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A New Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

Prasad Kariyawasam is a member of the UN Committee on Migrant Workers

Some 275 refugees and migrants waiting to disembark from a tug in the Port of Pozzalo, Italy, after being rescued a few days earlier. Credit: UNHCR/F. Malavolta

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Oct 31 2017 (IPS) - At this crucial juncture of international migration, where numerous push and pull factors have engendered unprecedented migration flows across the globe, the ongoing discussions at the United Nations must lead to meaningful and practical outcome.

It is however, paramount that all stakeholders, especially global leaders, adopt a right based approach in seeking arrangements for safe and orderly migration, for both regular and irregular migrants and in particular, for preventing exploitation.

The solutions offered, in particular, by States must recognize and take into account the following:

(a) Contributions by migrants and refugees: The narratives on migration must emphasise the positive contributions by migrants and refugees towards diversity and for enriching societies, cultures and economies across the world.

Population at large must reckon the contribution by the migrant workforce in support of the local economies. Efforts to counter misinformation and preconceived ideas should be developed and promoted with the help of the civil society and the involvement of migrants and refugees as well.

The Media has a crucial role in promoting multiculturalism, mutual trust and understanding but also sensitizing the population at large to the principles of equality and non-discrimination as well as combating xenophobia and prejudice in daily life.

(b) Combat xenophobia and racism: The international community must uphold their responsibility to combat all forms of hate speech, stigmatising discourses, scapegoating and measures must be taken to condemn xenophobia against migrants and refugees. Given the audience they can reach and the moral authority they carry, political leaders must condemn and counter all messages fuelling racism and xenophobia.

A strong message against impunity is necessary to effectively tackle xenophobia and discriminations against refugees and migrants who mostly remain peripheral in the justice systems. States should ensure that those promoting discriminatory and xenophobic discourse and attitudes against refugees and migrants are held accountable.

Refugees and migrants should be provided with effective judicial, administrative and other remedies, including the right to seek just and adequate reparation for any damage suffered as a result of a racist or xenophobic crime.

A Syrian mother cries with relief as she embraces her three young children after a rough sea crossing. Credit: UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

(c) Promoting Integration: Short and long term measures are needed to foster social and economic environments to ensure that migrants and refugees are not just tolerated but fully integrated with local populations. Reforms in the institutional, political, policy and social sectors should be implemented in ways that mutually reinforce the incentives for integration and solidarity rather than exclusion. Labour market access and mobility, pathways to citizenship, participation and social contact with the local populations are essential.

(d) Border management: States must respect human rights obligations at all border crossings, including the right to due process for all migrants regardless of their status, in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of arbitrary and collective expulsion. States must also ensure that border governance measures combat all forms of discrimination at international borders and that migrants have effective access to judicial remedies.

States must also ensure that migrants in transit who are victims of violence, physical and mental abuse and exploitation are provided with appropriate services, including medical and psychosocial services, in particular for women and girls who have experienced sexual abuse and violence.

(e) Irregular migration: States should ensure that all measures aimed at addressing irregular migration and smuggling of migrants do not adversely affect the human rights of migrants and that such migrants are provided with necessary assistance and are afforded due process guarantees. States should also develop rights based approach to overall migration and border management taking into account the needs of migrants, and must seek to establish regular, open and facilitated labour migration.

(f) Exploitation and abuse: Measures must be taken to address all forms of labour exploitation and abuse, in particular child labour, and the situation of migrant workers who are victims of the Kafalah system. Action must be taken to enhance protection of specific categories of workers, in particular women, against exploitation and abuse, including sexual violence.

In line with SDG (target 8.8), domestic work should be regulated by national legislation and domestic migrant workers should also enjoy rights with respect to minimum wage, hours of work, days of rest, freedom of association, and other conditions of work, as well as the right to freedom of movement and residence, and to retain possession of travel and identity documents. All migrant workers should be able to access consular officials. States must facilitate access to justice, without subjecting migrants to fear of detention or deportation.

(g) Children in migration: Children affected by migration should be considered first and foremost, and their best interests must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning them and should be accorded the same rights as all other children, including birth registration, nationality, access to education, healthcare, housing and social protection.

The detention of children because of their or their parents’ migration status constitutes a child rights violation and contravenes the principle of the best interests of the child. States should completely cease the detention of children in this context and adopt alternatives to detention that allow children to remain with family members and/or guardians in non-custodial, community based environment while their immigration status is being reviewed.

(h) Trafficking in persons: It is important to adequately train all stakeholders, including public officials and law enforcement officers working in areas of arrival of large influxes of people, to identify trafficking or risks of trafficking. States in this regard must work with United Nations agencies and programmes, international organizations, host countries and civil society organizations. National procedures must be adopted for assistance and protection services for victims and potential victims of trafficking in persons, including gender- and child-sensitive measures.

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