Human rights central in discussions concerning migrations
Human rights must be central in all discussions concerning migrants, UN experts urge States
GENEVA (1 December 2017) – UN experts* have urged States to ensure a human rights-centred approach when developing the global compact for migration, as Member States enter the stocktaking and then negotiation phase. Their full statement is as follows:
“States should take a strong stand against discrimination and demonstrate that hate speech, violence, stigmatization and scapegoating cannot be tolerated. States must take proactive measures to change the narrative on migration, to combat racism and xenophobia, and to emphasize the positive contributions of migrants and refugees, who bring diversity and enrich societies, cultures and economies across the world.
Urgent and long-term measures are needed to foster social and economic environments which enable migrants to become fully integrated with the local population, without discrimination on any grounds. We need reforms in the legal, institutional, political, policy and social sectors to foster integration and solidarity.
We urge States to refrain from using ‘deterrence measures’. We are concerned at the ongoing conditions faced by migrants, including overcrowded reception centres, poor healthcare, insufficient food, poor sanitary facilities, immigration detention, ‘push-backs’ on land and at sea, and restricted access to regular migration channels.
Negative and inhumane conditions for migrants and increasingly rigid migratory policies will not stop migration, but will only increase human suffering and create a situation in which migrants are exposed to a heightened risk of becoming victims of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and unlawful death. States must now commit to a global compact which reflects their human rights obligations.
Their obligations concerning border crossings, include the right of due process guarantees, regardless of migratory status, the prohibition of refoulement, push-backs, and arbitrary and collective expulsions. States should ensure that every migrant’s situation is individually assessed, so that their protection needs can be met and they can be referred to relevant services. Special attention needs to be paid to vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied children, families with children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, asylum seekers, refugees, potential victims of trafficking and elderly migrants.
States need to recognize that border protection and human rights protection are not mutually exclusive: if States provide more regular migration channels, smuggling operations become redundant and all necessary security checks can be carried out, while migrants’ protection needs can also be met.
Given the identified risk to trafficking in persons in mixed migration flows, States should adequately train all stakeholders, including public officials and law enforcement officers, to identify trafficking or risks of trafficking and provide assistance and protection for victims.
Immigration detention should be applied only as a measure of last resort. Immigration detention is permissible only when it is reasonable, necessary and proportionate; is decided on a case-by-case basis; and is used for the shortest possible period of time. Migrant children – whether with family or unaccompanied – should never be detained. Alternatives to detention need to be developed as a measure of urgency.
The global compact must address issues related to labour exploitation, and ensure migrant workers enjoy the same rights as nationals regarding the minimum wage; hours of work; days of rest; freedom of association, movement and residence; and retaining possession of travel and identity documents.
Any barrier to access to justice must be removed by States, ensuring migrants can effectively access legal remedies for violations of their rights. Migrants should be able to access justice, economic and social rights without fear of detection, detention and deportation. It is important that States guarantee migrants’ access to healthcare, education, and social and labour services, regardless of migratory status.
We urge States to seize the momentum and to contribute in solidarity to a meaningful global compact. States should see migrants as the central point of the process commit to promote and protect their human rights and ensure a follow-up mechanism is created.
We hope that the global compact will result in a human rights-based plan of action, with a normative framework, based within the UN and with proper accountability and oversight mechanisms. We stand ready to provide our expertise to the negotiation process.”