Human Rights Council
10 March 2017
The Human Rights Council this morning held an enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights of migrants in the context of large movements. The panel discussion aimed to contribute to the integration of human rights within the follow-up to the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants, and to the process of developing a Global Compact on safe, regular and orderly migration.
Opening the enhanced interactive dialogue, Peggy Hicks, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed that respecting human rights throughout the migration cycle was not only a legal requirement, but the smart thing to do. Excluding migrants from health, education and political systems, or putting them into arbitrary detention ultimately increased the costs for transit and host countries. The international community had an unprecedented opportunity to come together to build a Global Compact that provided safe, rights-respecting migration, and to ensure that future generations were spared the hell of desperate, precarious journeys.
Jorge Lomónaco, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the trend of large movements of people across the world would most certainly continue and possibly increase as a result of violent conflict, poverty, inequalities or climate change. Migrants were considered a security threat in receiving societies, said Mr. Lomónaco and stressed a collective obligation to combat policies of fearmongering, profiling, stigmatization and defamation, as well as a need to start talking more about the benefits of migration in receiving countries.
William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration, warned that too many migrants were dying on the migratory routes. At the same time, a very negative public discourse denied the contribution that migrants had made to all economies and societies. Mr. Lacy Swing called for a sense of shared responsibility of States, noting that the number one priority was saving lives. The international community had to promote more legal avenues for people to move legally.
Manuela Tomei, Director, Conditions of Work and Equality Department, International Labour Organization, underlined that the lack of decent jobs was a powerful force driving migration, adding that the governance of migration had strong implications for labour markets. The effective protection of migrant workers could not occur without the close involvement of all stakeholders. The Global Compact could make a difference by supporting the International Labour Organization’s new “General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment”.
Carol Batchelor, Director of the Division of International Protection, United Nations Refugee Agency, noted that while displacement and migratory movements were not new phenomena, the world was now seeing unprecedented levels of complex population movements that represented challenges to response capacities and resources. The human rights of all persons on the move had to be protected, and saving lives and ensuring human rights protection for all people had to be a priority.
Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said that, unfortunately, children’s decisions to leave had become an escape strategy to reach a safe haven from political instability, violence and exploitation. Children experienced horrific scenes: the killing of their parents, the rape of their sisters, or the forced disappearance of their friends. In some cases, children were manipulated by organized crime and were forced to take part in criminal activities.
Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, said national human rights institutions were in a good position to support the Global Compact process, including through building connections in the society, denouncing hatred, and showing the human dimension of daily drama. She called on the assembled delegates to listen to stories highlighting human tragedy, and to just imagine what would happen if they were to allow empathy to affect their decisions.
Monami Maulik, Representative of the Global Coalition of Migration, said that migrants were facing a human rights crisis at all stages of the migrant journey: in their places of origin, in transit and at borders, in places of destination, and often upon return. With inadequate access to regular and safe channels for migration, they were pushed into dangerous journeys where they risked exploitation and violence from State and non-State actors. It was important that the Global Compact process elevate genuine migrant participation, including on issues of labour rights, increased regular migration pathways, regularization, firewalls, and ending child detention.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers expressed grave concern about the current climate of xenophobia, racism, populism and nationalism triggered by recent migration flows. The rising criminalization of migration and detention of migrants, together with the closing of borders, greatly increased the risk of arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and other abuses. Countries of origin, transit and destination had shared and specific responsibilities in protecting and respecting the human rights of all migrants, especially the most vulnerable groups, such as women and unaccompanied children. In that respect, the upcoming negotiations on the Global Compact could become a framework for international cooperation in the area of migration. States had to ensure that their domestic legislation and procedures complied with the principle of non-refoulement, and some speakers noted that the multiple problems linked to migration could only be solved if the structural causes of migration were addressed, notably the unjust and exclusive international economic order. International cooperation with genuine dialogue which recognized the responsibilities of every State was needed to deal with migration.
