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United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants

United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants

19 September 2016

“I am here to urge you to stand up for a society free from xenophobia and racism. To defend the rights of vulnerable people who have abandoned everything they have ever known.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Every day, migrants from all over the world cross or attempt to cross land, air and sea borders to escape poverty, discrimination, persecution, violence, lack of access to rights, including health, education, and decent work, the consequences of climate change and other environmental factors, or to reunite with their families. Many move for a combination of these reasons.

The world is witnessing a historic level of large-scale and precarious human mobility: more refugees and migrants are leaving their homes, traveling along dangerous routes in search of safety and dignity, often to face abuse and exploitation in transit and at destination.

Other alarming trends are being noticed: migration is being criminalised and more States are adopting a military response to large movements of population including through enhanced barriers to entry at borders, increased detention and accelerated returns; a hostile and often blatantly xenophobic public narrative on migration is being stoked by political and public figures who are keen to gain electoral and other advantages by scapegoating migrants; human beings are being divided into ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ categories, juxtaposing one vulnerable individual against another.

Human rights are inalienable entitlements held by all human beings. Every migrant and refugee, including in the context of large movements, is a human rights-holder entitled to claim their rights. Regardless of the motives people have for crossing international borders, how they do so and where they come from, States have binding obligations towards all migrants and refugees at all stages of their migration.

At the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, the world should come together around one plan: a solemn promise to protect the human rights of all people on the move - refugees and migrants. States should vow to end immigration detention, particularly of children, by implementing alternatives to detention; counter intolerance and the social exclusion of migrants through sustained initiatives to build empathy and confront discrimination; and give specific protection to all migrants in a vulnerable situation.

For more information about the Summit, visit the official website:



High Commissioner's Open Letter: Protecting the human rights of migrants and refugees in large movements.


OHCHR report to the Human Rights Council on the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrants in the context of large movements.

Principles and practical guidance


Zeid to Migrants Summit: We must stop bigotry

Statement of Craig Mokhiber, OHCHR, Round Table on Addressing Vulnerabilities of Refugees and Migrants on their Journeys from Countries of Origin to Countries of Arrival

Statement by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on the occasion of the United Nations Summit on Refugees and Migrants.


In the best interest of migrant children
The prohibition of the detention of migrant children, unaccompanied or with their family members, should be a critical point of discussion at the upcoming UN Summit for Migrants and Refugees, says UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau.
Human trafficking risks in the context of migration
UN Special Rapporteur trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, says that the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants should address human trafficking in the context of migration, an issue often overlooked.
The spectre of nationalistic and xenophobic politics looms over migrants and refugees
UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, Mutuma Ruteere says that the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants should emphasise the need to denounce and hold accountable politicians who are promoting and spreading xenophobia against migrants and refugees.
UN UN migration summit must consider internally displaced persons – UN expert
UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, says that the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants will be incomplete without addressing the plight of internally displaced persons.
Human rights experts: Unchecked atmosphere of anti-migrant discourse results in abuses
Anti-migrant vigilante actions flourish as a result of impunity for xenophobic and racist public calls, including from the highest level.

Imprisoned, detained and insecure: the human rights of migrants in Bulgaria come under scrutiny
UN Human Rights officials have expressed concern over the detention of migrants who irregularly cross into Bulgaria. Under current legislation, those caught face criminal prosecution and even jail.

Child migrants’ future in Italy “must not depend on luck”
As Italy sees growing numbers of unaccompanied child migrants arrive on its shores, it is crucial that the country harmonises and monitors the way they are cared for, a team from the UN Human Rights Office says.
  Italy’s migrant hotspot centres raise legal questions
Migrants rescued at sea are often taken to “hotspot” registration centres but detaining them at these centres has provoked concerns in Italy, a UN Human Rights Office monitoring team finds.
  Migrants cling to dreams as they await uncertain future
“I ask that God helps me to go to school.” UN Human Rights Office monitoring mission hears stories of despair and hope from migrants in Italy waiting to see what will happen to them.
  Security at forefront as Italian island receives migrants
The arrival of migrants at the “hotspot” on the Italian island of Lampedusa highlights the need to protect the human rights of often traumatised people.
Migrant children face grim human rights conditions in Greece
During a recent monitoring mission on the situation of migrants and refugees in Greece, the UN Human Rights Office met with migrant children and found serious violations to their human rights.


Take action: Tweet your world leader and ask them to protect the rights of refugees and migrants

Join the conversation about the Summit by following ‪#UN4RefugeesMigrants on Twitter. Multimedia content and key messages relating to the Summit are available on UN Human Rights social media channels, listed below:

Twitter: @UNHumanRights
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