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Managing migration while respecting human rights law

“Around the world today we are witnessing an increase in xenophobia, anti-migrant sentiment and discriminatory practices affecting the human rights of migrants, “ UN Human Rights chief, Navi Pillay said at a conference on the links between migration, conflict and xenophobia. “Irregular migrants are at particular risk. Such sentiments and practices are often reinforced by legislation, regulations and policies which criminalize and exclude migrants.”

Italian coastguards look on as Libyan refugees arrive on the island of Lampedusa © EPA/Francesco MalavoltaThe event was organized by the South Africa Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development in The Hague, from 9-11 May.

 “While I recognize the numerous challenges being faced by countries in Europe, it is important to remember that the onus of hosting migrants, refugees and other displaced persons fleeing the turmoil in North Africa continues to fall disproportionately on countries in that region,“ Pillay added.

“As the member States of the European Union meet to consider temporary border control measures in the context of the Schengen agreement, I wish to emphasize that it is time for all countries facing these challenges, including countries in the European Union to show effective support in full respect of their international obligations at these critical moments.  It is not enough to outsource the problem away from the borders of Europe or elsewhere.”

 “The vast majority of migration is motivated by a mix of reasons, some of which can be defined as ‘forced’, and some as ‘voluntary’”, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said. “It is vitally important for us to recognize that, regardless of their legal status, all migrants have human rights and can be vulnerable to violations of those human rights.”

“All States should look at the real need for migrant labour emanating from their economies and societies, and ensure that they put in place adequate, safe and legal means for migrants to enter and work in their countries. This could reduce the necessity of risky irregular movement, particularly those facilitated by smugglers and traffickers. Criminalizing and demonizing migrants is counter-productive to effective migration policy, creates a climate of prejudice and even xenophobia against migrants, and can lead to a spiral of human rights violations.”

See full statement

12 May 2011