Speaking in the enhanced dialogue were European Union, El Salvador on behalf of the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Canada, United Nations Children’s Fund, Greece, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Council of Europe, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Cuba, Netherlands, El Salvador, Venezuela, China, Egypt, Italy, Algeria, Viet Nam, Libya, Pakistan, South Africa, Philippines, Thailand, United States, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Bulgaria, Sudan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, International Committee of the Red Cross, Hungary, Honduras, Luxembourg, Portugal, Malta, Azerbaijan, Senegal, Colombia, Indonesia, Nepal, Costa Rica, Albania, Ghana, Bangladesh, Morocco, Ecuador and Argentina.
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: International Commission of Jurists, Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicio de Genero (joint statement), Save the Children International (joint statement), Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development, International Catholic Migration Commission (joint statement), Association for the Prevention of Torture (joint statement), and Association Dunenyo.
At noon, the Council will begin its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
PEGGY HICKS, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the New York Declaration was a human rights-based commitment to people on the move and contained concrete commitments to uphold international human rights law. The main challenge going forward was to translate the aspirational worlds of the Declaration into a concrete plan of action. To be true to its terms, a human rights thread should be woven into the overall process of negotiating the global compact on migration. To ensure that happened, the voices of migrants needed to be heard. At the same time, the international community needed to focus protection and promotion efforts on the most vulnerable and marginalised. Moreover, respecting human rights throughout the migration cycle was not only a legal requirement, but it was also the smart thing to do. Excluding migrants from health, education and political systems or putting them into arbitrary detention ultimately increased the costs for transit and host countries, she warned.
The Global Migration Group, an initiative chaired by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and United Nations Women, was developing a set of principles and practical guidance on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations. Those guidelines would include measures to ensure alternatives to immigration detention, as well as safeguards in ensuring screening and identification of vulnerability in the context of reception. What the international community was seeing today across the globe attempted to undermine human rights safeguards with regard to practices of immigration enforcement, often on the basis of scant evidence and to appease fearful public opinion. The international community had an unprecedented opportunity to come together to learn from the experience of migrants, to build a global compact that provided safe, rights-respecting migration, and to ensure that future generations were spared the hell of desperate, precarious journeys.
JORGE LOMÓNACO, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reminded that in recent years the world had witnessed a surge in the large movements of people across the world. That trend would most certainly continue and possibly increase as a result of violent conflict, poverty, inequalities or climate change. Thousands of women, men and children had lost their lives while looking for better lives. Millions were living in precarious conditions, without any form of protection of their most fundamental rights. Still, migrants were considered a security threat in receiving societies. They faced rejection, discrimination and were subject to all sorts of abuse. The Special Rapporteur on migration had noted that States’ responses to the so-called “migration crisis” had led to frictions among States, creating an atmosphere of chaos and disorganization that implanted fear in the hearts of the citizens of destination countries, and fed stereotypes, myths, threats and fantasies that national populist movements insisted on exploiting. The Council had recognized on many occasions the need to promote and protect effectively the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their status. It had also affirmed the need to address international migration through international, regional or bilateral cooperation and dialogue in a comprehensive and balanced fashion, avoiding approaches that might aggravate the vulnerability of migrants. The process towards a Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration gave the Council an opportunity to advance principles and commitment with a human rights based approach with respect to international migration in all its dimensions. There was a collective obligation to combat policies of fearmongering, profiling, stigmatization and defamation. There was a need to start talking more about the benefits of migration in receiving countries. Migration was natural, and if managed properly, a welcome consequence of history and also progress, integration, modernity, mobility, trade and hipercommunication, Mr. Lomónaco concluded.
