Agencies join historic call over 'global' migrant abuse

30th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Fourteen international agencies Thursday took a historic united stance against the ill-treatment of tens of millions of irregular migrants, warning of a global trend cast under security concerns.

In a joint statement, the agencies led by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay warned that discrimination, exclusion, exploitation, detention, xenophobic targeting and criminal trafficking had spread around the world.

"Too often, states have addressed irregular migration solely through the lens of sovereignty, border security or law enforcement, sometimes driven by hostile domestic constituencies," they said.

Securing borders and exercising immigration controls "as a matter of international law do not trump the obligations of the state to respect the internationally guaranteed rights of all persons," the statement added.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights told journalists that the unprecedented joint stance was "never more needed" to protect "the most voiceless and vulnerable."

"It is historic that today all the members of the Global Migration Group... speak out in one voice for the protection of the human rights of all migrants, particularly those who are caught in an irregular situation," Pillay said.

The agencies, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration and World Bank, estimated that "tens of millions" of irregular migrants were in transit or host countries worldwide.

UN agencies have often criticised conditions for asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, especially to Italy and Greece, harsher restrictions with in the EU as well as the influence of xenophobic political campaigning.

Concern has also grown about the treatment of migrants crossing Africa in some African countries, as well as for Latin American migrants trying to enter the United States through Mexico.

Asked about Arizona's new immigration law, which allows local police to question and detain anyone they believe may be an illegal entrant, Pillay said it was "topical."

"The stopping and searching of individuals we have said is discriminatory and can lead to prejudices and xenophobia," she added.

The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday adopted a resolution brought by Latin American countries calling for more respect for migrants' rights and expressing concern at the growing flow of migrants travelling without identity documents.

The resolution was accepted by a consensus of the 47 member states.

"It's well known that restrictive migration policies do not prevent illegal immigration but have led to greater vulnerability for irregular migrants, who are increasingly threatened by transnational criminal gangs," Mexico's ambassador Juan Jose Gomez Camacho said.

The resolution also called on the international community, especially destination countries, to ratify the 2003 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers.

The UN treaty, which advocates equal treatment for migrant workers and their families in host countries, has not been signed by any major Western country so far.

© 2010 AFP

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