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UN human rights expert urges Angola to develop an all-inclusive strategy for migrants

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LUANDA (10 May 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau, today called on the Government of Angola to develop a comprehensive national strategy to protect and promote the human rights of all migrants in the country.

“I realise that Angola is still in a post-conflict mode and continues to face challenges in improving the lives of its own citizens. However, this needn’t come at the expense of migrants and discrimination against them needs be addressed,” Mr. Crépeau said at the end of his first official visit to the country.

“With strong political commitment, a comprehensive migration and mobility strategy, and bilateral and multilateral mobility agreements with neighbouring countries, as well as effective human rights safeguards, Angola can fully promote and protect the human rights of migrants,” he stressed.

Angola attracts many of its migrants and asylum seekers from surrounding countries. Its long and porous border makes it difficult for the authorities to monitor, resulting in irregular migration. “Immigration rules are not well known and when they are, their proper implementation is hampered by lack of institutional structures, independent oversight mechanisms and bribery,” the expert said.

The Special Rapporteur expressed deep concern about undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who come under continuous harassment and intimidation by the police, and are regularly arrested and arbitrarily detained in large numbers, including pregnant women and children.

“I was informed that the police carry out actions in artisanal diamond mines, informal markets, residential areas, shops, streets, churches and mosques, in search of undocumented migrants ,” he said. “The actions often involve violence, threats and intimidation by police.” Undocumented migrants are detained, mostly without access to legal information or assistance.

“I strongly urge the Government to swiftly investigate reports of law enforcement officials who arrest, harass, bribe, confiscate property, use unnecessary force, and physically abuse irregular migrants. Those prosecuted and convicted should face stiff sanctions,” he stressed.

The expert welcomed the Government’s efforts, with support from NGOs and the UN, to train judges and lawyers to improve legal assistance and called on the authorities to ensure that this will include all migrants, whether documented or undocumented. He also encouraged them to extend this training to all law enforcement personnel and civil servants who are in contact with migrants.

Mr. Crépeau urged the Government and the UN to quickly register all asylum seekers living in Angola and issue identification documents for asylum-seekers and refugees, in order to improve access to public services and to prevent incidents of arbitrary arrest, detention, discrimination and violence.

He welcomed official efforts to renovate the civil registry system and urge that it includes all migrants: “All children born in Angola should be issued with a birth certificate, regardless of their status and without indication of nationality. Birth registration is fundamental to the protection of migrant children and prevents statelessness.”

“Failure to document a person’s legal existence can prevent the effective enjoyment of a range of human rights, including access to education and health care. The indication of nationality is often used to discriminate,” the Special Rapporteur warned.

Asylum seekers and refugees, often in the country for decades, also face restrictions on their freedom of movement within the country, the non-renewal or confiscation of their documents, a prohibition to work and the inaccessibility of the license (‘Alvara’) to open as business, which leaves them without any means of economic support.

“The systematic detention of asylum-seekers only serves to discourage them from seeking international protection which de facto results in Angola not being able to uphold the principle of non-refoulement,” Mr. Crépeau explained.

During his eight-day visit to Angola, the expert met with a range of Government officials responsible for migrants, as well as international and civil society organisations, to discuss Angola’s migration governance. He also gathered first-hand information about the situation of migrants and asylum seekers during his visits to Luanda, Cabinda, Lunda Norte and detention centres based in each province.

The Special Rapporteur will present his country mission report on Angola to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2017.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19938&LangID=E

Mr. 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. He 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. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/SRMigrants/Pages/SRMigrantsIndex.aspx 

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work

Read the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CMW.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Angola: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/AOIndex.aspx 

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Luanda (during the visit):
Claudia Fernandes (+244 226 430 880 / claudia.fernandes@undp.org)
Elizabeth Wabuge (+41 79 109 6875 / ewabuge@ohchr.org)

In Geneva (before and after the visit):
Elizabeth Wabuge (+41 22 917 9138 / ewabuge@ohchr.org)
Alice Ochsenbein (+41 22 917 9830 / aochsenbein@ohchr.org)

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

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