NEW YORK/GENEVA, July 11, 2018 – UN human rights experts have called on States to ground the Global Compact for Migration in their obligations under international law, including the principles of non-refoulement, non-discrimination and the best interests of the child.
The UN experts said the principle of non-refoulement, or the non-return of people to countries where they could face serious human rights violations, including arbitrary deprivation of life, or other irreparable harm, formed an essential protection under international law and applied to all persons at all times, irrespective of migration status.
They called on States to explicitly reflect this obligation in the final text of the Global Compact. “States must put in place mechanisms to ensure individual assessments of migrants’ protection needs, as well as mechanisms for regular entry and stay of those migrants who are unable to return based on the principle of non-refoulement,” they added.
The Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular Migration is the first negotiated agreement between governments, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration.
It will be adopted on 13 July after a consultation and negotiation process initiated following the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants of 19 September 2016. It offers a unique opportunity for States to improve the governance on migration, to address the challenges associated with today’s migration, and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.
“Migration is not a crime, and migrants in irregular situations should not be treated as criminals or deprived of their liberty and security,” said the experts in a joint statement. “The criminalisation and detention of migrants exceed the legitimate interests of States in protecting their territories and regulating migration. In the absence of safe pathways for migration, many migrants are compelled to enter and stay irregularly in countries of destination, and, as a consequence, are exposed to risks of abuse, exploitation, torture and death by a range of perpetrators, including corrupt State officials, smugglers and traffickers.
“Children must never be detained because of their or their parents’ migration status. It goes against the best interests of the child, is a clear violation of child rights, and causes irreparable harm that can amount to torture,” they added. Detention for the purposes of migration control should be a measure of last resort and States should prioritise non-custodial, community-based alternatives that respect migrants’ dignity and human rights while their immigration status is resolved.
The UN experts recalled that, in the New York Declaration, States agreed to review policies that criminalise cross-border movement and that children should not be criminalised based on their migration status. “At this crucial stage, we urge States to honour the commitments made in the New York Declaration, by fully protecting the human rights of migrants regardless of their status and without discrimination, based on their international obligations.”
The UN experts also recalled that all human beings, irrespective of their migration status, are equally entitled to the enjoyment of their human rights (i.e. right to work, social security, and adequate standard of living, housing, health and education), without discrimination. In this respect, and as an effective means to eliminate barriers in accessing their rights – without fearing arrest or deportation – UN experts said that service providers should not be obliged to share information about migrants with migration agencies.
“We encourage Member States to include the UN human rights mechanisms, especially the special procedures and treaty bodies, and UN human rights agencies, as a critical component of the implementation, review and follow-up of the Global Compact,” they said.
“Independent UN experts can assist States not only with effective monitoring but also with high-quality capacity-building and technical guidance at the implementation stage,” they added.
*The UN experts: Mr. Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism.
UN Human Rights country page – USA