WILLIAM LUCY SWING, Director General of the International Organization for Migration, emphasised that too many migrants were dying on the migratory route. The world was also dealing with a very negative public discourse in which it denied the contribution that migrants had made to all economies and societies. It was clear that human rights applied to all persons, including the 244 million known migrants worldwide. Fifty per cent of those on the move were women, many with children, he noted. The issue before the international community was the implementation of all the treaties that already existed. The world knew they were there, but ignored them when it came to migrants. He called for a sense of shared responsibility. Migrants were particularly vulnerable in times of crisis, he continued, citing examples. In that context, the number one priority was saving lives. The international community had to promote more legal avenues for people to move legally. The prosecution of smugglers was also needed. Meanwhile, the world needed to do much more to end the detention of migrant children and turn those detention centres into open welcome centres. Finally, the world needed to decriminalise irregular migrants. Several issues needed to be addressed to tackle the issue, including demography, conflicts, and the current toxic political discourse, he said, before calling to embrace the diversity that was so beneficial to society.
MANUELA TOMEI, Director, Conditions of Work and Equality Department, International Labour Organization, said the lack of decent jobs was a powerful force driving migration, and the governance of migration had strong implications for labour markets. The International Labour Organization’s tripartite system, which involved governments, employers and workers’ organizations, was established as a means to strengthen governments’ bond with society that social justice should prevail.
The challenges of today resonated with those of the world nearly a century ago, she said, noting that then as now, large movements of migrants and refugees were seen. It was with the backdrop of the large movements of the 1930s and 1940s that the first migrant workers convention had been adopted. The standards that that model agreement set included fundamental principles and rights at work, equality of treatment, including in wages and working conditions, fair recruitment and work placement, skills recognition and training, and international cooperation and social dialogue. Those issues and standards were as relevant as at any time, and they should feature strongly in the Global Compact. It was important that the Global Compact reinforced and did not dilute those standards. The Compact should further reflect practical guidance that was grounded on field experience. The Compact could make a difference by supporting the International Labour Organization’s new “General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment”. The International Labour Organization had also developed practical guidance to address the exploitation of refugees and their access to decent work. The effective protection of migrant workers could not occur without the close involvement of all relevant stakeholders.
CAROL BATCHELOR, Director of the Division of International Protection at the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the large movements of refugees and migrants had rightly captured global attention. While displacement and migratory movements were not new phenomena, the world was now seeing unprecedented levels of complex population movements that represented challenges to response capacities and resources. With an increase in large movements, a commensurate increase in human rights violations had been observed. More than 7,500 migrants had been reported dead or had gone missing in transit in 2016 alone, according to IOM’s missing migrants project, the majority losing their lives as they had crossed the Mediterranean. Refugees and migrants were in different situations, with refugees unable to return to their country due to the conflict or persecution that they had experienced. But, when migrants and refugees were crammed into unseaworthy boats, fell prey to human traffickers, and were faced with detention, or were victims to racism and xenophobia, their immediate needs were the same. The human rights of all persons on the move had to be protected. International cooperation was needed to develop principles and guidelines on the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations within large movements. Although the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, and the Global Compact on refugees were separate, distinct and independent, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees was working closely with the International Organization for Migration and other partners to ensure coherence and complementarity between the two. Saving lives and ensuring human rights protection for all people had to be a priority.
MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said the world had witnessed over the past years growing numbers of children and adolescents on the move – alone or with their families, within and across countries. Unfortunately, children’s decision to leave had become an escape strategy to reach a safe haven from political instability, violence and exploitation. Children experienced horrific scenes: the killing of their parents, the rape of their sisters, and the forced disappearance of their friends. In some cases, children were manipulated by organized crime and were forced to take part in criminal activities. More often than not, children failed to benefit from the protection to which they were entitled, and could be perceived as intruders rather than victims at risk as they crossed borders in the search of a safe destination. She welcomed the set of principles and guidelines on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations within large and/or mixed movements. Such guidelines built upon international good practice to assist States in developing, strengthening, implementing and monitoring measures to protect migrants in vulnerable situations, including children.
