Monday, October 8, 2012

Italy Urges to Prioritize a Human Rights Approach to Migration

Italy must prioritize a human rights approach when dealing with migration, a United Nations independent expert said today, urging the Government to not let security concerns overshadow its border management policy.  The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, made six recommendations to the Italian Government after having spent nine days in the country meeting with Government representatives, civil society and international organizations, as well as many migrants.     
His recommendations address Italy’s management of the European Union’s (EU) external borders, ranging from agreements with Libya and other neighbours, to full access by international organizations to migrants, as well as improving appeal systems to challenge expulsions.    

Italy must 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,”  Mr. Crépeau said, adding that bilateral readmission agreements between Italy and its neighbours must have human rights at their core.  Click here to see the full remarks. 

Mr. Crépeau also stressed that Italy must guarantee the full access by international organizations, civil society organizations and lawyers to areas where migrants are held or detained, noting that, currently, organizations such as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross do not have full access to all detention centres where migrants, many of whom are of Tunisian and Egyptian origin, are held for quick processing and removal.    

Other recommendations by the independent expert include the development of a national framework based on human rights to organize and manage all migration centres, a “simpler and fairer appeal system for expulsion and detention,” and a speedier identification system of foreign inmates to ensure the detention of migrants for identification is limited to the shortest possible time, with a maximum of six months.    

In addition, Mr. Crépeau warned against so-called ‘push-backs’ to countries that are not considered safe for asylum seekers.  “In light of the decision of M.S.S. v Greece, in which the European Court of Human Rights held that Greece was not a safe country of return for asylum seekers, and given the testimony I heard from migrants who transited through Greece regarding extreme xenophobic violence against migrants, Italy should formally prohibit the practice of informal automatic ‘push-backs’ to Greece,” Mr. Crépeau said.     

During his mission, Mr. Crépeau visited three centres of identification and expulsion in Trapani, Bari and Rome. Earlier this year, he visited Brussels, Vienna, Tunisia and Turkey as part of a yearlong study on the management of the EU’s external borders. He will also visit Greece in November. Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. Mr. Crépeau is scheduled to present the results of his study to the Council in June next year.    

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

October 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN Secretary General Tells Governments to Listen to Demands of their People

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged governments – in particular those undergoing transitions in North Africa and the Middle East – to meet the demands of their people and promote economic and social development.  “I have consistently urged leaders to stop flouting human rights and start meeting the legitimate demands of their people,” Mr. Ban said in his keynote address to the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France.  Click here to see a full copy of his statement.  He specifically said that his message was "to leaders around the world, from President Assad of Syria to others who must listen to their citizens before it is too late.” 

According to the website of the event’s organizers, the Council of Europe, the Strasbourg World Forum for Democracy brings together reformers and global leaders to identify democratic responses to the economic, social and political challenges which affect societies today. 

In his speech, Mr. Ban noted that the case of Syria shows how the current democratic transitions have given life to hope and many changes, but have also generated uncertainty and fear. “Success is not guaranteed. It takes time to build democracy. But we must join forces to nurture progress until democracy takes a firm root in all countries around the world,” he said.

More than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 18 months ago. Amidst an escalation in violence over recent weeks, UN agencies now estimate that some 2.5 million Syrians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

“The recent escalation of the conflict along Syrian-Turkish border and the impact of the crisis on Lebanon are extremely dangerous,” Mr. Ban said referring to shelling incidents that took place between the two countries last week. “They show that this is a regional calamity with global ramifications.”

While the situation in Syria has worsened, putting at risk the stability of its neighbours and the entire region, it is still possible to find a political solution to the crisis, the UN chief stated, stressing that militarization only aggravates the situation and puts civilians in danger.  “I call on those who have influence over any side in Syria to exert it to promote a political solution, and empower political leaders, not armed groups or the regime’s military. Our goal is to create the appropriate conditions for a credible political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, and ensure their equal rights and human dignity,” Mr. Ban said.

The Secretary-General reminded the Forum that UN Member States have “clearly defined democracy as a universal value,” and stressed that they must make sure that nations live up to their obligations under international law.  In addition, he stated that democracy is not just about giving citizens a voice, but also about advancing their economic and social development.  “That is why it is so critical to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said, referring to the eight anti-poverty targets which have a completion deadline of 2015. “There has been progress since the Goals were adopted a dozen years ago, but for the mothers of South Sudan and countless others around the world, we have to press for urgent action.”

The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a global partnership for development, all by 2015. 

The Secretary-General has put together a top-level panel advise on the global development agenda beyond the 2015 deadline. In addition its 23 members, the panel is co-chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom.  “Their approach will be participatory. They are seeking the views of development experts and ordinary citizens around the world,” Mr. Ban told the audience in Strasbourg. He added that the United Nations will also continue to foster democracy around the world, promote human rights and help countries make a smooth transition from insecurity to instability.

(adapted from a UN Press Release)

October 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)