Past & Upcoming Activities & Actions

Will a Global Compact on Migration Lead to Lasting Change?

migrants_in_hungary_2015_aug_016GCM Blog Post on OSF Voices Blog

By now, the images are familiar: dozens—sometimes hundreds—of people crowded into unseaworthy boats, refugee camps the size of small cities, a child’s dead body washed up on the shore. The very presence of these migrants at the borders of powerful states forces governments to confront immediate and pressing protection concerns, and migrants to bear the worst in racist and xenophobic rhetoric, policies, and violence.

On September 19, heads of state from across the world will gather at the United Nations for an unprecedented high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants. It will be followed by a leaders’ summit on refugees hosted by President Obama, where calls should be made for global commitments on increased funding and more welcoming policies. Out of the UN summit will emerge a political declaration and plans to develop a comprehensive refugee response framework and a global compact on migration over the next two years.

The UN will also commit to initiating a global campaign against racism and xenophobia—part of an effort to demonstrate collective action in response to what the UN calls “mixed flows,” or people displaced due to economic, political, or environmental upheaval, many of whom fall outside the legal definition of refugee. These efforts are intended to result in “safe, orderly, and regular migration” for all. President Obama’s summit is expected to see calls for global commitments on increased humanitarian funding and more welcoming policies for refugees.

Will it work? The Global Coalition on Migration and our civil society partners have been monitoring shifts in the global governance of migration for many years. Time and again, we see “crises” arise, followed by calls for collective action. In process after process, states pretend that they are responding, but what we see in reality is the repetition of the same vague commitments they have made for years—to respect the human rights of all migrants regardless of status—without moving in the direction of actually doing so. Is the UN’s global compact process shaping up to be any different? So far, the signs aren’t good.

For one, migration is characterized primarily as a national security and enforcement concern. Despite the welcome and necessary commitments of states to combat racism and xenophobia, deterrence continues to be the cornerstone of migration policy, rendering migrants vulnerable to human rights violations, racism, and xenophobia at all stages of the migration process. Migrants continually struggle to have their voices heard in this context.

The rise of far-right political parties and candidates has intensified these trends and fueled militarized responses to large groups of people on the move. Fear-driven political rhetoric leads to billions spent on border fences, detention, and mass deportations, criminalizing migrant communities, and presenting a persistent challenge to achieving long-term social integration rooted in human rights and nondiscrimination. These responses also fail to address the drivers of mobility.

Migrants from developing countries are also valued only insofar as their labor can be exploited for the benefit of the economies of destination and origin countries. Rather than policies to expand decent work opportunities for all, states favor circular migration regimes—visa programs that place workers from developing countries in low-wage jobs in rich countries, providing temporary status only for work, without opportunities for family reunification, and rarely with paths to permanent residency. Under these schemes, migrants’ employment and immigration status are precarious, rendering them vulnerable to human rights violations, including violations of their labor rights.

In contrast, those from developing countries who are considered highly skilled and those who hold passports from rich countries move across borders with relative ease. The social and political contributions of migrant workers are key to building diverse and plural democracies, but are undermined through routine violations of their rights.

Recognizing that urgent action is needed to ease the suffering of migrants and refugees is commendable—but it’s only the first step. Real progress would mean using the considerable resources of the UN system to support the implementation of international law and labor standards that, if monitored and enforced, would actualize the protections we all seek.

It would also mean states cooperating to fulfill their commitments to protecting the rights of migrants regardless of status and providing pathways for regularization. States would establish strict firewalls between immigration enforcement authorities and government agencies to ensure that all migrants have access to social services and the justice system without fear of detention or deportation.

We need migration options that are more than “safe, orderly, and regular.” Policies must be migrant-centered and respectful of migrants’ agency and leadership. People from all countries should be allowed to move across borders freely for a range of purposes, such as making asylum claims, looking for work, pursuing education, reuniting with family members, starting on a path to citizenship, or escaping the effects of failed economic policies, environmental degradation, political instability, conflict, or other push factors at home.

Circular migration programs that exploit the low-wage labor of migrant workers perpetuate a race to the bottom in wages and rights protections. Migrant workers’ visas shouldn’t prevent them from changing their employer, deny them the right to organize and collectively bargain, or create conditions that make accessing justice difficult if not impossible.

