Saving lives of migrants stranded in Southeast Asian waters should remain a priority – UN experts

21 May 2015

A group of United Nations human rights experts today welcomed the Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai leaders’ decision not to pushback asylum seekers arriving in their territorial waters and urged the international community to assist those countries financially to protect the human rights of all migrants.

“This is an important and welcome step forward in recognition of the need to protect the right to life for all, regardless of their status,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on migrants, François Crépeau; on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro; on torture, Juan E. Méndez; and on summary executions, Christof Heyns.

“Saving lives must remain a priority,” the Special Rapporteurs said in a statement.

“Pushbacks conducted against migrants and asylum seekers which may also include victims of trafficking are never a good option. They only end up perpetuating the suffering of children, women and men who are already risking death for a better life,” they added as well.

The independent experts noted that allowing migrants and asylum seekers to disembark reinforces the commitment of these three countries to their international human rights obligations. Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to offer shelter to 7000 asylum seekers and migrants stranded at sea.

“Once rescued, asylum seekers and migrants should be received in open centres offering adequate accommodation facilities and, where necessary, have access to medical care,” they emphasized.

“All those rescued should be individually assessed to establish their protection needs and ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is upheld by the three countries concerned, and that no person is returned to a State, where she or he might be in danger of being subjected to torture,” the experts stressed.

Next month, the UN Special Rapporteur on migrants will present reports on European Union border management and on his visit to Italy and Malta to the UN Human Rights Council. At the same session, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons will present a report on the issues that she intends to focus on in the course of her tenure including further exploration between the link of mixed migration flows and trafficking.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, an independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanism that addresses specific country situations. They do not receive a salary for their work and are independent from any government.

 

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