MARIE-CLAUDE LANDRY, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, said the global alliance represented national human rights institutions complying with the Paris Principles, and they were in a good position to support the establishment of the Global Compact. As independent institutions, national human rights institutions could support many stakeholders, and one could not minimise their role in creating a society. National human rights institutions built connections and denounced hatred, and showed the human dimension of daily drama. They could also show the situations of vulnerable people, she said, speaking about a single parent family detained in a Canadian prison because of issues relating to their identity as migrants. The 8-year old girl was deprived of her freedom for almost a year, and the situation was also not reasonable for the mother. Overall, she said she applauded the welcoming attitude of Canada, but the story she had just told illustrated the shortcomings, noting that some Canadians continued to be victims of intolerance. Canada was a welcoming country, but nevertheless on a daily basis, there were reminders that there was a lot left to do. She called on the assembled delegates to listen to stories highlighting human tragedy, and to just imagine what would happen if they were to allow empathy to affect their decisions.
MONAMI MAULIK, Representative of the Global Coalition of Migration, explained that the Global Coalition of Migration had been actively mobilizing its bases across regions and strategizing for concrete inputs into the upcoming consultations and the subsequent negotiating process towards the adoption of a Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration. Migrants were facing a human rights crisis at all stages of the migrant journey: in their places of origin, in transit and at borders, in places of destination, and often upon return. With inadequate access to regular and safe channels for migration, migrants were pushed into attempting dangerous journeys where they risked exploitation and violence from State and non-State actors. States militarized and externalized borders in the name of deterring such movement, deploying policies from push-backs and border closure to detention and expedited removal that denied effective access to asylum. There was no evidence that fences, border walls, detention and other excessive border control measures were a deterrent. They did not prevent people from attempting as well as succeeding in irregular entry, especially when they were responding to unmet labour demands in destination countries, reunification needs with family members, and in seeking international protection. Within the current context of xenophobia in rhetoric and policies, migrants were increasingly the scapegoats of deeper economic, social and political transitions within many receiving societies. In order to identify promising practices on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations, it was central to recognize that first and foremost migrants were rights holders at all times, whether they were in transit at the border or in any country. For that reason, it was important that the Global Compact process elevate genuine migrant participation. Issues of particular importance to civil society were labour rights, increased regular migration pathways, regularization, firewalls, and ending child detention.
European Union said the commitments of the New York Declaration should be translated into concrete action in the Global Compact to be developed by 2018. Addressing migration-related challenges was a shared responsibility of countries of origin, transit and destination. Particular attention should be paid to addressing the specific needs of migrants in vulnerable situations. El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States, said migration and migratory flows in its countries called for a comprehensive and coordinated response with a specific focus on vulnerable groups, including women and children. The Community urged all States to guarantee the human rights of all migrants. Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the wave of xenophobia and discrimination being experienced by migrants had resulted in the denial of safety to migrants. Regressive policies and strategies for discouraging the migrants were counter-productive and were causing unnecessary anguish to people in pernicious circumstances. The shifting of responsibility to neighbouring countries, especially developing countries with limited resources, was not a solution.
Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said States needed to respect international refugee law and the fundamental principle of non-discrimination. The African Group was concerned about the recent increase in migrants around the world. The African Group noted the close relationship between development and migration and the need to encourage development programmes in countries of origin. Brazil said that it was a construct of migrants who had enriched the country. Migrants were an essential part of Brazil’s identity and it was fully committed to sheltering refugees to the extent of its capabilities. Negotiations toward a Global Compact for safe regular migration should be guided by the need to guarantee the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Sierra Leone said mass migration was a reflection of the unstable situation in many of the countries where people were fleeing prosecution, conflict and violence. However, it was also clear that some people fled in search of better economic opportunities and had become victims of unscrupulous traffickers. Why was more attention not being given to identify and prosecute these organised gangs who endangered the lives of thousands on a daily basis, Sierra Leone asked?
