Global Compact

Past & Upcoming Activities & Actions

Statement to Human Rights Council March 10

 

34th regular session of the Human Rights Council

10 March 2017

 

Enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights of migrants in the context of large movements

Comments by Monami Maulik

International Coordinator, Global Coalition on Migration

 

Excellencies and colleagues, particularly migrant organizers and civil society friends.

 

It’s an honor to be invited to speak on behalf of civil society and our members of the Global Coalition on Migration. The Global Coalition on Migration (http://gcmigration.org) is a multi-sectoral coalition of civil society organizations, most of which are migrant-based or migrant-led. These include large regional networks in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, together with labor, policy, and faith-based organizations.

The GCM together with many other civil society organizations – has been actively mobilizing our bases across regions and strategizing for concrete inputs into the upcoming consultations and the subsequent negotiating process towards the adoption of a Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration. We look forward to the opportunity for dialogue today on working towards a genuinely inclusive process.

Migrants today and including those in the context of large movements, are facing a human rights crisis at all stages of the migrant journey-

  • in their places of origin,
  • in transit and at borders,
  • in places of destination
  • and, often, upon return.

With inadequate access to regular and safe channels for migration, migrants are pushed into attempting dangerous journeys where they risk exploitation and violence from State and non-State actors.

 

States militarize and externalize borders in the name of deterring such movement — deploying policies from push-backs and border closures, to detention (including of families and children), to expedited removal procedures that deny effective access to asylum— and that are punitive and disregard human rights. But that’s not all. There is no evidence that fences, border walls, detention and other excessive border control measures are a deterrent – they do not prevent people from attempting as well as succeeding in irregular entry, especially when they are responding to unmet labor demand in destination countries, reunification needs with family members, as well as in seeking international protection.

 

However, human rights challenges and vulnerabilities migrants face do not result exclusively from the context of large movements, irregular movements, or indeed from movement at all. Migrants are not always “on the move.” They are also people who are residing outside their country of citizenship who often live and work in precarious conditions and face criminalization merely because of their irregular migration status.

Within the current context of growing xenophobia in rhetoric and policies, migrants are increasingly the scapegoats of deeper economic, social and political transitions within many receiving societies. Where discriminatory policing practices lead to profiling based on race or perceived migration status, many migrants and their families live in perpetual fear preventing them from raising their voices, joining trade unions or accessing basic public services.

This fear is well founded, and this is why firewalls are so important to migrants’ safety, security, and exercise of basic rights such as access to education and healthcare. Firewalls keep immigration enforcement authorities separate from local law enforcement and public service provision. And yet effective firewalls are far too rare. There are some current developments that GCM is concerned about in both the United States as well as the European Union that would require city officials as well as health care providers, social workers, school administrators and homeless shelters to report undocumented migrants to the immigration authorities.[1]

In order to identify promising practices on the protection of the human rights of migrants in vulnerable situations, it is central to recognize that first and foremost migrants are rights holders at all times, whether they are in transit at the border or in any country.

GCM and our civil society partners therefore applaud the migrant-centered perspective of the Principles & Guidelines on the human rights protections of migrants in vulnerable situations within large and/or mixed movements. This migrant-centered perspective also lends itself to developing practical measures and actionable commitments where civil society also plays a role in monitoring and implementation at the national and local levels.

For this reason, it is essential that the Global Compact process elevate genuine migrant participation. This means that, civil society and particularly migrant-led organizations ourselves must be engaged in a sustained and meaningful manner. Migrant organizations, should be involved as central actors from the phases of design, development, implementation and monitoring of the Global Compact. To this end, the Global Coalition on Migration and civil society partners are actively mobilizing to translate the human rights commitments of the New York Declaration into concrete action.   With a diverse base of regional members, we see our twin objectives this year as (1) broadening the conversation and access to information on the Global Compact itself and (2) enhancing the capacity of migrant organizations to effectively contribute to the compact process. For many civil society and migrant organizations engaged on the ground, the Global Compact is far removed from their daily experience addressing immediate migrants’ rights challenges. It is imperative that the Global Compact process does not leave behind the very communities on the ground that it seeks to address. As such, our coalition members are actively engaged in developing accessible resources and webinars on the Global Compact– across thematic issues and in a bottom-up process. Understanding regional, national and local contexts and existing best practices will be key in identifying the distinct challenges, common issues and actionable solutions in practice.

