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Human rights must be central in all discussions concerning migrants, UN experts urge States

Migrant rights

01 December 2017

Global compact for migration stocktaking

 GENEVA (1 December 2017) – UN experts* have urged States to ensure a human rights-centred approach when developing the global compact for migration, as Member States enter the stocktaking and then negotiation phase. Their full statement is as follows:

“States should take a strong stand against discrimination and demonstrate that hate speech, violence, stigmatization and scapegoating cannot be tolerated. States must take proactive measures to change the narrative on migration, to combat racism and xenophobia, and to emphasize the positive contributions of migrants and refugees, who bring diversity and enrich societies, cultures and economies across the world.

Urgent and long-term measures are needed to foster social and economic environments which enable migrants to become fully integrated with the local population, without discrimination on any grounds. We need reforms in the legal, institutional, political, policy and social sectors to foster integration and solidarity.

We urge States to refrain from using ‘deterrence measures’. We are concerned at the ongoing conditions faced by migrants, including overcrowded reception centres, poor healthcare, insufficient food, poor sanitary facilities, immigration detention, ‘push-backs’ on land and at sea,  and restricted access to regular migration channels.

Negative and inhumane conditions for migrants and increasingly rigid migratory policies will not stop migration, but will only increase human suffering and create a situation in which migrants are exposed to a heightened risk of becoming victims of human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and unlawful death. States must now commit to a global compact which reflects their human rights obligations.

Their obligations concerning border crossings, include the right of due process guarantees, regardless of migratory status, the prohibition of refoulement, push-backs, and arbitrary and collective expulsions. States should ensure that every migrant’s situation is individually assessed, so that their protection needs can be met and they can be referred to relevant services. Special attention needs to be paid to vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied children, families with children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, asylum seekers, refugees, potential victims of trafficking and elderly migrants.

States need to recognize that border protection and human rights protection are not mutually exclusive: if States provide more regular migration channels, smuggling operations become redundant and all necessary security checks can be carried out, while migrants’ protection needs can also be met.

Given the identified risk to trafficking in persons in mixed migration flows, States should adequately train all stakeholders, including public officials and law enforcement officers, to identify trafficking or risks of trafficking and provide assistance and protection for victims.

Immigration detention should be applied only as a measure of last resort. Immigration detention is permissible only when it is reasonable, necessary and proportionate; is decided on a case-by-case basis; and is used for the shortest possible period of time. Migrant children – whether with family or unaccompanied – should never be detained. Alternatives to detention need to be developed as a measure of urgency.

The global compact must address issues related to labour exploitation, and ensure migrant workers enjoy the same rights as nationals regarding the minimum wage; hours of work; days of rest; freedom of association, movement and residence; and retaining possession of travel and identity documents.

Any barrier to access to justice must be removed by States, ensuring migrants can effectively access legal remedies for violations of their rights. Migrants should be able to access justice, economic and social rights without fear of detection, detention and deportation. It is important that States guarantee migrants’ access to healthcare, education, and social and labour services, regardless of migratory status.

We urge States to seize the momentum and to contribute in solidarity to a meaningful global compact. States should see migrants as the central point of the process, commit to promote and protect their human rights and ensure a follow-up mechanism is created.

We hope that the global compact will result in a human rights-based plan of action, with a normative framework, based within the UN and with proper accountability and oversight mechanisms. We stand ready to provide our expertise to the negotiation process.” 


(*) The UN experts:  Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Ms. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Mr. Obiora C. Okafor, Independent expert on human rights and international solidarity; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Ms. Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; and Mr. Bernard Duhaime, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

For the past year, Special Rapporteurs have actively contributed to all the consultations in order to ensure a human rights lens to all the discussions on the global compact. They have highlighted the international legal framework to which States have already committed themselves, provided practical examples and best practices, and linked human rights obligations with actionable commitments. States now have a unique opportunity to take a strong stand to show their commitment to human rights and the global compact.

Read the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Alice Ochsenbein (+41 22 917 9830 / [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:
Bryan Wilson, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9826, [email protected])

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