they can and do flourish.” 

In line with this call for support, the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness (SCSC) aims to highlight the potential of everyday citizens to play a role in creating welcoming societies, upholding human rights, and fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion for newcomers. 

This spring, as part of Common Threads, a program dedicated to creating a positive narrative around forced migration, SCSC developed a volunteer-led initiative to welcome asylum seekers to Montreal. With an ever-growing group of over 75 volunteers and multiple partners, we have held 30 Welcome Sessions to date, and welcomed over 600 asylum seekers. If you live in Montreal and would like to get involved as a volunteer for the Welcome Sessions, you can sign up here.

We have also created a Welcome Sessions Toolkit, which offers both an explanation of the Welcome Sessions that we have developed, as well as a step-by-step guide to how any individual, group, or organization could consider beginning a similar initiative in their community. 

Download the Welcome Sessions Toolkit.

Of course, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to welcoming newcomers, and there will be different obstacles, opportunities, and contexts of migration in each community. If you are interested in beginning Welcome Sessions in your community, and are looking for support, advice or materials, reach out to us at