Global Compact

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.

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).

Press Release: Migrant rights advocates applaud release of principles for human rights at international borders

Press Release, 22 October 2014
Download the PDF version.

(New York, NY) On October 22nd, in a report on the rights of migrant children to the United Nations General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon announced the release of a new document outlining principles and guidelines for governments on protecting the rights of international migrants in border zones.

Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders,” published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), offers important recommendations to governments on how to fulfill their human rights obligations to international migrants, irrespective of legal status. While not legally binding or establishing new rights, the Guidelines point to existing obligations in core international human rights instruments to offer direction on human rights-based border governance.

Representatives of the Global Coalition on Migration (GCM), an international coalition of migrant associations and rights organizations, and advocacy, trade union, faith, and academic institutions, are in New York to welcome the release of the Guidelines. Several GCM members from Mexico, Argentina, the U.S., and Europe contributed to the drafting of the Guidelines along with other civil society groups.

The Guidelines are seen as an important advocacy tool for migrant communities.

“This timely new document gives momentum to our efforts to end the human rights crisis at borders, to reaffirm protections for all, and to save the lives of migrant men, women and children,”

says Catherine Tactaquin, GCM representative and Executive Director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in the U.S. Tactaquin will speak at the OHCHR launch event on October 23, highlighting the human rights concerns of migrant communities in the world’s major migration corridors. In his report, Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon calls upon governments to implement human rights safeguards at borders:

“Border governance often takes place in an environment that lacks transparency and accountability, contributing in turn to conditions of impunity and to the increased vulnerability of migrants. Some States mistakenly consider border areas as international zones or excised territory […] where they can act as though they were not bound by legal regimes or their human rights obligations.”

The Guidelines provide steps 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. The document highlights the need for governments to consider the individual circumstances of migrants, with particular attention to those who may be at risk and in need of assistance.

The GCM will host a celebration of the launch of the Guidelines and a civil society dialogue on their potential for enhancing human rights protections on the evening of October 23 from 5pm to 7pm at the Church Center for the United Nations.

For media inquiries and additional information, contact Karen Campbell at kcampbell@gcmigration.org.

Media Advisory: Migrant rights groups welcome release of principles for human rights at international borders at 69th Session of the UN General Assembly

Media Advisory, 15 October 2014
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Representatives of the Global Coalition on Migration (GCM) will travel to New York to welcome the release of “Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders” during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on October 22. They will also participate in two public launch events on October 23.

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 http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/Pages/WSReportGA69.aspx.

The GCM is an international coalition of migrant associations and rights organizations, and advocacy, trade union, faith, and academic institutions. Several GCM members from Mexico, Argentina, the U.S., and Europe contributed to the drafting of the guidelines, along with other civil society groups. Catherine Tactaquin of the National Network on Immigrant & Refugee Rights (NNIRR) in the U.S. and a representative of the GCM will speak at the OHCHR launch event on October 23, highlighting the human rights concerns of migrant communities in the world’s major migration corridors.

 …border governance is often prompted solely by national security considerations, and the human rights of migrants are often violated. International borders are not zones of exclusion or exception of human rights obligations. States have the duty to comply with their human rights obligations and all of the safeguards and checks and balances that are embedded in national legislation. — OHCHR

The GCM will host a celebration of the launch of the guidelines and a civil society dialogue on their potential for enhancing human rights protections on the evening of October 23 at the Church Center for the United Nations.

October 22
Circulation of the Guidelines during the 69th Session of the UNGA as a Conference Room Paper accompanying the report of the Secretary General on the Protection of Migrants (A/69/277)

October 23
OHCHR Side Event, “Human Rights at International Borders Recommended Principles and Guidelines”
Time & Location TBC

GCM Celebration & Civil Society Discussion: “Human Rights at International Borders”
5pm to 7pm, Church Center for the United Nations  (777 UN Plaza, NYC – Boss Room)

For media inquiries, contact Karen Campbell – kcampbell@gcmigration.org

#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.