Below is a joint statement from a collection of U.N. experts on the rights of migrants worldwide. The word “states” refers primarily to nation states.
On a day like today, we unite our voices to recognize the invaluable contributions that millions of migrants across the world make daily to create better living conditions for everyone. Even though participating in our societies, the other side of the story is that simply for being migrants, millions are victims of discrimination, xenophobia and a myriad of violations against their human rights. It is because of this that today, on International Migrants Day, we reaffirm that human rights are rights for all persons. In this sense, a real commitment by States regarding the human rights of migrants requires the full recognition of migrants as rights holders. Human rights are derived from human dignity and not from national origin or migratory status.
In the current context, we reiterate our concern regarding the tendency of some states to criminalize irregular migration. Crossing a border without the required documentation or overstaying a visa is not per se a crime, but rather at most, an administrative offence.
Measures that criminalize irregular migration include the enactment of laws that penalize migrants in an irregular situation and persons that assist migrants; the use of excessive and disproportionate force during migration control operations; the detention of migrants in an irregular situation; deportations without procedural guarantees; and also xenophobic statements in which authorities and the media encourage the stigmatization of migrants. In addition to being contrary to human rights and increasing the vulnerability of migrants, these measures have not been proven effective in deterring irregular migration.
In this sense, we express our deep concern for the increasing use of detention of migrants by some states. This situation is of even greater concern because detention is often applied to children. Respect for the right to liberty and security of person implies that liberty is the rule and detention, the exception. States have the obligation to establish a presumption in favor of liberty in domestic law. The automatic, mandatory or punitive use of migrant detention not only violates migrants’ right to liberty, but also affects others of their human rights. The exceptionality of administrative detention of migrants also applies to asylum seekers, refugees, stateless persons and other persons in need of international protection. We call on States to gradually abolish the administrative detention of migrants and establish alternative measures to detention, applying a human rights based approach.
By celebrating International Migrants Day, we reaffirm that the protection of the human rights of migrants requires the adoption of various measures by states. In this context, we call on states to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as well as other international and regional human rights treaties. In parallel to ratifying these instruments, States should guarantee that their policies, laws and practices on migration conform to their international human rights obligations.”
This joint statement has been subscribed on Dec. 18, 2012, on International Migrants Day by François Crépeau, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants; Abdelhamid El Jamri, chair of the U.N. Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW); Felipe Gonzalez, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS); Maya Sahli Fadel, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) of the African Union (AU).