Canada said there was a need to recognize the gendered dimensions of international migration and mobility, asking the panellists to comment on what practical measures could be included in the Global Compact to enhance the human rights protection of women and girl migrants. United Nations Children’s Fund noted that within mobile populations children were significantly overrepresented and underserved, underscoring that the Convention on the Rights of the Child obliged States to ensure that all children were treated as children first, with the same rights and access to services as children from the country of transit or destination. Greece asked the panellists how they planned to concretely promote the concept of shared responsibilities within their mandates, and urged them to exert their moral and institutional authority to promote the core principle of shared responsibility forming the basis of the New York Declaration. United Kingdom said the international community needed to put human rights at the core of the system, yet underscored that it was important to maintain the distinction between economic migrants and refugees, in order to target protection to those in need.
Germany said well-managed migration might yield a “triple win” situation for countries of origin and destination as well as for the migrants and their families, as migration created new bridges across national borders and strengthened bilateral ties as well as contributing to closer international cooperation. Russian Federation said ensuring the rights of migrants was an issue requiring particular attention, adding that large numbers of migrant workers were arriving in Russia each year, and they received many services on an equal footing with Russian citizens.
Council of Europe expressed support for the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, a significant milestone which encouraged solidarity and reaffirmed obligations to respect the rights of refugees and migrants. The Council of Europe expressed concern over the increased xenophobia, racism, populism and nationalism in Europe triggered by recent migration flows. Switzerland noted that the daily plight of thousands of migrants reminded of what the international community had to do. The upcoming negotiations on the Global Compact could become a framework for international cooperation in the area of migration. Belgium noted that countries of origin, transit and destination had shared and specific responsibilities in protecting and respecting the human rights of all migrants. Belgium was fully committed to enhance international cooperation in that regard, and it was particularly concerned about the situation of vulnerable groups, such as women and children in transit, notably unaccompanied children. Australia stated that the human rights of migrants and temporary entrants to Australia were protected under robust domestic law and international human rights treaties. Its experience demonstrated that a key part of protecting migrants and refugees was providing safe and regular pathways.
Cuba stressed that multiple problems linked to migration could only be solved if structural causes of migration were addressed, notably the unjust and exclusive international economic order. International cooperation with genuine dialogue which recognized the responsibilities of every State was needed to deal with migration. Netherlands considered last year’s adoption of the New York Declaration a landmark achievement because for the first time it explicitly acknowledged that challenges of large migratory movements required a joint response and shared responsibility. It was important to address what drove people to move. El Salvador agreed with the Addis Ababa Agenda in which the positive contribution of migrants to economic development was recognized. The situation of migrants worldwide, especially of vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied children, required a human rights-based approach. Venezuela stressed that the unfair economic international order was the main cause of global migratory flows. It was necessary to approach migration based on human rights and not on criminalization of migrants.
China said countries should address root causes to deal with mass forced migration and support the International Organization for Migration in playing a greater role in coordination. China would provide support to developing countries in their work on refugees. Notably, it was providing a $ 1 million grant to the International Organization for Migration in this area for developing countries. Egypt said migration was a positive phenomenon that needed to be regulated while respecting freedom of movement. However, the world needed to focus on the root causes and not the symptoms. Egypt called on States to respect the Geneva Conventions and condemned the violation of the rights of migrants where they were sometimes put in detention. Italy said it had increasingly become a country of destination for migrants, more than a country of transit, with a sharp increase in requests for asylum. The Italian Parliament was finalising the approval of a provision of law setting for a new framework for the reception and protection of unaccompanied minors. Improved coordination within and across governments was needed to align humanitarian, migration and sustainable urban development agendas.
