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The Human Rights Council should urgently respond to grave human rights violations at international borders

Civil society calls for an appropriate response from the Human Rights Council by establishing an independent international monitoring mechanism to undertake a global investigation into deaths, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights violations faced by people in transit across international borders.

The undersigned civil society organisations and groups write to express our deep concern about policies and practices of migration governance that lead to deaths, torture and other grave human rights violations at and around international borders and to call on the Human Rights Council to take appropriate action by establishing an independent international monitoring mechanism to investigate these violations including root causes of violations in the governance of international migration, and contribute to accountability and redress for victims and their families. 

The Missing Migrants Project recorded 55,980 reported deaths of people in migration worldwide from 2014 to May 2023. This number is widely understood to be a significant underestimate. In some regions migrant deaths have reached record highs. These deaths are often not effectively investigated. 

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants has repeatedly raised serious concerns about abusive and violent border governance tactics, which include state of emergency measures, the legitimization of pushback and pullback practices through the introduction of legislation and government executive orders, inadequate State-led search and rescue operations and obstacles imposed on non-State search and rescue operators. 

As further noted by the former UN Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, many of the migration policies that contribute to deaths and other grave violations of refugee and migrant rights disproportionately affect individuals from certain national origin, ethnic, racial and religious groups. In many cases these policies involve or are built on structural racism. 

The widespread practices of externalization of migration controls by predominantly wealthy countries, who seek to pressure and partner with countries of origin and transit to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from leaving their territories and reaching their borders, also significantly contribute to deaths, torture and other serious violations, particularly against individuals/people of certain national origins, ethnicity, race or religion obstructing their right to leave and to seek asylum through safe routes and forcing people into dangerous journeys. 

The report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants on the human rights impact of pushbacks of migrants on land and at sea (A/HRC/47/ 30) documents a deeply concerning global pattern of routine human rights violations at international borders concluding: 

The practice of “pushbacks” is widespread and exists along most migration routes. Pushbacks manifest an entrenched prejudice against migrants and demonstrate a denial of States’ international obligations to protect the human rights of migrants at international borders.

The depth of concern and worsening situation following this report led the Special Rapporteur to follow up with a report on human rights violations at international borders: trends, prevention and accountability (A/HRC/50/31), in which they concluded: 

that pushbacks remain de facto general policy in many States and continue to seriously impede the enjoyment of the human rights of migrants who cross international borders. The full spectrum of such violations often remains hidden, due to State-led attempts to dismiss or cover up allegations of wrongdoing.

Both reports echo the pattern of human rights violations at international borders that the previous High Commissioners repeatedly drew the Human Rights Council’s attention to. In September 2019 the then High Commissioner used the phrase “lethal disregard” to describe the use of policies and practices that systematically put people’s lives and wellbeing at risk, including children. The work of the Special Rapporteur, the High Commissioner and their Office, and many of the undersigned civil society organisations and groups show that this pattern of violations and abuses is not limited to one corridor or region. 

The serious, systematic and widespread nature of human rights violations and abuses at and around international borders has been reported to the Human Rights Council on multiple occasions in the reports of the Special Rapporteur and has prompted several other Special Procedures to focus reports on migration, including the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders (twice), the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the Working Group on the use of mercenaries. Despite this, grave human rights violations persist unabated and with impunity. 

The Human Rights Council has acknowledged guidance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights including Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders and the Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights of Migrants in Vulnerable Situations. The Human Rights Council has adopted a Presidential Statement on protection at sea (2014) and resolutions on migrants in transit (2015), migrants and refugees in large movements (2016) and situations of vulnerability (2021). The Council also called upon States to “ensure accountability and reparations for human rights violations at borders and to adopt a racial justice approach, including by adopting policies to address structural racism in the management of international migration flows” (2022). 

Despite this, grave human rights violations persist unabated and with impunity. 

A new and stronger response drawing on and complementing the work of the Special Rapporteur is needed. 

In light of the scale, severity, and global nature of this failure to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all regardless of migration status, we call on your governments to ensure an appropriate response from the Human Rights Council by establishing an independent international monitoring mechanism to undertake a global investigation into deaths, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights violations faced by people in transit across international borders including as a result of pushbacks and collective expulsions, and to contribute to accountability and redress for victims and their families. 

This independent monitoring mechanism would contribute to prevention and accountability by reporting on its findings and providing recommendations on robust follow up action at national, regional and international levels including addressing root causes of violations and the role of racial discrimination in the management of international migration, to ensure remedy for victims and to end these practices and the climate of impunity surrounding grave human rights violations at borders and in transit. 

