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Migration control is not only about keeping people out – UN experts call for vision and leadership

NEW YORK (24 October 2016) – Migration governance cannot be only about closing borders and keeping people out, said two United Nations human rights experts calling on UN member states to develop long-term strategies and policies to facilitate rather than restrict migration.

“A fundamental shift in the way migration is perceived and framed is needed,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, and the Chair of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Jose S. Brillantes. “We must regulate mobility by opening regular, safe, accessible and affordable migration channels. We must also promote integration and celebrate diversity.”
“Present migration policies remain short-sighted, focusing on trying to stop migrants or extract as much labour for as little pay as possible,” the experts noted. “As they do for energy, agricultural, transport or environmental policies, States need to develop a long-term strategic vision of how they see their migration and mobility policies and practices in a generation from now.”

In order to reduce the vulnerability of migrants and empower migrants to fight for their rights, Mr. Crépeau and Mr. Brillantes called for appropriate public consultations and debate, inclusive of migrants’ voices, for States to forge a shared understanding of the need of regular, safe, accessible and affordable mobility channels. “We see the Global Compact on migration as a first step in this direction,” they said.

The experts expressed the hope that that the two-year process for developing the UN Global Compact on migration will produce a long term strategy to facilitate mobility – as outlined in target 10.7 of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (SDG).

“Emulating the SDG process, the Global Compact could set up an ‘Agenda 2033 for Facilitating Human Mobility’, outlining a human-rights-based long term vision and setting out goals, targets and indicators for all member states. Such a concrete outcome would add meaning and action to the rhetoric of 19 September’s UN High Level Summit on large movements of refugees and migrants,” Mr. Crépeau said.

The experts’ call comes prior to their presentations to the UN General Assembly including when the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants will outline his report on developing the UN Global Compact on migration*.

“Migration has shaped the history of humanity and is here to stay. Building fences, using violence, detaining people on a massive scale, withholding access to basics such as shelter, food or water, and using threatening language or hateful speech, will not stop migrants from trying to cross borders,” said Mr. Brillantes.

“Effectively regulating mobility requires States to develop a much more sophisticated concept of migration, taking into account all the benefits and challenges, including economic growth, demographic changes, cultural diversity, social integration, personal freedom, and respect for the rule of law,” they emphasised.

“As a percentage of the world population, the rate of migration remains low, actually slowing between 2010 and 2015. What we have is not a “migration crisis”, but rather a crisis of moral and political leadership, based on fear, fantasies, exclusion and sometimes outright bigotry,” they noted.

“It is our hope that last month’s UN High Level Summit on refugees and migrants ushered in principled leadership that will take the human rights of each and every person as the moral compass for all action and result in a long term strategy to facilitate mobility taking thus a realistic step closer to fulfilling our Sustainable Development Goals,” the experts added.

(*) Read the Special Rapporteur’s report on developing the global compact on migration: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/71/285 

Mr. François Crépeau (Canada) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Crépeau 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 

Mr. Jose S. Brillantes is the current Chair of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and has served as a member of the Committee since its very beginning in 2004. He has served in numerous diplomatic positions, including as Ambassador to Canada and Malaysia and was also the former Labour Minister and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines. The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1990. It establishes, in certain areas, the principle of equality of treatment with nationals for all migrant workers and their families, regardless of their legal status. It set forth, for the first time, internationally uniform definitions agreed upon by States for different categories of migrant workers. It also obliged sending, transit and receiving States parties to institute protective action on behalf of migrant workers. Check the Convention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CMW.aspx
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