Algeria said the world was witnessing the combination of two phenomena: an increase in the number of migrants and the proliferation of crises leading to forced displacement. The world needed to look at regional dynamics that were leading to large migratory movements. There was a collective duty to combat xenophobic narratives targeting certain communities. Viet Nam said that as the country with the second largest number of migrant workers in Southeast Asia, Viet Nam wanted to engage in constructive dialogue and cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination. In that regard, Viet Nam called upon all countries to protect fundamental human rights, and uphold the dignity of migrant workers. Libya said Libya had been unable to cope with the large flows of irregular migrants and must coordinate its response globally to address the issue. Libya asserted it would accept legal immigrants so that they could help rebuild the country.
Pakistan said that in mass movements, Muslim migrants in particular had been victims of reprehensible practices which were a violation of human rights and human dignity, asking the panellists for their views on the role of international cooperation and resources mobilization for fulfilling the Global Compact. South Africa said State-sponsored xenophobia was intolerable and political leaders making irresponsible pronouncements needed to be reprimanded, as such statements were tantamount to hate crimes directed at migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Philippines said the current session was being held at a time of an alarming trend toward political rhetoric that stigmatized migrants and migration, which was fuelled by racist and xenophobic fear and sentiments advanced by populist politicians, and underscored that States had to ensure that border procedures were consistent with international human rights and humanitarian laws.
Thailand said it had hosted over a million displaced persons over the past four decades, adding that all registered migrants had access to healthcare services identical to Thai citizens, and that their children were eligible for nine-year basic education. Managing migration required members of the international community to share the burden and take up their collective responsibilities. United States looked forward to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ participation in developing the Global Compact, noting that the United States had supported efforts to promote the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations. As the international community began the preparations process for the Global Compact for migration, the panellists were asked for their advice on how to identify the protection and assistance needs of migrants in vulnerable situations. Kyrgyzstan said foreign labour migrants in Kyrgyzstan enjoyed the same basic rights as citizens did, adding that the Kyrgyz legislation did not restrict the access of labour migrants and their family members to health care, education, social protection, and other services.
Turkey underlined the need for a far more comprehensive and human rights-based approach to migration. Turkey pursued an open-door policy and provided protection to people in need, hosting the largest refugee population in the world of more than 3.2 million. Turkey voiced concern over the negative and discriminatory perception of migrant workers. Bulgaria stated that the protection of the human rights of migrants required coordinated action by countries of origin, transit and destination throughout the entire migration cycle – departure, return, readmission and reintegration. Sudan noted that it was committed to hosting and providing assistance to refugees, despite the already heavy burden it had shouldered in that respect. Sudan paid particular attention to the protection of refugees, including combatting human trafficking. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia reminded that it had provided safe passage to thousands of migrants and refugees on the so-called “Balkan route.” The entire response was designed to assist people in need, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. International Committee of the Red Cross recalled that migrants remained in a critical situation. They were still being detained, or could be trapped in areas of conflict. States had to ensure that their domestic legislation and procedures complied with the principle of non-refoulement.
Hungary said unmanaged migration presented difficulties for migrants themselves, as well as for transit and destination countries. Immigration was not a human right and awareness raising was important to discourage people from taking perilous journeys. Despite being criticised by some, Hungary had been referenced in relation to its good practices. Honduras said it recognised the reasons that triggered major migratory flows. While it could be a positive experience, migrants could be victims of human rights violations. Honduras endeavoured to put forth a coherent response in addressing migration. It must be based on compromise and collective burden sharing. Luxembourg said the world must protect the human rights of all people on the move, regardless of their status. They were in particularly vulnerable situations. In many situations international obligations were not being fully respected and the human rights of migrants were frequently flouted. The situation proved the extent to which this discussion was vital.
Portugal said it rejected an approach to migratory issues exclusively based on security or financial concerns. It was also concerned about the mainstreaming of anti-immigrant rhetoric and exclusionary identity speech. Malta said saving lives remained an immediate priority for the country, as well as ensuring that all those rescued at sea were brought to safety. To address the situation in the central Mediterranean, effective cooperation between the European Union and other countries of transit and origin remain crucial. Azerbaijan said it had carried out a lot of work to strengthen its migration policy and had established the legal basis for the implementation of international instruments to protect the rights of migrants. Azerbaijan treated all migrants with respect and decency.