Whether next week’s summit and subsequent negotiations will result in real change in the lives of migrants and refugees remains to be seen. Will states commit to actual plans to implement the international laws and standards designed to uphold the rights of all migrants, beyond providing assistance to the most vulnerable? This would require a sea change in approach. Anything less, and we are likely gearing up for more of the same.

GCM Endorses Action Committee Response & Scorecard for 9/19 Summit

In preparation for the upcoming UN High Level Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, the civil society Action Committee—made up of migrants’ rights and refugee rights CSOs—has released a response and scorecard for the UN High Level Summit’s New York Declaration. The response outlines 7 actions that states must take to improve conditions for refugees and migrants all over the world. The Global Coalition on Migration signed the document as a coalition.

GCM members remain concerned about whether a Global Compact on migration will truly protect the rights of all migrants as the New York Declaration promises. More specifically, we have the following concerns:

Well governed migration must be more than merely “safe, orderly and regular”; it must also protect migrants’ human rights and guarantee access to justice when those rights are violated. Responsible and coherent collective approaches to migration governance must focus on developing mechanisms to allow people from all countries to move across borders for purposes including to make asylum claims, to work, to look for work, to pursue paths to residency and citizenship, to return home, to return to a job, to get education or training, to reunite with family members.

In the Summit Declaration, States commit to protecting the human rights of all migrants regardless of status, but they do not specify how they will do this in practice. To be effective the negotiating process should be based inside the UN; provide a strengthened and more coherent institutional framework, minimally including leadership from OHCHR, ILO and IOM; be grounded in existing international law, including human rights and humanitarian law and labour standards; be part of a multi-stakeholder process that includes participation by civil society and migrant organizations and a process of national and then regional consultations with stakeholders. The Global Compact should provide implementation and operational guidance.

Recognizing that most migration is for labour, States must progressively improve standards for regular migration programs and ensure their effective implementation. This means that labour agreements should focus more on the rights of migrants and less on the benefits to origin and destination states, including paths to regularization and access to justice.

GCM will be tracking all of these items as negotiations move forward.

GCM Launches MICIC Campaign

The Global Coalition on Migration (GCM), along with the Migration and Development Civil Society Network (MADE), launched a year-long campaign to co-organize a series of regional civil society consultations on the MICIC (Migrants in Countries in Crisis) Initiative.

GCM and MADE will organize a series of independent, parallel, civil society regional consultations in conjunction with each of the government regional consultations that will take place in various regions through mid-2016.  In addition to that, GCM will also engage its membership and other civil society partners around the world, in a MICIC webinar for civil society, a civil society stakeholder roundtable that is expected to take place in January 2016, and other related civil society events.

Further details about GCM’s joint campaign on MICIC can be found at our MICIC page: which will be updated regularly as events, activities and campaign news unfold.

GCM Participation at COP20 — Lima, Peru

IMG_9481From December 6-8, GCM participated in the People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Nature Tribunal, parallel events to COP20, in Lima, Peru. GCM participated as part of the Climate Space, a loose configuration of grassroots organizations globally that have been engaging in advocacy around the COPs for many years. Groups within the Climate Space used opportunities during the People’s Summit and tribunal to discuss next steps in the lead-up to COP21 in Paris, France next year.

Highlights from Lima

Rights of Nature Tribunal

The Rights of Nature Tribunal was led by a panel of 13 “judges” who heard testimonies from experts and witnesses from grassroots communities affected by climate change. Cases addressed the impacts of climate change, extractive industries, and deforestation, and included critiques of “techno-solutions” like Climate Smart Agriculture and geo-engineering. Accounts of displacement were shared in a number of testimonies.

  • A witness from the Brazilian Amazon discussed a hydroelectric dam project that will displace 20,000 people and affect the livelihoods of thousands more.
  • An anti-REDD campaigner from Liberia highlighted the damaging impacts of oil extraction and related inter-group conflict that has led to the displacement of many communities—what he called “climate refugees.”
  • Mention of migrant workers employed in extractive industries that are damaging indigenous lands in the United States highlighted the complexities of the relationship between climate and migration and the need for solidarity among all those affected.