 

 

 

The Human Rights Council could contribute to the process of development of the global compact

by working with civil society, human rights mechanisms, National Human Rights Institutions in the consultation process on actionable commitments and how they can be implemented. The Council can also play a role in encouraging states to incorporate Principles and Guidelines into the Global Compact. Lastly, it is essential to specifically call attention to regularization programs – it is very welcome that regularization was included in list of measures to be explored in the Global Compact Process.

 

In ensuring that the human rights of migrants remains a central element within the global compact on safe, orderly and regular migration, it is significant that the first of the six thematic consultations will address the “Human rights of all migrants, social inclusion, cohesion, and all forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia and intolerance.” However, it also imperative that the human rights of migrants be a cross-cutting concern across all consultations (at the global, regional and national levels), at multi-stakeholder hearings, in stock-taking and during negotiation of the Global Compact itself.

 

Concluding Remarks:

 

Civil society is committed to upholding existing human rights norms and instruments and to raise our concerns to measures in the Compact that would undermine these norms and their implementation– particularly in the context detention, returns, trafficking and smuggling. In addition, we will proactively offer practical recommendations based in existing member expertise and regional dialogues on issues of critical importance to our members including on labor rights, increased regular migration pathways, regularization, firewalls, ending child detention.

 

In keeping with the commitments of Member States’ in the New York Declaration while recognizing the realities of current political climates at national and regional levels, it will be strategic to achieve a rights-respecting Global Compact as a foundation for longer-term and graduated timeline of outcomes. The success of the Global Compact process, and of the global migration governance processes it launches, will depend upon the inclusion and engagement of many sectors of civil society, including grassroots migrant-led and migrant organizations and communities.

GCM Statement on Governance for Dhaka

Peoples’ Global Action on Migration, Development & Human Rights Background Paper for Strategy Sessions 1A and 2A 

Global Migration Governance

 

Moderators:                         Monami Maulik, Global Coalition on Migration

Discussion starters:          Jille Belasario, Transnational Migrant Platform

Michele LeVoy, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented

Migrants

Rapporteur:                          Evalyn Tennant, Global Coalition on Migration

In addition to the listed moderator, rapporteur and discussion starters, a number of participants have also been asked to serve as facilitators and rapporteurs for the table discussions, which will be focused on particular regional contexts.

 

Introduction and context. We are convening in Bangladesh for this PGA at a moment when governments are paying increased attention to migration governance, and also at a moment when millions of migrants around the world face extreme risk and danger—in transit, in the countries where they are living, and on returning or being returned to countries of origin or third countries. The Global Compact negotiations demonstrate elevated world attention to migration governance, as does the ILO decision to devote the International Labor Conference 2017 General Discussion to migration governance and the Global Compact. The IOM has become a related organization of the UN, with uncertain implications for the roles of other UN agencies with migration mandates, in general and in relation to facilitating the Global Compact negotiations. At the same time, a rising tide of xenophobia has brought overtly anti-immigrant leaders into office in some countries, and they are on the threshold of power in others. These challenging and often contradictory streams require civil society and social justice organizations to act with a renewed sense of urgency and purpose. We need to gauge progress on existing goals and campaigns, while also updating and adapting our priorities to the changing governance landscape and broader context.

 

Improving migration governance or “doing governance better” must mean protecting migrants better, giving women, men and children more mobility options, better options, and safer options. Since the 2013 HLD, States’ responses to emerging as well as ongoing migration challenges have frequently fallen short of protecting migrants’ rights and well-being, and even their lives.  The September 19 Summit aimed to respond to this situation. Via a negotiated Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration, the New York Declaration attempts to map a path to more effective and coherent multilateral governance of migration, in keeping with States’ 2015 commitment in the 2030 Agenda to “leave no one behind” and to “cooperate internationally to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration involving full respect for human rights and the humane treatment of migrants regardless of migration status, of refugees and of displaced persons” (Para. 29).

 

Global Compact. In the New York Declaration, States “reaffirm and will fully protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, regardless of status; all are rights holders. [States’] response will demonstrate full respect for international law and international human rights law and, where applicable, international refugee law and international humanitarian law.” But they do not say how they will do so. Civil society has an important role to play in ensuring that this commitment can be effectively implemented. And as we discuss below, the use of firewalls between immigration enforcement on the one hand, and access to justice and to basic services on the other, is a critical mechanism to protect the rights of all migrants.   Similarly, while the New York Declaration makes reference to addressing the drivers of migration (and not only the drivers of forced migration), civil society has a role in ensuring that this commitment is fleshed out, and that the broad aim of SDG 10, to reduce inequality within and between states, is what informs negotiations and not simply Target 10.7, “Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.” 10.6, for example, aims to “ensure enhanced representation and voice “for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions.” Along the same lines, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda aims to support national development efforts, committing to pursue “policy coherence and an enabling environment for sustainable development at all levels and by all actors, and to reinvigorating the global partnership for sustainable development” (Para. 9).

