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GENEVA, May 26, 2020 – UN human rights experts today called on States to protect the rights of migrants and their families, regardless of their migration status, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The labour rights of migrant workers globally, especially of those in essential sectors, must be guaranteed and measures taken to protect their health,” said Can Ünver who chairs the UN Committee on Migrant Workers, and Felipe González Morales, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
“Thousands of migrants are currently stranded at borders all across the globe, in Asia, Africa, the Americas, or at sea at the shores of Europe,” the experts said, announcing the publication online of a key joint Guidance Note on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Human Rights of Migrants.
In their 17 Guidelines to governments, the experts urge States to ensure the rights and the continuity of procedures for persons in need of international protection, including access to their territories, and urge them to continue search and rescue operations for persons in distress at sea.
“Governments must guarantee access to social services for migrants and their families, who in some countries show the highest levels of contagions and deaths from COVID-19,” they said. “Migrants who are in an irregular situation or undocumented face even greater vulnerability. They work in unstable jobs – usually without benefits or the right to unemployment benefits – and in some cases have been left out of the social assistance measures implemented by States, despite the significant economic contributions to society of migrants. Within this context, we call on governments to promote the regularisation of migrants in an irregular situation.”
The UN Committee and the Special Rapporteur called on governments worldwide “to integrate migrant workers into national COVID-19 prevention and response plans and policies, which are gender, age and diversity responsive, and respect their right to health”.
In their Guidance Note, the experts also urge States to include migrants and their families in economic recovery policies, taking into account the need for the recovery of remittance flows.
“We want to alert the world that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ability of migrants to work has already led to a global drop in the remittances sent to their families in their countries of origin, whose survival depends on them, as well as to countries where remittances are one of the main sources of income for their economies. Families literally are struggling for their own survival.
“Governments must implement mechanisms to review the use of immigration detention with a view to reducing their populations to the lowest possible level, and immediately release families with children and unaccompanied or separated children from immigration detention facilities to non-custodial and community based alternatives with full access to rights and services,” the experts said.
“Governments must also consider the temporary suspension of deportations or enforced returns during the pandemic,” they said, noting that a significant number of migrants have been deported or returned from different countries carrying the COVID-19 disease.
The experts: The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW) is the body of 14 independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families by its State parties. It held its first session in March 2004.
Mr. Felipe González Morales (Chile) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2017 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years. As a Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. He is Professor of International Law at the Diego Portales University, in Santiago, Chile, where he is also the Director of a Master’s programme in International Human Rights Law.