WeCan Workshop (Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network)

The WeCan workshop highlighted the voices of women, particularly Indigenous women, who are often excluded from the COP negotiations. Participants highlighted women’s leadership in struggles for climate justice, linking these struggles to the wider struggles against colonial oppression and violence. Presentations highlighted the importance of solidarity with all affected communities.

Climate Space Discussions

Participation on the outside of the COP is the priority for Climate Space organizers, as there is a need to continue to build advocacy and international solidarity and to gain more clarity on the analysis of root causes and false solutions. This sentiment echoes GCM’s impressions from our activities in New York in September, 2014. There, GCM members expressed interest in engaging with civil society groups advocating for climate justice globally, with the aim of developing our collective analysis on the intersections between migrants’ rights and climate justice.

It was evident from the workshops and conversations among Climate Space groups in Peru that there is a need to deepen the current discourse on migrants’ rights and climate justice, which is currently focused mainly on the “climate refugee” concept. Bringing a human rights-based analysis into the discussion and highlighting the complexities of climate and migration will be important parts of our engagement going forward.

GCM Statement: End the Immigration Detention of Children

GCM Statement on the International Day of Action to End the Immigration Detention of Children
November 20th, 2014

As government delegations gather at the United Nations in New York to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, migrants’ rights advocates, civil society organizations, and migrant communities are participating in an International Day of Action calling for the end to the immigration detention of children.

Every day, children worldwide experience an array of human rights violations as a result of punitive immigration detention regimes. Held in detention centres, unaccompanied or with their family members, for immigration status violations or separated from detained parents or guardians, these children are deprived of their rights to liberty and family life.

“Children should not be criminalized or subject to punitive measures because of their or their parents’ migration status. The detention of a child because of their or their parent’s migration status constitutes a child rights violation and always contravenes the principle of the best interests of the child” (Committee on the Rights of the Child).

Children who are directly or indirectly affected by immigration detention, in all its forms, are at risk of trauma and abuse and are taught at a young age what it means to be members of a criminalized community. This includes families divided by adult detention.

When community-based alternatives to detention are provided, they should be the least restrictive measures. The practices of detention or mobility restriction and surveillance for immigration status violations are not legitimate, as undocumented children and their parents or guardians pose no threat to the safety or property of the society where they reside. Children should neither be subject to nor forced to witness such measures. The criminalizing stigma and psychological burden associated with detention and its variants run counter to their best interests.

On this International Day of Action to END the Immigration Detention of Children, the Global Coalition on Migration strongly urges governments to prioritize the best interests of the child over other policy concerns, and to follow the advice of the Committee on the Rights of the Child—to “expeditiously and completely cease the detention of children on the basis of their immigration status.”



OHCHR Endorses GCM Borders Event

Leonardo Castilho (OHCHR)

Leonardo Castilho (OHCHR)

GCM hosted a celebration and interactive dialogue to mark the launch of new Principles and Guidelines on the protection and promotion of human rights at international borders. GCM members were involved in the drafting process of this important document—a process led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In support of the GCM event, OHCHR sent its representative, Leonardo Castilho, and also sent a letter endorsing our initiative.

OHCHR would like to express its sincere gratitude for the unwavering support and enthusiasm with which members of the Global Coalition on Migration, and notably the speakers on the panel today, have engaged in the process of developing the Principles and Guidelines. Members of the Global Coalition on Migration have also been key partners in the discussions on the protection of the human rights of migrants at international borders…

Read the full endorsement letter here.

GCM Activities during Climate Action Week, New York

From 21-24 September, GCM sent an international delegation to participate in Climate Action Week activities in New York City. Our members participated in the People’s Climate March, the People’s Climate Justice Summit, the Flood Wall Street Action, and the Climate Justice Tribunal.

DOWNLOAD the full report of GCM activities  


Report – Advancing Human Rights at International Borders

Last week, representatives of the Global Coalition on Migration (GCM) traveled to New York City to welcome the release of a new document on human rights at international borders. “Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders,” was published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and was released as a conference document during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly.

This new document is the product of an important collaboration between OHCHR and civil society, including members of GCM. For over a year, OHCHR and its civil society partners worked together to compile existing rights and obligations enshrined in international law and to demonstrate how protection of these rights should be applied at international borders.

