Joint press release: Open, safe and regular migration channels crucial to stop human rights violations against migrants International Migrants’ Day

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(Original post of this statement can be found on the OHCHR website)

GENEVA / BANJUL / WASHINGTON D.C. (18 December 2014) – A group of international experts* on the rights of migrants have called upon the need for open, safe and regular migration channels for the more than 232 million migrants throughout the world, 20 percent of whom are estimated to be in an irregular situation.

On the occasion of the International Migrants’ Day, the experts stressed that a lack of reasonable avenues for regular migration often leads migrants to sacrifice their dignity, safety and even their lives while seeking to reach their destination.

“This year has seen an unprecedented number of migrants fleeing violence and conflict and risking dangerous sea crossings in search of a better life for themselves and their families,” Ms. Maya Sahli Fadel, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) noted. “

“Although the focus of the past few months has been on the Mediterranean, thousands also die every year trying to navigate the Caribbean Seas or the Indian Ocean, or cross the deserts and rivers of the Americas,” she said.

“Repressive policies fail to deter irregular migration because people’s need to survive is always stronger,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, stated. “Increased border surveillance, securitization, and externalization of border control, together with reductions in avenues for open and regular migration channels, force migrants to seek more perilous routes and rely on smugglers or fall prey to traffickers”.

“The overall effect of restrictive State immigration policies has been to put migrants at greater risk and render them more vulnerable to human rights abuses and violations,” he said.

“Criminalizing people for crossing or attempting to cross borders does nothing to tackle the causes of irregular migration, but contributes instead to rising intolerance, xenophobia and the social exclusion of migrants”, the current Chair of the UN Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), Francisco Carrión Mena, said.

“Some States mistakenly consider border areas as exempt from human rights obligations. States’ legitimate interests in securing their borders and exercising immigration control cannot override their obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all persons in all areas under their jurisdiction, regardless of their migration status,” he noted.

“The multi-causal nature of migration is increasingly more palpable in the mixed migratory flows within the Americas. In recent years, we have witnessed the impact of organized crime groups in generating forced migration and who, at the same time, are exploiting and taking advantage of migrants during the different stages of the migratory process,” Felipe González, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), expressed.

“Despite the different situations of vulnerability in which many migrants find themselves, and the protection needs they have, State’s measures designed to restrict migration and to shield borders are becoming a common response in full violation of the human rights of these persons. Borders and migratory corridors are turning into human rights fault lines, where what States are and are not doing in the protection of human rights is having a cost in terms of human lives,” he warned.

The migration experts explained that upon arrival in the destination country, some migrants in detention face violence, deplorable conditions, including overcrowding and poor sanitary facilities and inadequate medical care. Millions of children worldwide are affected by immigration detention. “Children should never be detained based on the migration status or that of their parents as it is never in the best interest of the child to do so. States must seek alternatives to detention in such cases,” they said.

Those who are able to stay in their countries of destination sometimes find themselves working in slave-like conditions in the fishing industry in Asia, in construction and domestic work in the Middle East, and the agricultural and meatpacking industries of Europe and North America.

“Migrants’ contribution to development frequently comes at a human cost, especially for those in an irregular situation who are often constrained by circumstances to perform tasks at whatever financial, physical or even psychological cost. If the human rights of migrants, regardless of their status, are effectively promoted, respected and protected within well governed migration processes, such developmental outcomes can be greatly enhanced, the experts highlighted.

“In addition to the multiple, daily violations of human rights of which migrants are victims, their lack of political weight often leads to state authorities’ use of them as scapegoats in times of economic or public security crises. These types of xenophobic and racist discourses are common, despite several studies that have demonstrated that there is no link between migration and insecurity or migration and unemployment,” Mr. González stated.

“The way in which States can contribute to not breaking the most vulnerable parts of the social fabric is through the implementation of integration policies that build on the recognition of migrants as human rights holders,” he said.

The experts strongly advocate for stepping up the promotion and protection of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their migration status, including the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and also through the ratification of regional instruments, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights.

The experts also called on the international community to engage in a year-long campaign to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (18 December 1990 – 18 December 2015), and achieve universal ratification.

The global campaign, Step It Up: Dignity Rights Development, centers around the following themes: ending child immigration detention, migrant domestic workers, forced labour, contributions of migrant workers to countries of origin and host countries, and promotion of the ratification of the Convention.

The platform provides a space for all stakeholders to showcase events and activities throughout the year to promote the human rights of migrant workers and the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

(*) The experts: the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Mr. François Crépeau; the Chair of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Mr. Francisco Carrión Mena; the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ms. Maya Sahli Fadel; and the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Felipe González Morales.

ENDS

About the Migrant Workers Convention

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 18 December 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

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/SRMigrants/Pages/SRMigrantsIndex.aspx

The UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CMW/Pages/CMWIndex.aspx

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights: http://www.achpr.org/

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/

For more information and media requests please contact Elizabeth Wabuge (+41 22 917 9138 / ewabuge@ohchr.org)

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