Senegal said it remained concerned about the increasing number of migrants, but underscored that migration was a natural phenomenon, adding that a solution to the issue could only be found through cooperation. The New York Declaration invited all to take part in the process. Colombia said migration had the power to change societies, noting that Colombia had incorporated a human rights-based approach nationally that benefited migrants with the support of the State, thus ensuring that non-nationals received the same dignified treatment. It was time for the international community to move forward toward a safe mobility system that promoted cohesion and improved the public perception of migrants. Indonesia said that when the international community spoke about migration, migrant workers had to be included, as they could often be as vulnerable as refugees and asylum seekers. Indonesia called on all Member States to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
Nepal said there were more international migrants today than at any time in human history, and noted that Nepal was a country with high dependence on labour migration for employment and remittances. Coherent and comprehensive responses of the international community were essential to making international migration safe, orderly and beneficial to all. Costa Rica said nobody was as vulnerable as the person who had abandoned everything they knew, and boys and girls should be the priority of the international community. Costa Rica had a comprehensive perspective, and had adopted plans and policies that considered the needs of every individual. Albania condemned all acts and expressions of racial discrimination and xenophobia against migrants, expressing concern about the unequal treatment of migrants and reiterating that it was necessary to address the root causes of conflict that were driving people to forced displacement.
Ghana noted that the denial of the rights of migrants was often linked to discriminatory laws and policies, as well as prejudices in host communities, and said that Ghana had recently adopted its national migration policy, which aimed to promote benefits of migration. Bangladesh stressed that effective protection of migrants in vulnerable situations, including in large movements, must be ensured, and the economic gains of migration and the value of the inclusion of migrants in host societies must be recognized. Historically, Morocco had been a country of origin but was increasingly becoming a country of transit, and it had adopted a humanist and comprehensive policy to migration based on the premise of African values and a culture of human rights. Ecuador hoped that the discussion today would provide a useful basis for the adoption of the two General Compacts on refugees and on large movements of migrants in 2018. Ecuador stressed that there were no illegal human beings and condemned the criminalization of irregular migration. Argentina stressed that migrants’ health must be included in the development of the Global Compacts on migration and on refugees.
International Commission of Jurists was developing guidelines on the role of judges and lawyers in relation to large movements of refugees and migrants, including in status determination procedures, detention and removal, the right to an effective remedy, and equality before the law. Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Genero, in a joint statement with Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales; and Conectas Human Rights, said restrictive migration policies which prioritized security were a structural cause of vulnerabilities for the migrant population, and global discussions should seek to overcome obstacles to access to justice. Save the Children International, in a joint statement with
Terre des Hommes; International Federation; Friends World Committee for Consultation; International Detention Coalition; and International Service for Human Rights, appealed to the international community to uphold human rights standards, noting that a crisis was leaving migrants’ lives hanging in the balance. A key test of the Compact was how it would respond to the needs of all migrants in vulnerable situations. Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco said the international community should recall that the number of unaccompanied minors had increased over the years, and urged the Council to support El Salvador’s initiative in that regard, urging the international community to be better committed to the rights of unaccompanied minors. International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development said once a young person reached the age of 18, they were often separated from the assistance they had received under the designation of “child”, which could be devastating. The international community was called on to have a greater commitment to ensuring the respect for migrant youth and enable them to live their lives with dignity. International Catholic Migration Commission, on behalf of severals NGOs1, expressed urgent concern at the increasing trend, especially in high-income countries, to forcibly return migrants and refugees, including children, to countries where they faced threat to life, persecution, torture, and other grave abuse of rights.