The Guidelines set out a series of recommendations for governments to implement human rights-based border governance mechanisms, including implementing human rights training for border officials, legislating mechanisms to ensure accountability of private actors contracted to provide border management functions, and establishing procedures for the reporting of human rights violations that occur at borders with provisions for access to justice.

Importance of this document for migrant communities and civil society

The Guidelines do not set out new rights nor do they change states’ human rights obligations. However, the document gives migrant communities and civil society organizations an advocacy tool to highlight the human rights crisis at international borders. It reaffirms that borders are not “zones of exception,” and that no appeal to national security or the sovereign right to control borders excuses the persistent and dangerous disregard for the human rights of those crossing borders.

In addition to assisting civil society in holding governments to account for their human rights obligations, the Guidelines have great potential to serve as a popular human rights education tool, such that migrant communities are aware of their rights in border zones.

OHCHR launches the Guidelines

OHCHR’s public release of the Guidelines took place at two side events: one in Brussels and one at the UN Headquarters in New York City. Speakers at the New York OHCHR event included Mr. Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; H.E. Mr. Thomas Mayr-Harting, Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations; Mr. Francisco Carrión-Mena, Chairperson of the Committee on Migrant Workers; Mr. Udo Janz, Director of UNHCR Office in New York; Ms. Michele Klein Solomon, Permanent Observer of IOM to the United Nations; and Ms. Catherine Tactaquin, Executive Director, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. The event was chaired by the Representative of the Permanent Mission of Argentina.

The speakers reflected on the crisis at international borders, with many referencing the recent deaths of migrants at sea, particularly in the Mediterranean where thousands have died attempting to reach Europe and hundreds of thousands have been rescued from sinking vessels. Affirming that states have the sovereign right to determine who enters their territory, the panelists agreed that such functions must only be carried out in compliance with international law and with respect for human rights.

Speaking in her capacity as Executive Director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and as a representative of GCM, Catherine Tactaquin highlighted the voices of those who work along the US-Mexico border daily.

Christian Ramirez, Director of the Southern Borders Community Coalition:

As nation states continue to criminalize migration and militarize international borders it is imperative for the international community to ensure that nation states uphold their obligations to uphold human rights and human dignity. Tragically, the rights and dignity of border residents have been trampled upon by policies and strategies that militarize communities, disrupt daily life, and endanger the rights of border residents and migrants. The tens of millions of people who call the boundary between Mexico and the United States home are heartened by the OHCHR’s concerns over the state of human rights in our region.

Isabelle Garcia, Attorney & Public Defender, Spokesperson for Coalición de Derechos Humanos:

As borders across the world become highly militarized and policed, basic human rights, including the right to life itself, are being trampled in an unprecedented and alarming fashion. From the wholesale unnecessary deaths of thousands of border crossers to the painful separation of families, communities along the Arizona/Sonora border live the direct consequences of US policies, economic restructuring, and the indifference, ignorance, and fear of the US body politic. It becomes imperative that governments and the international community focus on the human rights crisis occurring at the crossroads of our intersecting and conflicting interests played out on these fragile and battered regions. It is here where this document can be most useful, allowing affected peoples to raise human rights principles to bring justice and dramatic change in the management of borders.

Eduardo Canales, Coordinador, South Texas Human Rights Center:

These principles and guidelines can help to challenge “the cloak of secrecy on detaining and processing migrants by the border patrol, practices that are decidedly punitive and discretionary. Clearly the initiative to create this document has been more than welcome and encouraging for policy advocates and those working every day in border environments to ensure the safety and well-being of all migrants. The principles locate human rights and non-discrimination at the centre of border governance.”

Ms. Tactaquin emphasized the importance of popularizing this document and its potential for brining about tangible changes in border governance that will help to save lives.

We will not be satisfied with these pages being a nice document drafted in 2014 but that remains largely invisible and that will not play a role in shifting the narrative of human rights at international borders.

GCM celebrates the release of the Guidelines with partners in New York

Following OHCHR’s launch event at the UN, GCM hosted a celebration and interactive discussion, endorsed by OHCHR, at the Church Centre for the United Nations. Leonardo Castilho (OHCHR) contextualized the document and highlighted its core elements. He emphasized the migrants’ rights is one of the OHCHR’s main priorities.

