Category Archives: Human Rights Council

UN Special Rapporteur on HR of Migrants expresses concern over Italy-Libya cooperation on migration

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Prof. François Crépeau, for the past six months has been conducting “a one-year comprehensive study to examine the rights of migrants in the Euro-Mediterranean region, focusing in particular on the management of the external borders of the European Union.”  The Special Rapporteur will present a thematic report on the human rights of migrants at the borders of the European Union to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013.  To date he has concluded official visits to EU offices in Brussels, Tunisia, Turkey, and Italy; a nine-day visit to Greece began on 25 November.  The Special Rapporteur has issued preliminary conclusions at the end of each completed mission.  One common concern is that various actions of the EU and neighbouring countries are resulting in human rights considerations being overshadowed by migration control and security objectives.

At the conclusion of the most recent mission to Italy (30 September – 8 October 2012), the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over Italy’s (and the EU’s) ongoing cooperation with Libya:

“Another matter of paramount importance are the bilateral cooperation agreements negotiated between Italy and its neighbours on the question of migration. Although the EU has negotiated a number of EU wide readmission agreements, the absence of a clear regional framework for such agreements, including a lack of minimum human rights standards, has led to the creation of a number of bilateral readmission agreements between Italy and its neighbours which often do not appear to have human rights at their core.  Of particular concern is the Italy-Libya bilateral cooperation on migration. The 2008 agreement formalised cooperation to strengthen Libya`s capacity to intercept irregular migrants on Libyan territory or territorial waters, even though Libya’s record at effectively protecting the human rights of migrants was poor and reports of human rights abuses of migrants in Libya were frequent. In line with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights pronounced in the Hirsi case that such ‘push-backs’ by Italian authorities towards Libya were not acceptable, the agreement is currently suspended and the Hirsi-defined push-backs appear to have ceased. However, Italy-Libya migration cooperation was recently reinforced through a 2012 processo verbale. This new political framework however, contains very little concrete information on strengthening Libya’s normative framework and institutional capacities regarding the human rights of migrants.”

The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern that the current technical assistance in Search and Rescue capability being provided by Italy to Libya is in effect disguised migration control assistance:

 “Moreover, I have learnt of increased bilateral cooperation between Italian and Libyan authorities regarding search and rescue operations, including the provision of logistical and technical support to Libyan coast guards. Whilst increased search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean is undoubtedly of paramount importance, I have observed that there appears to be a strong focus on strengthening the capacities of the Libyan authorities to intercept migrants hoping to reach Europe, on both their territory and in their territorial waters, and return them to Libya. In this context, I warn EU member states against a progressive ‘externalisation’ of border control. In particular, considering the on-going difficulties of the Libyan authorities and the reports of human rights abuses against migrants on Libyan territory, this migration cooperation with Libya should not lead to any migrant being returned to Libyan shores against their will, either by Italian coast guards or Guardia di Finanza, or by Libyan coast guards with the technical or logistical support of their Italian counterparts.”

While acknowledging the important support provided to Italy by Frontex, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over certain Frontex activities in Italy:

“[  ] I am aware that the key focus of FRONTEX remains information and intelligence gathering. In Italy FRONTEX thus works predominantly with the Guarda di Finanza and the Border Police to combat irregular migration, migrant smuggling and other migration related crimes. I remain concerned that these security objectives still appear to overshadow human rights considerations. For example, I have learned that FRONTEX officers conduct interviews with migrants in Italian detention facilities in order to gather information on their journeys. However these interviews are conducted without any external supervision. It is thus essential that effective human rights standards be integrated into all departments and agencies related to border management.”

The Special Rapporteur made the following “Preliminary Recommendations to the Italian government”:

  • “Ensure that migration cooperation with Libya does not lead to any migrant being returned to Libyan shores against their will, either by Italian authorities, or by Libyan authorities with the technical or logistical support of their Italian counterparts.
  • Prohibit the practice of informal automatic “push-backs” to Greece.
  • Guarantee the full access by international organisations, including UNHCR and IOM, civil society organisations and lawyers to all areas where migrants are held or detained to identify protection concerns
  • Develop a nation-wide regulatory framework, with respect for human rights at its core, for the organisation and management of all migrant detention centres.
  • Develop a simpler and fairer appeal system for expulsion and detention orders that integrates human rights considerations at each procedural step.
  • Develop a speedier identification system, including commencing the identification of foreign inmates whilst in prison, in order to make sure that detention of migrants for identification purposes is limited to the shortest time possible, with a maximum of 6 months.”

