Spotlight on the 29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

UNGENEVA (15 June – 3 July 2015) – The 29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, held in Geneva from 15 June – 3 July, was an exceptionally busy time, with a number of important debates and resolutions around issues relating to immigration detention.

The UN Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.

EU member states requested a day-long ” enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights of migrants“, which sought to tackle the challenges of increasing irregular migratory flows towards EU countries. In his opening address at the event, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed his growing alarm at the failure of the international community to protect the rights of migrants, drawing attention to the “frequent demonization of migrants” and calling on all nations and organisations present, to “take a stand against this very dangerous trend”.  Read the full address here.

The Human Rights Council debated and produced a draft Action on Resolution on the Protection of the Human Rights of Migrants: Migrants in Transit (A/HRC/29/L.3), which was adopted on 29 June. The Resolution does not explicitly mention immigration detention, but makes clear that the criminalisation of irregular migrants must cease, if the human rights of all migrants are to be upheld. The Resolution was one of several adopted texts by the Human Rights Council, including Resolution A/HRC/29/L.24 on protecting the best interests of unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents.

On 16 June, François CrépeauSpecial Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, presented his annual report to the Human Rights Council. The report focuses on the deaths of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and calls on EU and member States to “Accept the impossibility of “sealing” borders and the perverse incentives and paradoxes created by the current system, as well as the inevitability and benefits of mobility”.

Following his Report, Special Rapporteur François Crépeau issued a press statement “Sealing international borders is impossible, it only empowers smugglers” , calling for recognition that contemporary levels of irregular migration are the direct result of tightened border controls, and prohibitive immigration policies. On 18 June, OHCHR summarised the interventions with a press statement “Migrants need protection, not push-backs”.

OHCHR also held an Expert Meeting on Smuggling and Trafficking which lead to forthcoming OCHCR guidelines, the draft versions of which the IDC will have opportunity to comment on. Ahead of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons especially women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, called for sweeping changes in policy and perception of trafficking, noting the particular vulnerability of undocumented asylum seekers and refugees to exploitation and abuse.