Association for the Prevention of Torture, in a joint statement with International Detention Coalition, expressed grave concern about the current climate of xenophobia and the rising criminalization and detention of migrants, which together with the closing of borders, greatly increased the risk of arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and other abuses. Association Dunenyo said that the figures on migration continued to increase while the protection threats to migrants multiplied, and urged countries to set up pro-migratory humane policies, particularly in countries in the north.
WILLIAM LACY SWING, Director General, International Organization for Migration, noted that this discussion had been rich and in fact could represent the first consultation on the Global Compact. The International Organization for Migration was totally committed to doing its part and was geared up for action to contribute to the Global Compact as the world sought to find the set of principles and understanding which would provide agreement on shared responsibilities. Time was very short, but this was a historical moment as this was the first time that the issue of migration drew attention at the level of Heads of State.
CAROL BATCHELOR, Director, Division of International Protection, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, responding to some questions raised in the discussion, explained that the question on the particular vulnerabilities of women and children at risk was recognized in the New York Declaration, in relation to both refugees and migrants. With regards to promoting shared responsibilities within different mandates and ensuring interaction under different frameworks, Ms. Batchelor noted that examples were already there, as evidenced by this panel. States could play an enormous role in mobilizing support for migration, through their advocacy and policy efforts.
PEGGY HICKS, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it was important to establish synergies with the 2030 Agenda which would help in addressing the root causes. The international community needed to work harder on prevention, which meant taking up entrenched discrimination and abuse as those were drivers of migration. The international community needed to bring in evidence and data and use it more effectively, to avoid being driven by prejudice and myths around migration. Innovative approaches and ideas were needed for that.
JORGE LOMÓNACO, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations in Geneva, said alongside the emergence of the refugee crisis, the international community had seen a growing number of anti-refugee figures moving into the mainstream. They had a “despicable agenda” to profit politically from human suffering. Fundamental rights were not negotiable, so instead of being on the defensive, more rights were needed, not less. The Global Compact should channel the energy being used for naming and shaming to figure out sensible solutions instead.
MANUELA TOMEI, Director, Conditions of Work and Equality Division, International Labour Organization, said that in the International Labour Organization, the most effective way of protecting migrants was seen as providing them with decent jobs, which was also a way of defusing racism and xenophobia. In response to a comment from the Australian delegation, she said a new partnership to work together locally was the type of cooperation and solidarity that the international community should be looking at. The importance of addressing the gender dimension was also important. Canada had asked about concrete ways of protecting migrant women and girls, and this required action on multiple levels.
MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, welcomed the expressions of commitment to the protection of human rights that the delegations had voiced today and stressed the need to act accordingly, and with urgency. There must be accountability and leadership in addressing the rights of children, who must be at the heart of collective efforts, and child and gender-sensitive approaches must be adopted. The Convention on the Rights of the Child could show the way forward. The best interest of the child must be at the heart, and human rights and child protection specialists must prevail in the treatment of children and not security.
MARIE-CLAUDE LANDRY, Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission, said that the public support relationship with migrants must be improved, and this meant investing in education and ensuring that migrant children learned about human rights from early on. Children were reporting horrific violations of human rights. States must respect human rights and national human rights institutions could be privileged partners which could strengthen the values of inclusion in the society.
MONAMI MAULIK, International Coordinator, Global Coalition on Migration, said that it was heartening to see that the sense of urgency was not lost and this was particularly important for the migration practitioners on the ground. It was crucial to translate that sense of urgency into concrete actions, and civil society was ready to support and assist. The success of the Global Compact process would depend on the inclusion of several actors, including civil society organizations and migrants who themselves were agents of change.
1Joint statement: International Catholic Migration Commission; Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII; International Catholic Child Bureau; MIAMSI (Mouvement International d'Apostolat des Milieux Sociaux Indépendants); The Scalabrini International Migration Network; International Catholic Child Bureau; Association Points-Cœur; Caritas International; International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development; Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco; and Edmund Rice International.
For use of the information media; not an official record
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