Ecuador, at UN, calls on European Union to reform migration policies

29 September 2008

Ecuador spoke out against the European Union’s policy on migration during the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate today, stressing the need to protect the right of people to move freely.

“I believe none of the governments represented here is opposed to” free mobility, María Isabel Salvador Crespo, Ecuador’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Integration, said in her address on the final day of the event.

Migration must be in line with international humanitarian law and respect migrants’ human rights, she emphasized.

“There are no illegal human beings, only practices that violate the rights of persons,” Ms. Salvador said, quoting her country’s President Rafael Correa.

As such, “we cannot tolerate the Return Directive issued by the European Union,” she said, referring to the policy seeking to harmonize procedures returning undocumented immigrants across the region.

In June, 10 independent UN human rights experts also voiced their deep concern over the Directive, in particular the clause calling for “excessive” detention for up to 18 months pending removal.

The proposal would also allow countries to detain unaccompanied children, victims of human trafficking, and other vulnerable groups. “Irregular immigrants are not criminals. As a rule they should not be subjected to detention at all,” the experts stressed. “Member States are obliged to explore the availability of alternatives to detention and detention must only be for the shortest possible period of time.”

At UN Headquarters today, the Ecuadorian official said that “emigration and return must both be an expression of freedom.”

Migration is a result of “excluding economic models where the market, the accumulation and selfishness make invisible the true needs of human beings,” she added.

Her country plans to adopt a refugee policy based on the principles of humanism and solidarity to provide assistance to those under Ecuador’s protection, Ms. Salvador said.

International cooperation is essential to help the nation fulfil its commitments regarding refugees. With 200,000 Colombian citizens in need of international protection in Ecuador, she said that “we must not forget that Ecuador is currently the country with the largest number of persons in need of international protection in all the Western Hemisphere.”


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