Tag Archives: Human Rights Council

HRC Adopts Resolution on Migrants and Asylum Seekers Fleeing North Africa; Calls for Inquiry Into Allegations of Failures to Rescue Boats in Distress

The UN Human Rights Council, 17th Session, on Friday, 17 June, adopted a resolution (A/HRC/17/L.13) on Migrants and Asylum Seekers Fleeing from Events in North Africa.  The Resolution recalls states’ obligations under human rights, humanitarian, and refugee law, including the obligation of non-refoulement and called for ships patrolling the Mediterranean Sea to provide assistance to non-seaworthy boats leaving North Africa.

The Resolution also calls for “a comprehensive inquiry into the very troubling allegations that sinking vessels carrying migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the events in North Africa were abandoned to their fate despite the alleged ability of European ships in the vicinity to rescue them, and welcomes the call made by the Council of Europe in this regard on 9 May 2011.”  [NB – this quoted text is taken from a 15 June version of the Resolution and may not reflect the final approved language. frenzen]

The Resolution was adopted by a vote of 32 in favour, 14 against, and no abstentions:

In favour (32): Angola; Argentina; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brazil; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chile; China; Cuba; Djibouti; Ecuador; Gabon; Ghana; Guatemala; Jordan; Kyrgyzstan; Malaysia; Maldives; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mexico; Nigeria; Pakistan; Qatar; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Thailand; Uganda; Uruguay and Zambia.

Against (14): Belgium; France; Hungary; Japan; Norway; Poland; Republic of Korea; Republic of Moldova; Slovakia; Spain; Switzerland; Ukraine; United Kingdom and United States.

Excerpts from the Afternoon 17 June summary of the HRC meeting:

“OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), introducing draft resolution L.13, said the African Group recognized that due to the recent crisis situation in North Africa, migrants had suffered great hardship. Migrants were fleeing, not flowing out of North Africa. People were running away because their lives were at risk. Other root causes for migration did not apply in this case.  This resolution had been difficult to establish. Nigeria thanked all partners for their efforts in developing the draft resolution. The information emanating from North Africa was such that while neighboring countries did quite a lot in accommodating migrants, there were substantial difficulties in traveling from North Africa. Some people had even died at sea. Nigeria took note that some countries did provide assistance through their offices of migration or other mechanisms. The hardship suffered by migrants should be investigated in order to clarify the problems that arose and ensure this situation was not repeated. Nigeria believed that the Special Rapporteur, working with the High Commissioner, would be able to provide information about how to deal with such a situation in the future. The African Group would appreciate if the draft resolution would be approved by consensus.


ANDRAS DEKANY (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before the vote, noted that the European Union had assisted greatly with the humanitarian effort in Libya. From the outset the European Union had been at the forefront of humanitarian response. The European Union had been active in repatriating third country nationals.  This had been vital in reducing the stress on neighboring countries. The draft text was circulated late. The European Union had engaged in a constructive spirit on the text, while retaining a specific focus that would address the issue at stake in a more balanced and legally accurate manner, notably when referring to issues related to refugee law and law of the sea. It noted that this was particularly true with regard to PP7 and operative paragraphs, which introduced new language that was not consistent with public international law. The resolution did not capture the multi-dimensional aspects of the problem. There was no reference to the overall human rights situation in the region, and therefore the root causes of the plight of migrants.  The resolution did not refer to the responsibility of criminal traffickers and continued to characterize the situation in an unbalanced way. The European Union and its Member States had continued to observe the principle of non-refoulement. Not a single refugee had been subjected to refoulement. The European Union called for a vote and noted that it would vote against the resolution.

EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote on L. 13, said the United States shared concern for the migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the violence in Libya. A resolution requiring countries to recognize their obligations under international law and support victims of violence and migrants from Libya was important.  However, this resolution assigned the sole responsibility to countries of destination and avoided reference to the root causes of the problem. The draft resolution used language that misconstrued State obligations and responsibilities regarding those migrants and asylum seekers. The sponsors had delayed introduction of the draft resolution, thus allowing only a restricted period to review and provide comments on the draft resolution. The United States regretted that the manner the resolution was developed belied its importance and sent the wrong message to the Gaddafi forces.”

Click here for UN News Centre summary.

Click here for the AFTERNOON 17 June 2011 summary of the HRC meeting.

Click here or on this link [ L.13 Document As Received ] for Resolution “document as received.”

Click here for Resolution “document as issued.” [NB – this may not be the final approved version.]

Click here  or on this link [ L.13 Oral Revision ] for Resolution “oral revision.”

Click herehere or here for final versions of resolutions when available.  [HRC Extranet registration may be required.]

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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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UPR of Spain Largely Ignores Interdiction and Readmission Practices

Spain was one of 15 countries whose records were reviewed during the 8th session of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group from 3-15 May 2010.  While reference is made to the treatment of asylum seekers and migrants who reach Spanish territory, little attention was directed (at least not in the national report or the Working Group’s Draft report) to the treatment of migrants intercepted at sea before reaching Spanish territory in the Canary Islands or elsewhere.  Likewise little attention was paid to the provisions and implementation of Spain’s several bilateral readmission agreements with various countries such as Senegal.

According to the Draft report, Spain agreed with a general recommendation to “[t]ake all measures necessary to ensure that actions related to unaccompanied minors (migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, victims of trafficking) are in line with international standards.” [Section II, Para. 84(54).]  But Spain did not agree to several more specific recommendations, instead agreeing only to “examine” and “provides responses” to the recommendations no later than September 2010 when the Human Rights Council meets for its 15th session.

Three of the more detailed recommendations were:

  • “Respect fully the principle of non-refoulement and ensure effective access to asylum procedures, taking into account the objectives of UNHCR’s 10-Point Plan on Mixed Migration” (New Zealand);
  • “Undertake a review of its readmission agreements with respect to refugees and asylum-seekers, and amend them as necessary to ensure that they contain human rights guarantees in line with international standards” (Canada); and
  • “Consider access to asylum procedures for victims of trafficking (Costa Rica).

[Section II, Para. 86(28-30).]

Click here for link to UPR site for Spain.

Click here for the Draft report of the Working Group.

Click here for Spain’s national report submitted to the Working Group.

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Filed under Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean, News, OHCHR, Reports, Spain, UNHCR