Human rights are not reserved for citizens only or people with visas. They are inalienable rights of every individual, regardless of his or her location or migration status.

Jamil Dakwar (ACLU) participated in the drafting of the Guidelines. He spoke about the negotiating and drafting process for the Guidelines in response to the crisis at borders, emphasizing that this document is an attempt to hold governments accountable for their obligations under international law.

…violations against migrants and people crossing borders happen in areas where it’s hard to document what’s happening, it’s hard to monitor, it’s hard to shed light, it’s hard to hold accountable those who are committing those violations, it’s hard to reach even, because these are sometimes dangerous areas. The very mere fact of thinking together with civil society, international agencies, and states of ways to strengthen existing mechanisms is a great step forward.

Diego Morales (CELS/GCM), in a video message, spoke about his organization’s role in the formulation of the Guidelines. Reaffirming that border zones are not zones of exception, he called attention to the fact that borders are zones where some of the worst human rights violations occur with impunity. Emphasizing calls for due process and strict regulations to guard against violations perpetuated with impunity, Mr. Morales expressed the support of CELS and its regional partners in South and Central America for this document.

…we consider it important to support this process, and this event being held alongside the discussions at the UN today. The consolidation of these principles and guidelines in the framework of human rights for migrants can increase the possibility of protection in border zones, where historically a huge number of rights violations are committed.

Yanira Chacón-López (NALACC/GCM) brought forward the perspective of how these Guidelines connect to the work of migrants rights advocates working at the grassroots, and their potential impact on migrant communities. Yanira spoke about her work with migrant women in Long Island, New York, focusing on the struggles migrant families face in crossing the border with their children. She drew attention to the way in which border enforcement extends beyond border zones, as increasing numbers of undocumented migrants are issued electronic ankle bracelets as an alternative to the expense of detaining them in holding centres until deportation. Yanira spoke of the humiliation and psychological effect of such devices on migrants and their families. She also spoke about the barriers to access to education for undocumented children in the US. She expressed optimism that the Guidelines could be used in public education efforts such that migrants would be better aware of their rights.

Many thanks to our sponsors for this event: Endorser: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) / Co-soponsors: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Colectivo PND-Migración, DRUM South Asian Organizing Center, Families for Freedom, Migrants Rights International (MRI), National Alliance for Latin American & Caribbean Communities (NALACC), National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights (NNIRR), NGO Committee on Migration, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), and United Methodist Women (UMW).

Advancing Human Rights at International Borders

Borders Side Event PosterThis week, GCM representatives are traveling to New York to welcome there release of “Recommended Principles & Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders”—a document that will be released during the UN General Assembly on October 22nd.

The document on human rights at borders was drafted under the auspices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and will be announced in a report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon concerning migrant children as well as protections at borders. The Secretary General’s report is available at Several GCM members participated in the drafting of this document along with other civil society groups.

Our delegation will also participate in a side event led by OHCHR on October 23rd, where GCM will be represented by Catherine Tactaquin (NNIRR) who will speak about the human rights concerns of migrant communities in the world’s major migration corridors.

On October 23rd, from 5pm to 7pm, GCM will host our own celebration and civil society dialogue, endorsed by OHCHR, about the guidelines document and its potential for enhancing human rights protections at international borders. This event will take place at the Church Center for the United Nations (777 UN Plaza – Boss Room, 8th floor). All are welcome to join!

#ClimateAction is #MigrantRights – GCM Participation in the People’s Climate March & Climate Summit, NYC

Banner - Climate ActionNext week, the UN will convene a major Climate Summit, preceding the opening of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly. In response to this UN climate initiative, a massive march — People’s Climate March — is being organized in New York City, calling government attention to the need for governments to adopt real, human rights & nature-centred solutions to the climate crisis.

The GCM, our friends, and allies will march with grassroots communities at the front of the march and will also participate in the subsequent People’s Climate Justice Summit to deepen our analysis on the intersections between climate change and migration, and to strengthen our alliances with the climate justice movement.

Check for updates throughout the week via our Twitter feed – @GCMigration.