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“We are all migrants” – Time to change inflammatory talk on migration

NEW YORK (21 October 2011) – The new Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, today urged the international community to embrace a new, balanced discourse on migration based on equal rights, non-discrimination and dignity, as well as on reality.

“Sealing the borders is a fantasy; migration happens and we have to live together,” Mr. Crépeau said in his first address* to the UN General Assembly.
“Migration is in the DNA of mankind, is how we cope with environmental threats, with political oppression, but also with our desire to create a meaningful future for ourselves and our children.”

“We are all migrants and as such are contributing to the global economy and to global cultural diversity,” he noted. “How many of us live today in the city of birth of our four grandparents? Not many. We are all children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren of migrants. Rare are those who have settled in one and the same place for numerous generations.”

The Special Rapporteur warned that a xenophobic discourse on migration is increasingly gaining ground in many countries, and pointed to a lack of a “push-back” and of a “credible political counter-discourse.” In his view, the difficulty of migrants, especially those in an irregular situation, to organize themselves and be able to convince relevant constituencies of their cause partly explains why anti-immigrant rhetoric continues to thrive.

“Irregular migration is not a crime. Crossing borders may be in violation of the law, but it is an abstract violation of it, since moving from one country to the other does not per se hurt or endanger anyone else,” Mr. Crépeau said. “Migration concerns us all and no State can escape from its obligations under international human rights law to protect and ensure respect for the human rights of migrants, irrespective of their migration status.”

“We often apply to foreigners, legal standards that we would abhor if they were applied to our sons and daughters,” the rights expert said expressing concern about administrative detention of migrants resulting in long detention periods without access to legal representation and review mechanisms.

Recalling that “dignity has no nationality”, the Special Rapporteur reiterated the shared responsibility of all for ensuring respect for the human rights of migrants. The principle of equal rights for all means that migrants must never be discriminated against because of their “foreignness.”

François Crépeau (Canada) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Crépeau is also Full Professor at the Faculty of Law of McGill University, in Montréal, where he holds the Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law and is scientific director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism.

(*) Check the full statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11523&LangID=E

Learn more about the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and activities, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/migration/rapporteur/index.htm

International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cmw.htm

For more information and media requests:
In New York: Fred Kirungi (Tel.: +1 917 367 3431 / kirungi@un.org)
In Geneva: Katarina Mansson (Tel: +41 22 917 9127 / email: kmanssondonati@ohchr.org) or Federica Donati (Tel: +41 22 917 9496 / email: fdonati@ohchr.org) or write to migrants@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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