A NEW HUMAN RIGHTS REGIME FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
The unprecedened movement of people across borders, especially toward Europe the last year and months has confronted European citizens and political leaders with fundamental questions on the human rights of refugees and migrants.
Here in the EU we have seen the shameful failure of political leadership and lack of a united policy response.
However, we pay tribute to the solidarity and the welcoming culture which the people form Southern European countries – especially Greece and Italy – have shown towards migrants and refugees. Despite their severe economic crisis, they have been providing inspiring humanitarian rescue and service to the people who reach European borders. As migrant and refugee organizations, we have actively participated in these solidarity actions.
It is a fact, that in the last months we have witnessed the biggest movement of displaced people in Europe since World War II and in addition, we have only scarcly escaped the definite election of the first right-wing head of state in Europe, since World War II (Norbert Hofer, FPÖ in Austria).
Nevertheless, there is no room for racism and xenophobia: we need to see this massive movement of people as part of a bigger global reality, a reality of displaced and dispossessed people which could arise in an era of failed development models for many countries from the global South and a related climate crisis.
The most recent flows of forced migration into Europe – whether from the east via Turkey or from the south across the Mediterranean Sea – are deeply rooted in the wars which some EU member states as well as the USA have waged in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a similar way, the migration from Africa can be seen as a result of the conflicts and the devastating impoverishment that EU trade and investment policies have brought about in countries of Nothern Africa and other regions.
This movement of people can also stand in relation to another contemporary trend, namely the globalization of the economy – a model which requires unprecedented commodification of labour and vast numbers of migrant workers, who are subjected to violations of their basic human and labour rights.
These migrants work in the industrializing parts of the world – the mines in South Africa, the contruction industry in the Middle-East, for instance in Qatar, farm workers in the US and EU, or domestic workers (the vast majority of whom are women), working in the big cities in most regions of the world.
While contributing substantively to the productive economy of the host country, their remittances often sustain their home economies since migrant remittances very often surpass development aid and portfolio investment.
Furthermore, it is NOT Europe taking on the most refugees from Syria, but this is a thought reproduced by medial distortion. A mere 5% are reaching Europe and want to seek shelter here. Since 2011, millions have sought refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where the living conditions have become inhumane, without adequate food or shelter – according to the UN Council for refugees (UNHCR).
Together with the externalization and militarization of its borders, the EU has developed agreements which contribute to keeping most of the migrants from Africa in detention camps in the North while thousands perish during their attempts to cross the Mediterranean. Only some thousands reach the safety of the Greek or Italian coast and often end up in detention camps as well – only to face deportation sooner or later.
While immediate steps are indeed urgently needed to address the humanitarian dimensions of the crisis in Europe and in the camps on Syria’s borders, it is equally necessary to address the global dimensions of the crisis that involve both migrants and refugees.
We as migrant and refugee organizations and communities call on governments:
- To end this false dichotomy in human rights policies being applied to refugees on the one hand, and migrants on the other.
- To provide systems of legal entry across borders, for both migrants and refugees.
- To urgently undertake a fundamental review of refugee and migrantion policies in relation to the frameworks of human and labour rights as established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), UN Refugee Convention (1951), the UN Migrant Convention (1990) and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) and relevant ILO Conventions.
- To move decisively in order to establish universal Binding Agreements, which protect human rights, including labour rights – of both migrants and refugees.
- To put in place a zero tolerance policy of racism, islamophobia and all forms of xenophobia and discrimination.
As migrant and refugee organizations and communities we will work for this transition from a ”Fortress” border approach towards a just international regime of human rights for all.
This will require a convergence of civil society organizations and social movements, as well as parliamentarians prepared to pressure their governments to act decisively – and to finally guarantee equal rights to all its residents.
If you need more information about these matters or if you want to join our organization, please do not hesitate to contact us via e-mail, or on Facebook. Everyone is welcome to supporte and promote our cause.