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Statement of MRI in Response to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

Geneva, Switzerland — Migrants Rights International (MRI) delivered its statement (see below) in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants on 22 June 2012 at the 11th Plenary Meeting – 20th Session of the Human Rights Council. Watch the video from the United Nations Webcast here

Freedom is the Rule. Detention is the Exception!

Migrants Rights International welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s first comprehensive report to the council, and congratulates him on his appointment.

Drawing the urgent attention of the Council to this crucial issue of migrants in detention is overdue, and requires immediate action. The Special Rapporteur focuses on access to justice; calls for strong procedural safeguards; attention to the special needs of vulnerable migrants; denunciation of detention as a punitive measure; and the authoritative declaration that detention of migrants should be the last resort.

Migrants Rights International remains concerned about the criminalization of migrant communities. Detention heightens xenophobia and false assumptions associated with irregular status. The detention of migrants is a crisis: even as we sit here deliberating, there are hundreds of thousands of migrants in a growing number of detention centres across the world. A large number of these are women, children, and vulnerable migrants. The expanding privatization of detention centres permits rights abuses to evade the surveillance of states. Migrants Rights International recognizes that while the Special Rapporteur talks of alternatives, these alternatives are also only ever a last resort.

Following the Special Rapporteur’s report, we strongly encourage all states in this Council to consider the following policy responses:

Prioritize regularization over detention.

To prevent arbitrary detentions, and to open avenues for irregular migrants to live, work, and access essential services, state policy should include mechanisms for the regularization of all irregular migrants, prior to or following their detention.

Abolish administrative detention for undocumented migrants.

Irregular migration is not a criminal offense and should not be treated so. The prospect of detention and deportation renders migrants vulnerable and exploitable and undermines the realization of their human rights. States should abolish the practice of detaining undocumented migrants.

Migrants Rights International is encouraged by the Special Rapporteur’s recognition of the urgency of this issue in his first report. As a global network, we will continue our efforts to document rights violations that migrants suffer under existing detention regimes, and to encourage states to see freedom as the rule, and detention as the exception for migrants.

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MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

It is guided by a vision of an alternative world system based on respect for human rights and dignity, social justice, and gender equity, particularly for migrant workers.

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