Report on 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
Working Group on the use of mercenaries
To the 45th session of the Human Rights Council in 2020
Twice a year, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries issues calls for inputs to inform thematic studies to be presented at the Human Rights Council in its September session and at the General Assembly in October.
This report builds on the Working Group's 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 it concluded that outsourcing creates great risks of human rights abuses, including impediments to accountability and remedy for victims. In its 2017 report, the Working Group had also called on States to terminate the practice of outsourcing the overall operation of immigration-related detention facilities to for-profit private security companies.
Furthermore, in 2019, the Working Group organized a
panel event on "The Use of PMSCs in Migrant Detention Centers", in which it 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 decided to dedicate a specific thematic report on the role of PMSCs in immigration and border management, with the aim 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.
On 5 October 2020, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries and Privacy International co-hosted an online panel discussion with leading experts on the impact of the use of private military and security services in immigration and border management on the protection of the rights of all migrants. The event followed the presentation of the Working Group's report to the 45th session of the Human Rights Council.
- Ms. Carolina Hernández Paramo, Moderator, Advisor on Migration and Human Rights, OHCHR
- Mr. Chris Kwaja, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on the use of mercenaries
- Dr. Ilia Siatitsa, Programme Director, Privacy International
- Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of Migrants
- Mr. Graeme Edgerton, Deputy General Counsel, Australian Human Rights Commission
- Ms. Niamh NiBhriain, Programme Coordinator, Transnational Institute
- Dr. Daria Davitti, Senior Lecturer, Department of Law, Lund University
- PI-OHCHR joint event on new report presented by Working Group on the use of mercenaries, 5 October 2020
In this report, the Working Group highlights the impact on the protection of the human rights of all migrants of the increased use of private military and security services in immigration and border management. 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.
The report outlines the overall context in which these services are provided and the relevant normative framework. It examines four main categories of services: i) provision of research and technical expertise; ii) border security technologies and monitoring services; iii) immigration detention, returns and removals; and iv) the implementation of “externalization” policies. It shines a light on the impact of these services on the human rights of all migrants.
The report then looks at the lack of transparency, oversight and accountability of companies operating in this sector, and the impact on effective remedies for victims of violations and abuses by these companies. It concludes that, at times, companies are directly responsible for human rights abuses of migrants, notably in situations of deprivation of liberty; while in other instances, they are complicit in widespread human rights violations and abuse caused by other actors, such as immigration and border authorities.
The Working Group ends its report with recommendations addressed primarily to States and private military and security companies, aimed at triggering a fundamental evaluation of the role that companies play in reinforcing security over humanitarian approaches to immigration and border management, as well as the specific security services they provide in this sector.
All submissions received are published below, unless the submitter clearly indicated that they did not wish to have their input be made publicly available when submitting their response.
While the Working Group welcomed any information deemed pertinent to the issue, it was particularly interested in the following areas:
The types and level of private security services performed in immigration and border management and related regulatory and contractual frameworks, particularly as regards:
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.Recognizing the importance of gender and intersectionality as a means to understand fully the impact of PMSC actions on individual migrants and others,any information that includes a gender and intersectional analysis.
- 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)