Sincerely,

  1. #MeRepresenta
  2. ACCSS
  3. aditus foundation
  4. African Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders
  5. AfroDiccionario
  6. Agenzia Scalabriniana per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo (ASCS)
  7. Albergue Decanal Guadalupano
  8. Àltera
  9. AMMPO
  10. Amnesty International
  11. AMUMRA Asociacion Civil de Derechos Humanos Mujeres Unidas Migrantes y Refugiadas en Argentina
  12. APDHA Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía
  13. Apna Haq
  14. Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance
  15. ARSIS-Association for the Social Support of Youth
  16. Asamblea Abierta de Migrantes y Promigrantes de TARAPACA
  17. ASGI (Associazione Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione)
  18. Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
  19. Asociación de Familiares de Migrantes Desaparecidos de Guatemala
  20. Asociación Pop No´j
  21. Asociación Tierramatria
  22. Asociación Valiente Bangla
  23. Association of Domestic workers (ADW)
  24. Asylum Access México (AAMX) A.C.
  25. Babel Cay Centre, Athens – GR
  26. BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
  27. Bloque Latinoamericano de Migración
  28. Bondeko Refugee Livelihoods Centre
  29. BORDE
  30. Border Violence Monitoring Network
  31. Borderline Europe
  32. Bridge EU
  33. Bundesweiter Koordinierungskreis gegen Menschenhandel e.V.
  34. Buscando Desaparecidos México BUSCAME
  35. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  36. Care4Calais
  37. CAREF – Comision Argentina para refugiados y migrantes
  38. Casa Arcoíris, Albergue Temporal
  39. Casa de Atención a Desamparados, AC
  40. CCAMYN Centro Comunitario de Atención al Migrante y Necesitado
  41. Center for Conflict Management, Almaty
  42. Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA)
  43. Center for legal aid – Voice in Bulgaria
  44. Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
  45. Centre for Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa
  46. Centro de Atención a la Familia Migrante Indígena (CAFAMI)
  47. Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte
  48. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo SJ” (CSMM)
  49. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  50. Centro de Justicia para la Paz y el Desarrollo A.C (CEPAD)
  51. Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social A.C
  52. Child Circle
  53. Churches´ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME)
  54. Civil Society Action Committee
  55. Climate Refugees
  56. CNCD-11.11.11
  57. Coalición de Derechos Humanos
  58. Colectivo Buscadoras Guanajuato
  59. Colectivo Contra la Tortura y la Impunidad
  60. Comision de Accion Social Menonita CASM
  61. Comisión Internacional Coordinadora Nacional Inmigrantes Chile
  62. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos A.C. (CMDPDH)
  63. Comité de Derechos Humanos de Nuevo Laredo AC
  64. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  65. CompassCollective (Grenzenlos – People in Motion e.V.)
  66. Con Amor y Esperanza Hasta Encontrarles Puebla
  67. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  68. CONFER
  69. Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES)
  70. CONVIVE – Fundación Cepaim
  71. Corporación Colectivo sin Fronteras – Chile
  72. Corporación mujeres Afrodiaspóricas
  73. CUT CHILE
  74. Cyprus Refugee Council
  75. Defence for Children International Greece
  76. Dejusticia
  77. Denise Nuño Lara
  78. Domestic Caretakers Union in Taiwan
  79. Educación contra el racismo A.C.
  80. Emergency ONG Onlus
  81. End Streamline Coalition
  82. Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial (ECAP)
  83. Equipo del Decenio Afrodescendiente – España
  84. EuroMed Rights
  85. European Network Against Racism
  86. European Sex Workers Rights Alliance (ESWA)
  87. Familias de Acapulco en busca de sus desaparecidos A.C
  88. Fe y Alegría Venezuela
  89. Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI)
  90. Forced To Flee
  91. Franciscan Network for Migrants – USA
  92. Franciscans International
  93. Frente Nacional de Inmigrantes
  94. Frontera con Justicia AC [Casa del Migrante Saltillo]
  95. Fundación Alboan
  96. Fundación Construir
  97. Fundación Emet
  98. Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho (FJEDD)
  99. GISTI (Groupe d’information et de soutien des immigré·es)
  100. Global Alliance against Traffic in Women
  101. Global Detention Project
  102. Global Human Rights Society of India
  103. Global Migrant Workers Network
  104. Global Migration Policy Associates (GMPA)
  105. Grans Projectes Solidaris (GPS)
  106. Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
  107. Greek Forum of Refugees
  108. Groundation
  109. Hawai’I Institute for Human Rights
  110. Hermanas de San José de Lyon
  111. HIAS
  112. Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions
  113. Huellas Ancestrales
  114. Human Rights Watch
  115. I Have Rights.
  116. İHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation.
  117. INQUEST
  118. Instituto de Asuntos Culturales, España (IACE)
  119. Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas
  120. Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, AC.
