UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, "migrants are assets to society".

December 18, 2007.- Today marks the eighth International Migrants Day, an occasion that grows more meaningful with each passing year.

Globalization and the growing disparities in living conditions within and among States are combining to increase the scale of cross-border migration worldwide.

Currently, there are more people living outside their countries of birth than ever before, an estimated 200 million in 2007.

Behind this vast figure are individual stories -- of the skilled computer engineer, the farmer working illegally, the woman trafficked against her will, the refugee forced to flee home, and countless others.

Although their stories are diverse, when we consider migrants as a group it becomes clear that they should not and must not be seen as a burden.

Migrants are often driven by the aspiration for a better life. They seek a safer, more prosperous future for their children, and they are willing to work for it. Given the chance to make the most of their abilities, on an equal basis, the vast majority of migrants will be assets to society.

Millions of migrants provide essential services to the economies and societies of the countries they live in while supporting their families and communities back home, where remittances boost the national economy.

Unfortunately, migrants rarely receive recognition for their contributions. Instead, they often contend with abuses and discrimination ranging from the absence of protection mechanisms to discriminatory national legislation. In extreme cases, they are victims of racist or xenophobic attacks.

Many important safeguards are contained in the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, but to date it has been ratified by only 37 countries. I urge all Member States who have not yet ratified or acceded to the Convention to do so as soon as possible as a way to ensure the full and effective protection of the human rights of migrants.

Beyond action on this important treaty, we must redress prevailing misconceptions about migrants and raise public awareness about their valuable economic, cultural and social contributions to both countries of origin and destination. On this International Migrants Day, let us replace discrimination with understanding, to benefit not just migrants but also communities and countries around the world.