Similar concerns were expressed by the Special Rapporteur after his missions to Tunisia and Turkey:

Tunisia, 8 June 2012: “… Nevertheless, I learned that a large majority of regional migration initiatives coming from the EU continue to be focused on issues of border control, and do not consider important issues such as the facilitation of regular migration channels. Thus I encourage the European authorities to develop, in the context of the Migration and Mobility Partnership currently being negotiated, and in conjunction with bilateral agreements of the Member States of the Union, a more nuanced policy of migration cooperation with Tunisia, which moves beyond security issues to develop new initiatives in consultation and in real partnership with Tunisian authorities, which place at their core the respect, protection and promotion of the human rights of migrants….”

Turkey, 29 June 2012:  “… While the EU and Turkey have developed a close cooperation on migration issues, which has led to some notable positive developments, the assistance offered to Turkey regarding migration management appears to focus largely on securitising the borders and decreasing irregular migration to the European common territory through focusing on projects related to the detention and removal of migrants in Turkey and the increased monitoring of the Turkish border. Often neglected from the equation, is an equivalent emphasis on the human rights of those most vulnerable and most affected by the migration process: the migrants themselves….”

The Special Rapporteur will likely issue preliminary observations at the conclusion of the current mission to Greece on or after 3 December.

Click here (Italy), here (Tunisia), and here (Turkey) for the Special Rapporteur’s statements.

Click here for the web site for the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.


Filed under Aegean Sea, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Human Rights Council, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, Statements, Tunisia, Turkey, United Nations

2010 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the HR of Migrants

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (Jorge Bustamante) was released in August over the summer break and I am just seeing it now.  This report was submitted to the General Assembly.  Here is the partial Index:

III. Issue in focus: the impact of the criminalization of migration on the protection and enjoyment of human rights

  • A. The impact of the criminalization on the enjoyment of human rights
  • B. The impact of the criminalization of migration on specific groups
  • C. Examples of good practices and alternatives to the criminalization of irregular migration

IV. Conclusions and recommendations

  • A. A rights-based approach to migration governance
  • B. Decriminalizing and managing irregular migration

[79. States should ensure that their border control and anti-smuggling efforts are carried out in a manner that respects and protects human rights, does not interfere with search and rescue obligations, and does not block access to asylum procedures and the identification of trafficked victims….
81. The detention of children and adolescents through border control measures, such as interception at sea, should be addressed through a child protection approach. Similarly, migration authorities responsible for the mistreatment of children should be held fully accountable.]

C. Preventing ethnic profiling of migrant communities, hate crimes, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

D. Finding alternatives to immigration detention

E. Protecting specific groups

F. Information-sharing, data and analysis

G. Recommendations on international cooperation

The 2008 Report of the Special Rapporteur is also very worthy of note.  The 2008 Report discussed in depth, among other topics, the increased criminalization of irregular migration, the abuses of migrants during the  migration process, the externalization of migration control policies, and violations against irregular migrants pertaining to interception and rescue at sea.

Click here for 2010 Report.

Click here for 2008 Report.

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Concerns Over Italy’s Push-Back Practices in HRC’s UPR Report

The 14th regular session of the Human Rights Council begins on 31 May.   The report of the Working Group on Universal Period Review on Italy will be considered by the Council on 9 June.

The Working Group’s report identifies concerns with Italy’s treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, including whether migrants or asylum-seekers have been transferred to another country without proper assessment of the need for refugee or other protection and whether persons intercepted at sea have access to proper assessment of their asylum claims in accordance with international human rights standards.

Italy’s general response to date has been that “in cases of human trafficking, international law permitted the return of migrants to their countries of origin, unless they were in need of urgent medical assistance and had not expressed the intent to apply for asylum or other forms of international protection.”

