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A volunteer holds an Afghan child after arriving with a group of migrants on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. Lesbos is the busiest entry point for migrants reaching the European Union, with some 2,000 arrivals per day from nearby Turkey. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)

HR for all including migrants, UN experts remind govts

WT24 Desk

UN experts have said governments must recognise that human rights are for all, and that migrants should be treated as equal, regardless of their migratory status in the territory they find themselves in, agencies report.

A group of United Nations human rights experts said this in an open statement made public ahead of the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants.
Leaders from around the world, including Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, will join the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday to discuss what to do about the large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach.

The UN experts reminded States that their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law ‘must underpin the Global Compacts on refugees and migrants’.

These obligations, they stressed, include the fundamental principles of equality and non-discrimination, and the States’ duty to respect, protect and fulfil human rights, including access to justice and remedies, according to a message received here from New York on Friday night.

“When migrants are viewed as equal rights holders, a duty to protect them at all stages of the migration process naturally follows,” the statement insists.  “If violations of their rights occur at any point, migrants need access to remedies to redress such violations.”

The UN experts welcomed the Summit’s draft Declaration as a step in the right direction, but called for the Global Compacts to ‘take the Declaration’ even further so that it becomes a solid and dynamic contribution in the common quest to realise all human rights for all.”

The experts are Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro; Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau; Special Rapporteur on internally displaced peoples,  Chaloka Beyani; Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mutuma Ruteere; Chair of theCommittee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, José Brillantes; Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child,  Benyam Dawit Mezmur; Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Anastasia Crickley.

They, however, warned that the draft Declaration contains some areas of grave concern, particularly in reference to migrant children in detention which seriously lowers established human rights standard.

“The detention of children, even for short periods, can have severe physical and psychological consequences and adverse effects on their development, and it can never ever be in their best interest”, the statement further says.

“We call on Member States to ensure that prohibition of detention of migrant children, unaccompanied or with their families, is integrated and given full recognition with practical measures in the Global Compacts.”

The rights experts noted the attention paid to the need to detect vulnerabilities, beyond those triggering international refugee protection, including the protection of the rights of trafficked and exploited migrants.

“In relation to children who are part of large movement of persons, we recommend a child-rights based approach with regard to of their specific vulnerabilities and their protection at all stages of the movement, in countries of origin, transit and destination,” the statement mentions.

“Identifying and addressing vulnerabilities entails taking into account that many migrants, particularly women and girls, have suffered sexual and gender-based violence en route and sometimes women and girls arrive at their destination pregnant as a result of rape,” it adds.

With more than 40 million of internally displaced persons (IDP’s) due to conflict alone, the experts said the UN Summit will be incomplete without addressing their plight. “Those forced to flee their homes yet remaining in their countries constitute a highly vulnerable population often living in the most difficult conditions.”

“Without addressing root causes, prevention, and effective internal protection, today’s IDPs will be tomorrow’s refugees and trafficked or smuggled migrants.”

The UN experts also welcomed Member States’ commitment to fight discrimination and xenophobia against refugees and migrants, by pledging to take measures to improve their integration and inclusion, as well as to ensure access to education, healthcare and justice.

“We reiterate our concern about the toxic, discriminatory and xenophobic narrative that is taking hold in many parts of the world based on fear and manipulation of that fear by politicians and the media,” the statement stresses.

“States must take concrete measures to counter racist hate speech by sending a clear message that discrimination and xenophobia against migrants and refugees are unacceptable, and by ensuring that those who incite violence or hatred are held accountable.”

Finally, despite the absence of any reference in the draft Declaration to UN human rights experts, the group of experts expressed their commitment to continue advising States and other stakeholders on how to integrate and operationalise the human rights principles and standards in these Compacts.

This is the first time the UN General Assembly has called for a summit at the Heads of State and Government level on large movements of refugees and migrants and it is a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response.

It is a watershed moment to strengthen governance of international migration and a unique opportunity for creating a more responsible, predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants., the message reads.

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