Everyone has the right to search for a better life

Two young men play football outdoors in an Italian town.
Omar (17), left, plays football with his housemate Youssouf (17) at a piazza in a small village Italy. Omar and Youssouf migrated to Italy from Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire respectively.

This week world leaders are meeting in New York for the High Level Political Forum, an annual event to discuss progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year’s theme is “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” and one of the topics that will be discussed is migration. 

As part of the SDGs, countries are supposed to “facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.” But as we know from the stories that make headlines, migration is often dangerous and integration can be difficult. Yet there are also many people working to welcome migrants into their countries and help them adjust to their new lives. 

To highlight the experiences of young migrants, Voices of Youth is sharing the stories of Ibrahim, Numu and David Joseph, three young men who have lived in Italy for the past few years and are addressing the United Nations through a video message during the HLPF this week. 

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Ibrahim is from Sierra Leone and has been living in Italy for three years. 

I believe in a society where human rights isn’t only protecting and existing within the borders of a native land. Beyond [those borders] it’s only a written statement or in some cases doesn’t exist at all. My name is Ibrahim and that describes and distinguished me from everyone else, but the mass and the media do not see me as Ibrahim, an individual, they see me as a group, they see me as an asylum seeker, an illegal migrant, a job stealer or clandestine. And that applies to many other migrants living in different parts of the world.

We are being judged based on our physical appearance rather than what our personal characteristics are. That drastically undermines our integration process in the community we live in. My message to the world leaders is that we know that attitude and behavior doesn’t change overnight but what have you done to promote a culture of tolerance and inclusion? 

We know that attitude and behavior doesn’t change overnight but what have you done to promote a culture of tolerance and inclusion?
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Numu is from The Gambia and has been living in Italy for three years. 

As a young migrant, I believe that everybody has a right to go and search for a better life and the right to be integrated in their new homes. Institutionalization is not a solution, so we need alternative care solutions for these young people.

And then I believe that migrants are beneficiaries, they are contributors. So my question to the world leaders will be: what can they do to make these young migrants not only beneficiaries but contributors, so that they can contribute to the development of our beloved world. 

"Anytime a child is hurt on his way to Europe, we all fail" - Jacopo from Italy calls on everyone to do their part to support migrants and refugees arriving in Europe. 

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David Joseph 

David Joseph is from Nigeria and has been living in Italy for two years. 

I’ve been in Italy for two years. I live in a very beautiful community. You have people that motivate me and push me to do better and also to be a better person in life.

I would like to ask our government and world leaders to invest more, to put more effort in the education, qualifications, and skills of young migrants. I believe that most migrants have acquired some skills and some education in their countries of origin...so how are governments able to help them to put these skills to work?

My big question to world leaders is what are their plans to help these migrants to have a better future, because we often say that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow but how can the youth lead tomorrow if they don’t have, if they are not prepared for the present. So the future starts now. 

I live in a very beautiful community. You have people that motivate me and push me to do better and also to be a better person in life.