Alternatives to Detention, Political Will & Trade Impacts: UN Expert on Migrants

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Mr. François Crépeau has highlighted the cross cutting issue of detention in several of his most recent reports. Mr. Crépeau visited Greece from 12 to 16 May to investigate the complex management of the Greek border, and its impact on the human rights of migrants. From his findings, Mr Crépeau released a mission statement warning:

“Europe’s lack of political will is creating serious suffering for thousands of migrants in Greece.”

 

He stressed that the Europe’s securitised immigration policies to close the borders surrounding Greece, coupled with the new EU-Turkey agreement had exponentially increased the number of refugees and migrants in the country. He criticised Europe for abandoning Greece to process these refugees and migrants alone, urging greater cooperation and shared responsibility across the EU States.

 

Mr Crépeau reported on the poor living conditions for refugees and migrants in Greece, and stressed that the difference between those in open camps and those held in detention centres “was striking”.

He found that an overwhelming number of children were being held in detention centres, and stressed that:

“It is unacceptable for children to be detained, and that detention can never be in the best interest of a child.”

 

Mr Crépeau acknowledged the positive steps taken by Greece to provide emergency services, however called upon the Governments to:

“Develop alternatives to detention in the form of open shelter for families and unaccompanied minors as a matter of urgent priority.”

 

Prior to his visit to Greece Mr Crépeau was in Angola for 8 days to meet with a range of Government officials responsible for migrants, as well as international and civil society organisations to discuss the country’s migration governance. He expressed his concern for the human right violations and systematic violence inflicted upon undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees residing in Angola.

 

He was informed that vulnerable displaced persons:

“Come under continuous harassment and intimidation by the police, and are regularly arrested and arbitrarily detained in large number, including pregnant women and children”

 

The Special Rapporteur condemned the intimidating and abusive behaviour of law enforcement officials, stressing the need for prosecution and sanctions against these human right violations. Mr Crépeau urged the Government and the UN to quickly register all asylum seekers living in Angola, issuing identification documents to help improve their welfare and protect them against incidents of arbitrary arrest, detention, discrimination and violence. The IDC has indicated that identification can be an alternative to detention, as is an example of a practice by which persons are not detained for reasons relating to their migration status. Find out more.

 

Mr Crépeau’s visits to Greece and Angola also coincided with the release of his report on “bilateral and multilateral trade agreements and their impact on the human rights of migrants” , highlighting how global trade liberalization is at times undermining the human rights of migrants. The report highlighted how restricted mobility of migrants and refugees due to securitised border controls and use of detention had created precarious and informal types of work for them that existed beyond the regulatory framework:

“Where adequate provisions are not made to facilitate mobility, migrants may respond to unrecognised labour needs by seeking out irregular channels and covert intermediaries to gain employment…They become victims of deceptive recruitment practices, work in unsafe working conditions, become more vulnerable to labour exploitation at the hand of unscrupulous employers and live in constant fear of being deported and detained.”

 

The report identified that children were particularly at risk at being exploited for child labour and trafficked into the commercial sex industry. Women who worked in the care sector were also vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, especially if they worked in physical and social isolation.

 

The Special Rapporteur is scheduled to present a culmination of these findings in a report to the Human Rights Council at 10am on 14 June 2016.