Protecting the human rights of migrants and refugees within large movements

Large-scale ‘mixed’ movements of migrants and refugees continue to take place in all regions of the world, with an increasing number of women, men and children embarking on irregular and unprotected journeys in search of safety and dignity, often to face abuse and exploitation in transit and at destination.

In recognition of this pressing issue, the General Assembly will hold a High-Level Meeting on Large Movement of Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016. This is a unique opportunity for the international community to come together to strengthen and implement existing normative frameworks, and to develop human rights-based and migrant-centered responses to address the challenges raised by the large-scale, irregular and precarious movements of migrants and refugees.

The Secretary-General, in his report In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants prepared as background for the High-Level Meeting and submitted to the General Assembly in May 2016, calls for new global commitments to address large movements of refugees and migrants, and to ensure the protection, dignity and human rights of refugees and migrants in accordance with legal obligations in international human rights law and related standards. The Secretary-General has stressed that with the necessary political will, the international community will be able to ensure responses to large movements of people that are grounded in shared values of responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination, and respect for human rights. 

Many people on the move today fall outside established protection categories but are nonetheless in need of specific human rights protection interventions. This vulnerability arises whether due to inherent characteristics (children, women at risk, persons with disabilities or older persons) and/or as a result of the conditions people are leaving behind in their countries of origin, the circumstances in which they are compelled to move, or because of the virtue of the conditions in which they are received. Yet, knowledge of the standards of human rights protection to which migrants moving in large numbers are entitled, and in particular how States can operationalize these standards in practice, has been revealed as a significant gap.

In preparation for the General Assembly High-Level Meeting in September, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Platform for International Cooperation for Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and with the support of the Government of Switzerland, organized a number of strategic discussions to raise the profile of the human rights of migrants ahead of the General Assembly meeting, through engaging in multi-stakeholder dialogue on a range of issues related to protection and promotion of the human rights of all migrants in vulnerable situations and in large movements.

Participants were also informed about a set of Principles and practical guidance on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations and within large and/or mixed movements, led by the Global Migration Group (GMG) Working Group on Human Rights and Gender Equality currently chaired by OHCHR.

On 1 June 2016, OHCHR and PICUM, in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, organized in Geneva a “multi-stakeholder meeting on the protection of the human rights of migrants in large movements”. More than 80 participants attended the event, including representatives from Members States, the Global Migration Group (GMG), human rights mechanisms, regional organizations, civil society organizations, trade unions and academics. Participants explored the human rights protection gaps to which migrants in large/mixed movements are exposed, and engaged in a strategic discussion on how to ensure that the human rights of migrants feature prominently ahead and within the discussion of the General Assembly.

On 20 July 2016, the Global Migration Group (GMG) -with leadership from OHCHR, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM)- and PICUM organized in New York a “High-level dialogue on responding to large movements of refugees and migrants: human rights protection, labour market options and a Global Compact for migration. More than 70 participants engaged in this discussion, including high-level representatives from Member States, international organizations and civil society. The discussion was broadcasted live and tweeted live using the hashtag #HLDMigration.

Multi-stakeholder meeting on the protection of the human rights of migrants in large movements, Geneva, 1 June 2016

High-level dialogue on responding to large movements of refugees and migrants: human rights protection, labour market options and a Global Compact for migration, New York, 20 July 2016

Interactive Multi-stakeholder hearing convened by the President of the General Assembly, New York, 18 July 2016

General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Migrants and Refugees, 19 September 2016

Other events and related documents