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Joint statement of UN and regional experts on migration in light of stocktaking meeting in Puerto Vallarta towards a human rights-based Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

December 6, 2017

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Geneva / Banjul / Washington, D.C. - In light of the stocktaking meeting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on December 4-6, part of the preparatory process towards the Global  Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, Mr. Jose Brillantes, Chair of the Committee on Migrant Workers; Ms. Renate Winter, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; Mr. Felipe González Morales, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants; Ms. Agnes Callamard, United Nations Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; Mr. Luis Vargas-Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; and Ms. Maya Sahli Fadel, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, recognize the importance of  the principles of human rights, a gender perspective, and shared responsibility in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to be adopted in 2018.

It is estimated that there are 244 million international migrants in the world as of 2015, representing 3.3 percent of the global population; this represents a 41 percent increase over the number of international migrants in the world in 2000. Day after day, many of these migrants—in particular, migrants in an irregular situation and those in need of international protection—find themselves in a vulnerable situation, and are more exposed to abuse and human rights violations. The group of experts is concerned that the response to irregular migration in many parts of the world in recent years has been characterized by a discourse and policy of securitization, repression, and deterrence, with the central objective of securing borders by building fences, detaining and deporting migrants without sufficient assessment of individual protection needs, and externalizing border enforcement activities beyond territorial borders to the high seas and third countries. At the same time, xenophobia, hate speech, and discrimination towards migrants have increased in recent years.

Despite these efforts to deter and stop migration, people will continue to cross borders as long as push and pull factors  such as violence, poverty, discrimination and inequality, climate change, natural disasters, official or unmet labor market needs in destination countries and movements for family reunification, exist. This is a reality that derives from the inherent human condition that has always characterized migration. The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration represents a unique opportunity for States to change together the current security paradigm that criminalizes migration, to one based on human rights, recognizing that migrants are neither criminal nor can they be “illegal”, but they are rights holders. In that sense, the Global Compact must affirm that human rights are not the rights of citizens; they are inherent in all persons, including irregular migrants, and all persons have the right to their full enjoyment. Likewise, the Global Compact must affirm that the migration and refugee movements currently facing many regions of the world are a shared responsibility that call for regional and international responses.

In light of the above, the experts observe that it is necessary to make concrete commitments and actions for a human rights-based Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. In this regard, the experts suggest the following actionable commitments to be implemented in a framework of cooperation and shared responsibility:

  1. Address and prevent push and pull factors for migration across borders, including poverty, inequality, violence, discrimination, poor governance, official or unacknowledged labour needs, family reunifications, megaprojects, climate change and natural disasters.
  2. Call on States and other actors to conduct studies regarding climate change and natural disasters with the aim of supporting the adoption of appropriate national and regional measures, tools, and guidelines, including response strategies for countries, contingency plans, and integrated responses for disaster risk management and humanitarian visa programs.
  3. Call on States to ratify regional and international conventions on human rights, especially the 1990 International Convention on the Protection on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and accept the competence of the Committee to consider individual complaints or communications alleging violations of rights under the Convention; as well as the ratification of regional instruments, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights.
  4. Expand regular, safe, accessible and affordable channels for migration through the progressive expansion of visa liberalization and easily accessible visa facilitation regimes and/or schemes, such as complementary protection, temporary protection, humanitarian visas, visitor, family reunification, work, resident, retirement, and student visas, and private sponsorship programs.
  5. International support and shared responsibility in rescuing, receiving, and hosting large numbers of international migration movements. In this sense, States should establish international multi-stakeholder mechanisms to strengthen and coordinate search and rescue operations, investigation and forensic protocols, dignified treatment of the dead, identification and tracing of families through the safe exchange of ante-mortem, post-mortem and DNA information.
  6. Respect human rights obligations at all border crossings in accordance with the rights to seek and enjoy asylum, the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of arbitrary and collective expulsion. In that sense, States shall implement mechanisms that enable the identification of people in need of international protection, including those who may be in a vulnerable situation or have special protection needs.
  7. Ensure that immigration detention is always a measure of last resort; used only when it is reasonable, necessary, and proportionate; applied on a case-by-case basis, considering situations of vulnerability; and used for the shortest time possible. In this sense, States should give priority consideration to the use of alternatives to detention and progressively end its use. Finally, States must ensure that children and their parents are never placed in immigration detention.
  8. Ensure that children facing immigration procedures are treated as children first and foremost, regardless of their nationality or migration status. Principles including non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, the right to life, survival, and development, and the right to be heard and to participate in proceedings should be the guiding principles of any migration policy at the local, national, regional, and global levels. States should ensure that national and regional policies, laws, and practices comply with the norms and standards highlighted recently in the two joint general comments of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Member of Their Families and the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the general principles regarding the human rights of children in the context of international migration, and on the State obligations regarding the human rights of children in the context of international migration in countries of origin, transit, destination, and return; as well as  the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ Advisory Opinion 21/14 on the Rights and Guarantees of Children in the Context of Migration and/or in need of International Protection.
  9. Guarantee equal access to justice for migrants, including cross-border justice for violations of human rights in fair, effective, and accessible conditions for migrants and their families. States are obligated to prevent acts that violate migrants’ rights, ensure they can access the formal justice system without fear of detection, detention and deportation, conduct effective investigations, prosecute and, as appropriate, punish the perpetrators of such violations. Additionally, States must respond effectively to the mass casualties of migrants en route and at border areas, including by: investigating all cases of deaths and disappearances, and mass graves of migrants, with the cooperation of the authorities of all States involved. Likewise, migrants shall receive justice and reparations for any harm caused.
  10. Acknowledge the positive impact of migrants in development and prosperity at the local, national, regional, and global levels, impacting, among other things, the generation of employment.
  11. Recognize and guarantee human rights for migrants, including labor rights, access to health care, education, and birth registration, access to justice and due process, and non-discrimination.
  12. Implement measures to promote social integration and the resilience of migrants, particularly by guaranteeing their economic, social, and cultural rights. To promote social integration, States should take affirmative steps, such as educational and awareness campaigns aimed at promoting multicultural societies, celebrating diversity and countering discrimination, xenophobia, and hate speech.

The experts reaffirm the great opportunity the preparatory meeting towards the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico presents to ensure a human rights based approach and to acknowledge the need of a real commitment by States and other actors regarding the full recognition of migrants as right holders. Likewise, in order to assure the effectiveness of the Global Compact, the experts call on the drafters to ensure it will provide a strong, human rights-based, normative and institutional framework for migration, based within the UN and to incorporate follow-up, accountability, oversight and evaluation mechanisms for its implementation, with the collaboration and technical advice of civil society, regional, and international organizations. 

No. 203/17