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Stranded migrants need safe and dignified return, says independent UN rights panel

Migrants at a detention centre in the city of Zawiya, Libya.
Photo: Mathieu Galtier/IRIN
Migrants at a detention centre in the city of Zawiya, Libya.

Stranded migrants need safe and dignified return, says independent UN rights panel

Human Rights

Governments should immediately address the inhumane conditions in detention faced by migrant workers who are also being blamed for spreading the coronavirus, a UN panel of independent rights experts said on Thursday.

‘Left to die’

Citing reports of ill-treatment and torture “every single day in detention camps”, the UN Committee on Migrant Workers raised the alarm over facilities in Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and in North African countries, including Libya.

"Migrants, mostly from African and South Asian countries, are regularly scapegoated for the spread of the coronavirus”, the panel said in a statement.

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It also highlighted allegations that inmates do not receive medical treatment and that “some are even left to die".

‘Shocking’ footage

The panel further described as “shocking” video footage published last month showing thousands of African migrant workers locked in cramped and unhygienic camps in Saudi Arabia, with raw sewage spilling across the floor.

As the devastating health and economic effects of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continue, the rights committee explained that migrant workers were more at risk than ever.

They “have no access to clean water, sanity and health care (and are) far more vulnerable than local residents", the Committee said, in a call for the international community to take action.

Help them get home

The independent experts also called on authorities to ensure that those being held can have an orderly, safe and dignified return to their home countries.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee stressed: "It is more important than ever that human rights violations perpetrated against migrants must immediately stop."

It also underlined the Joint Guidance Note on the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Human Rights of Migrants.

"We urge the Governments of host and transit countries to strictly protect the human rights of all migrants and to cooperate without delay with the countries of origin to ensure an orderly, safe and dignified return of stranded migrants into their home countries."

International Convention

The committee monitors States parties’ adherence to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

It’s made up of 14 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity. The Committee’s concluding observations are an independent assessment of States’ compliance with their human rights obligations, under the treaty.