Excerpts from the Report of the Working Group:

A. Presentation by the State under review [***]

11. Over the past few years, the country had been exposed to a massive inflow of migrants, which increased by 250 per cent over the last few years, and could, in some instances, affect public order. Italy is at the forefront of efforts to rescue migrants and asylum-seekers on the high seas. It affirmed that, in cases of human trafficking, international law permitted the return of migrants to their countries of origin, unless they were in need of urgent medical assistance and had not expressed the intent to apply for asylum or other forms of international protection. [***]

B. Interactive dialogue and responses by the State under review [***]

52. Italy noted that it had a comprehensive system of asylum and that new arrivals were regularly informed about their right to international protection. With nearly 50 per cent positive responses to all applications made, Italy’s rate of acceptance was above the EU average. Italy once again highlighted its efforts to provide rescue at sea, not only in its own waters, but also beyond. [***]

72. Denmark asked Italy to elaborate on criticism regarding the transfer of migrants and asylum-seekers to another country without proper assessment of the need for refuge and other protection. ***  [***]

76. New Zealand *** requested details on measures taken by Italy to ensure the individual circumstances of each asylum-seeker are genuinely considered. *** [***]

II. Conclusions and/or recommendations

84. The following recommendations will be examined by Italy, which will provide responses in due time, but no later than the fourteenth session of the Human Rights Council: [***]

67. To strengthen efforts to protect asylum-seekers and refugees (Yemen); to continue the implementation of laws on migration and amendments, to ensure that the laws are always fully in line with international standards (Kyrgyzstan); to make additional efforts in work with refugees and migrants (Kyrgyzstan); and to take further steps to ensure the full respect of the fundamental rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees (Sweden);

68. To strengthen cooperation with UNHCR in order to guarantee access to a just procedure in identifying the protection needs of those travelling to or are in Italian territory (Mexico);

69. With regard to the concerns expressed in the Italian-Libyan agreement to prevent ships with immigrants from sailing to Italy, to ensure that intercepted persons have access to proper assessment of their asylum claims in accordance with international human rights standards (Netherlands);

70. To ensure satisfactory asylum procedures for all migrants and asylum seekers rescued at sea (Denmark);

71. To review its legislation and practices, ensuring that they comply fully with the principle of non-refoulement, and to ensure the accountability of persons responsible for any violation thereof (Czech Republic);

72. To take appropriate legislative measures to decriminalize irregular entry and stay in Italy (Brazil); to eliminate the provision criminalizing irregular entry and stay on Italian territory as contained in law No. 94 of 2009, as well as those provisions that regard non-documented status as an aggravating circumstance in the commission of criminal offence, and the creation of vigilante groups, as contained in law No. 125 of 2008 (Mexico); [***]

77. To increase the transparency of arrival and return procedures concerning immigrants and refugees (Japan);

78. To intensify efforts in the resettlement of refugees, especially with regard to the protracted refugee situations identified by UNHCR (Morocco);

79. To ensure the full enjoyment of human rights for those hoping to find a better life in Italy, especially by strengthening structures to guarantee the rights of migrants (Burkina Faso);

80. To strengthen respect for the human rights of migrants, including those in detention centres (Cuba);

81. To repeal all discriminatory laws against irregular migrants and take action to investigate and prosecute discriminatory acts by public and security officials, in particular where racial and religious motives are aggravating factors (Pakistan);

82. To continue close cooperation with countries of origin and transit in finding an effective solution to the problem of illegal immigration (Viet Nam);

83. To continue measures to end trafficking in human beings (Yemen); and to strengthen further its efforts to end trafficking in women and children, and to take effective measures to prosecute and punish trafficking in persons (Canada);

84. To increase measures to identify women and child victims of trafficking effectively in order to provide them with adequate assistance, and to consider not penalizing them for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked (Philippines);

85. To strengthen efforts to combat trafficking in women and children, and to take effective measures to prosecute and punish trafficking in persons, as raised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee against Torture (Japan); and to take effective measures to prosecute and punish trafficking and the exploitation of persons, as recommended by the Committee against Torture (Israel); [***]

Click here for the Report of the WG.

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