  121. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  122. International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC)
  123. International Commission of Jurists
  124. International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)
  125. International Detention Coalition (IDC)
  126. International Domestic Workers Federation
  127. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  128. International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA)
  129. International Fellowship of Reconciliation
  130. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  131. InterReligious Task Force on Central America
  132. INTERSOS
  133. Irídia – Center for the defense of Human Rights
  134. Irídia-Centro para la Defensa de Derechos Humanos
  135. Ivorian Community of Greece
  136. Jesuit Refugee Service
  137. Jesuit Refugee Service, Ecuador
  138. JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) Belgium
  139. JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) Portugal
  140. Junax Ko’tantik
  141. Justicia y dignidad Cordoba-Orizaba
  142. Justicia y dignidad Veracruz
  143. Kanlungan Filipino Consortium
  144. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
  145. KISA – Equality, Support, Antiracism
  146. La Cimade
  147. Latinas en Poder
  148. Legal Center Lesvos
  149. Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l’homme
  150. Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH)
  151. Louise Michel
  152. Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
  153. Magistrada Ya
  154. Magistrada Ya
  155. Mesa Nacional para las Migraciones en Guatemala (MENAMIG)
  156. Mexiro A.C.
  157. Migrant Voice
  158. Migrant Women Association Malta
  159. Migrants’ Rights Network
  160. Migration Youth & Children Platform
  161. Migreurop
  162. Minority Rights Group International (MRG)
  163. MIREDES Internacional
  164. Mixed Migration Centre
  165. Mobile Info Team
  166. Modeteab
  167. Move Coalition
  168. Movimiento Socio Cultural de trabajadores haitianos’ (MOSCTHA)
  169. National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
  170. National Domestic Women’s Workers Union
  171. National Federation of Technical and Industrial Workers (Bangladesh)
  172. National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  173. New Women Connectors
  174. Observatorio Ciudadano
  175. Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano de Seguridad, Justicia y Legalidad (ONC)
  176. OCDIH
  177. ONG Jeunesse-Enfance-Migration-Developpement (JMED)
  178. ONG Marq’ay
  179. Oxfam Intermón
  180. Oxfam México
  181. PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants)
  182. Politics4Her
  183. Poverty Elimination and Community Education (PEACE) Foundation
  184. PROTECT Union
  185. Public Services International
  186. Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network – QARN
  187. Quaker Council for European Affairs
  188. Quaker United Nations Office
  189. Quakers in Britain
  190. r42-SailAndRescue
  191. Rastreadoras por La Paz de Sinaloa
  192. Red Acoge (España)
  193. Red Franciscana para Migrantes
  194. Red Franciscana para Migrantes, Colombia
  195. Red Jesuíta con Migrantes – Latinoamérica y el Caribe (RJM-LAC)
  196. Red Nacional de Organizaciones Migrantes y promigrantes de Chile
  197. Rede de Mulheres Negras de Pernambuco
  198. Refugee Council of Australia
  199. Refugee Legal Support
  200. Refugee Social Services
  201. Refugee Welfare Association of Cameroon (REWAC)
  202. Refugees in Libya
  203. Refugees International
  204. Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table (R-SEAT)
  205. Reseau Migration Développement Droits Humains (REMIDDH)
  206. ResqShip
  207. Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN)
  208. Sdružení pro integraci a migraci / Association for Integracion and Migration
  209. Sea-Watch
  210. Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, Argentina-Uruguay
  211. Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados – Oficina Regional Latinoamérica y el Caribe
  212. Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados (JRS) México
  213. Sexual Rights Initiative
  214. Sin Fronteras IAP
  215. Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon – Maine
  216. SOS Humanity
  217. Soy Mireya Peart. De scuetdo con la propuesta
  218. SplitSeed Productions
  219. Stichting LOS
  220. Stolen Dreams
  221. Terre des Hommes International Federation
  222. The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem
  223. The Inter African Committee in Norway (IAC Norway)
  224. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  225. The Legal Resources Centre
  226. The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
  227. Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University
  228. Uniendo Cristales A.C.
  229. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
  230. United Domestic Workers of the Philippines (UNITED)
  231. Universidad de la Tierra en Puebla, AC
  232. Voces Mesoamericanas, Acción con Pueblos Migrantes A.C.
  233. Volunteers for Prison Inmates (VPI) Cameroon
  234. We Care
  235. Women in Migration Network (WIMN)
  236. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
  237. World Uyghur Congress
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