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Migrants endure increasing violence and discrimination, says UN rights expert

Migrants endure increasing violence and discrimination, says UN rights expert

Jorge  Bustamante (file photo)
Migrants are increasingly subject to violence and discrimination, from prolonged detention to ill-treatment from authorities, in countries of both destination and transit, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants said today.

Jorge Bustamante told the General Assembly’s third committee (social, humanitarian and cultural issues) that his field visits during the past year have confirmed the rising attacks and other pressures that migrants are enduring.

“I received numerous reports of repeated cases of the detention of non-citizens, many times unlawfully for long periods,” he said in his statement to the committee. “A number of detained migrants suffer from ill-treatment, lack of medical attention, and abuse. Often, they lack access to justice, as many detained migrants are not granted access to lawyers for their defence.”

Professor Bustamante expressed particular concern at migrants who are subject to administrative, rather than judicial, proceedings in transit or destination countries.

“Legal grounds for administrative detention of migrants are often too broad and discretional and time limits are not always legally determined or respected.

“This is often coupled with the absence of automatic mechanisms for judicial or administrative review and with a lack of other procedural safeguards, such as access to interpreters and lawyers and limitations on the right to be informed of the grounds for detention, appeal mechanisms, and the right to have consular or embassy representatives.

“All these elements result in administrative detention that is not subject to control, disproportionate powers being exercised by immigration authorities, and incidents of discrimination and abuse.”

Professor Bustamante also highlighted what he said was an increasing trend of States to launch police raids on private homes in migrant neighbourhoods and arrest anyone who cannot show documents of legal residence.

This leads “to separation of children from their arrested parents, including children born in such countries.”

He noted that for many countries “migration carries with it the spectre of the abuse of national borders – by traffickers and people-smugglers – and prevailing fears about threats to ways of life or standards of living in host communities.”

Yet, rather than focusing on the negative perceptions of migrants, destination countries should also consider the positive contributions that migrant workers and their families provide.