 

With respect to fully incorporating a gender perspective in the governance of migration, there is much to be done. Thus far, attention has focused too narrowly on women’s vulnerabilities. While all women—and all people—must be able to travel and live in safety, the New York Declaration, for example, focuses too narrowly on women as victims, on their vulnerabilities when travelling irregularly. Civil society should promote a broader approach, one that starts not with migration, but with progress toward equality, as expressed in Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda, to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Progress on Goal 5 in states of origin and destination would go far toward reducing women’s vulnerabilities in migration. The closer women and girls come to enjoying equal rights and opportunities— to education and training, to credit, to property, to inheritance, to mobility, to health services— the better their opportunities for decent work and the less likely they are to find themselves in a situation in which they are compelled to migrate— especially under circumstances that leave them particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, whether sexual or gender-based violence or workplace exploitation. Destination states must address the particular needs of migrant women, who almost always face discrimination on the basis of their gender and migration status (and even more so if they are irregular), and who are more likely than men to work in sectors not covered by labour protection.

 

Migration—and therefore migration governance– affects millions of children who migrate alone or with family members, and it also affects children whose family members migrate without them, as well as those at risk of separation from parents subject to detention and/or deportation due to irregular status. Both regular and irregular migration cause children to be separated from migrating family members. Multiple regions have experienced increases in numbers of unaccompanied and separated child migrants, and the protection of their rights continues to be a governance challenge. Despite authoritative guidance from the Committee on the Rights of the Child on detention never being in the best interests of the child, much weaker language ended up in the New York Declaration.

 

Migrant, migrant rights and allied social justice and civil society organizations should push to ensure that the Global Compact provides a future-oriented framework for rights-respecting governance and improved implementation in policy and practice on issues related to:

 

  • Labor migration, including recruitment reform
  • Gender and the empowerment of women
  • Migrants in crisis, distress or precarious circumstances
  • Border securitization, militarization and externalization
  • Detention, including the detention of children and families
  • Returns and deportations
  • Effects on migration of international trade and trade agreements
  • Racism and xenophobia toward migrants


 

Urgent existing calls for action:

  1. End detention of migrants (children, pregnant women and families most urgently) for purposes of assessing migration status and implementing alternatives to detention, and recognize that international standards state clearly that detention is never in the best interest of the child;
  2. Ensure firewalls between immigration enforcement authorities on the one hand, and other government agencies and services on the other, enabling all migrants’ access to social services and to the criminal justice system to report crimes against them, without fear of being detained or deported;
  3. Respect the rights of all migrants, regardless of status, at work and outside of work; provide access to healthcare, including reproductive health services for women; to accommodation, and to education for children;
  4. Improve transparency, accountability, and adequate standards in labor agreements, preferably by involving the ILO and social dialogue partners;
  5. Reform temporary and circular migration programs to enable workers to fully exercise their rights, including the right to organize and collectively bargain, to use visa portability to change employers and to access justice for protection from retaliation;
  6. Keep civil society spaces open, defending human rights defenders—especially migrant rights defenders—and supporting migrants’ rights to free association and especially migrant workers’ right to join a union.

Guiding questions. This working session is aimed at linking global governance institutions and legal frameworks to the regional issues and contexts at which most civil society organizations operate. Recognizing that critical issues vary across regions, we invite participants in the regionally-organized discussion tables to identify the one or two most critical migration issues in their region in need of improvements in governance.

  1. Where and how—what processes, what levels– can civil society organizations intervene most effectively to improve respect for migrants’ rights, access to justice, safety, and ability to lead decent lives?
  2. In your region, what are the current priority issues for improving migration governance? These can be ongoing priority areas or issues that have emerged more recently.
  3. What is the level (or what are the levels)—local, national, regional, global– at which governance needs to be improved? Please pay special attention to
    1. possible intersections with global governance and negotiation of the Global Compact; and
    2. whether improvements are needed in law or in implementation (in policy and practice) of existing laws (and if there are international standards needing to be transposed into national law);
  4. What should civil society recommend for actions that civil society and/or States, individually or collectively, can take to address these pressing issues and challenges? And, if appropriate, what benchmarks would be effective to measure progress in addressing these issues?

 

 

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: GCMigration.org/MICIC 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.”

#EndChildDetention
#CRC25

DOWNLOAD THE GCM STATEMENT

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).