GENEVA (15 May 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, expressed both hope and disappointment at the new European Agenda on Migration unveiled by the European Commission for dealing with Europe’s migration crisis.
“The EU’s resettlement proposal is good in principle but woefully inadequate in its scale,” the human rights expert said. The plan includes quotas for the resettlement of refugees, an initiative that Mr. Crépeau has been calling for since September 2014.
“The number of resettlement places initially envisaged seems utterly insufficient,” he stressed. “20.000 places in the EU regional block is not an adequate response to the current crisis which in 2014 saw over 200,000 irregular migrants – a majority of whom were asylum seekers – arrived in Europe by boat.”
The Special Rapporteur recalled that over 60,000 irregular migrants-many of whom are aslyum seekers- have already been rescued this year. “For a continental union of over 500 million inhabitants, 20,000 persons represent 0.004% of its population,” he stressed.
The EU also proposed a relocation plan for the asylum seekers who enter the common territory in order to relief frontline States. “It is good that a mandatory EU-wide relocation system, with an appropriate distribution key, will be presented for adoption by all EU member states,” he said. “However, such a system must be based on the wishes of the asylum seekers, an increase in mobility throughout the common EU territory, and on numbers of relocated asylum seekers that actually match the number of arrivals.”
The expert noted that frontline states have shouldered the overall responsibility of dealing with the irregular migrants that arrive in Europe for far too long. “If properly implemented, this additional support may assist frontline states to effectively safeguard the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers who arrive irregularly by boat, inter alia through more mobility within Europe,” the expert said.
“Moreover,” Mr. Crépeau pointed out, “the new EU plan on migration did not acknowledge or address this issue yet jobs continue to be available for low skilled migrants in European underground labour markets, where unscrupulous employers are exploiting them. The EU continues to turn a blind eye to a key pull factor for many low skilled migrants.” In his view, “the EU’s focus only on highly-skilled migrants is disappointing.”
“The EU must acknowledge and adequately respond to the needs of its low-wage labour market,” he said. “I call on European and national authorities to quickly both open many more legal migration avenues for migrants at all skills levels and firmly repress labour exploitation through the effective implementation of the employer sanction directive and the strengthening of labour inspections.”
“I thus urge the EU to take the next step in opening creative channels for regular migration – for both migrants and asylum seekers –, thereby ensuring that they no longer have to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean or be exploited by unscrupulous employers,” he said.
Responding to Monday’s EU briefing with the UN Security Council on the issue of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea, the UN expert insisted that security and defence policy options, such as destroying boats, constitute only a very short-sighted response to smuggling.
“Smugglers will continue to skillfully adapt, as long as there is a market to exploit,” Mr. Crépeau noted. “Strengthening the capacity of transit countries to stop irregular migration on their territory and resorting to military means, without offering migrants and refugees long term mobility solutions and without adequate human rights guarantees, does not change the conditions that create the market and can only compound the human rights violations.”
For the Special Rapporteur, the EU must acknowledge the link between prohibition strategies which focus on securing borders and the entrenchment of smuggling rings and of underground labour markets, resulting in increasing risks for migrants and refugees.
“If Europe insists on focusing most of its resources on securitisation as the means by which to tackle smuggling, it will continue to find it difficult to defeat smuggling rings whose business model was created when barriers and prohibitions to mobility were erected and thrives at evading the restrictive migration policies of EU Member States,” the expert warned.
“Instead of prohibition measures which entrench the smuggling market and push migrant further underground, the EU must develop more harm-reduction policies, taking as a central concern the human rights of migrants, and create innovative regulated mobility options that will incentivise most migrants and asylum seekers to avoid having recourse to smugglers and will reduce the size of the underground labour markets,” Mr. Crépeau stressed.
François Crépeau (Canada) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2011 by the UN Human Rights Council. Mr. Crépeau is a Full Professor at the Faculty of Law of McGill University, in Montréal, where he holds the Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law and is scientific director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/SRMigrants/Pages/SRMigrantsIndex.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
Read the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CMW.aspx
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