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Submissions: The role of private military and security companies in immigration and border management and the impact on the protection of the rights of all migrants

The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination is mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC/42/9) to monitor the use of mercenaries, mercenary related activities, and the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs).

Background and objectives

In one of its two thematic reports for 2020, the Working Group wishes to examine the role of PMSCs in immigration and border management and the impact on the protection of the human rights of migrants1. This report will build on its 2017 report regarding the use of private security providers in places of deprivation of liberty, including immigration-related detention facilities (A/72/286) in which the Working Group concluded that outsourcing creates great risks for the violation of human rights, including impediments to accountability and remedy for victims. In its report, the Working Group also called on States to terminate the practice of outsourcing the overall operation of immigration-related detention facilities to for-profit private security companies.

A 2019 panel event on 'The Use of PMSCs in Migrant Detention Centres' organised by the Working Group also drew attention to the continuing use of a broad range of security services in immigration and border management in different regions of the world, going well beyond immigration detention facilities. To identify the key human rights challenges posed by the use of private security services in immigration and border management, the Working Group decided to study current trends and practices in contracting private security services in countries of origin, transit and destination of migrants, including related regulation, monitoring and oversight. On this basis, the Working Group hopes to formulate concrete and practical recommendations aiming to ensure that the human rights of all migrants are protected in situations in which States contract private providers for security services in immigration and border management.

Call for submissions

The Working Group invites all interested governments, civil society organizations, academics, international and inter-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, activists, private companies and others to provide information and views in writing to support the preparation of its thematic report.

While the Working Group welcomes any information deemed pertinent to the issue, it is particularly interested in the following areas:

1. The types and level of private security services performed in immigration and border management and related regulatory and contractual frameworks, particularly as regards:  

  • Border monitoring services (e.g. the development, maintenance and operation of advanced technologies, training and equipment to authorities to implement externalisation of borders, air/land/maritime surveillance);
  • Transportation of migrants;
  • Screening and/or determination of asylum or other claims for protection under international law;
  • Processing of visas and/or pre-departure screening at airports or other points of departure (e.g. related to carrier restrictions);
  • Management and security of immigration-related detention facilities;
  • Deportations and returns, including assisted or voluntary returns;
  • Collection of biometric data and use of private security technologies to support immigration and border management procedures;
  • Security in humanitarian settings, including camps, shelters and transit stations run by UN agencies or national authorities;
  • Procurement rules, contractual requirements, monitoring and oversight of contractual clauses and standards, and accountability mechanisms put into place;
  • The role of private security providers in shaping a security narrative around migration (e.g. through participation in research and development initiatives, marketing private security products, lobbying)

2. The Working Group would also appreciate any information regarding allegations of human rights abuses against migrants by PMSCs. This may include acts in which they are reportedly directly responsible or acts that aid and assist violations and abuses by other actors. The Working Group is further interested in learning of efforts to secure accountability for such abuses and violations, and to provide effective remedies for victims.

3. In addition, the Working Group recognizes the importance of gender and intersectionality as a means to understand fully the impact of PMSC actions on individual migrants and others. With this in mind, the Working Group welcomes any information that includes a gender and intersectional analysis. 

How to send your written submission to the Working Group?  

Please send your submissions in English, French or Spanish in attachment to an email to mercenaries@ohchr.org and kindly indicate if you would like your submission to be published on the website of the Working Group or to be treated as confidential.

The deadline for submissions is 17 March 2020.

1 In the absence of a universally accepted definition, the Working Group uses the term ‘migrant’ to refer to any person who is outside a State of which he or she is a citizen or national, or, in the case of a stateless person, his or her State of birth or habitual residence. This term includes a wide range of categories, including migrant workers, refugees, victims of trafficking, women, children, or any other category who may be at risk of human rights violations and abuses due to the activities of PMSCs.

Submissions received

Member States

Other stakeholders