States must put human rights at the centre of migration policies and debate, UN experts urge

GENEVA (17 December 2019) – States need to place human rights at the core of public policies and debates on migration, and should step up their efforts to combat hate speech, UN human rights experts have stressed in comments marking International Migrants Day on 18 December.

Security concerns are being wrongly used to criminalise migrants and people trying to support them, warned Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, and Can Ünver, who chairs the UN Committee on Migrant Workers.

“At a crucial moment when migration policies are being reviewed in many regions and countries, it is vital that security concerns do not override the human rights of migrants,” the experts said.

“This is especially true for migrants in the most vulnerable situations, including those who are undocumented and irregular. While security can be a legitimate concern and invoked as a justification for limitations to certain human rights, it cannot lead to the criminalisation of migration, or of those who support migrants.

“The protection of everyone’s human rights should remain the main objective of all public policies.”

The experts also urged States to do more to combat hate speech against migrants.

“Hate speech often leads to the stigmatisation and criminalisation of migrants, and has a grave negative impact on the realisation of their human rights,” they said. “It is time for States to step up their measures to combat it.”

The experts said the Global Compact for Migration provided an invaluable opportunity to ensure that the human rights of women, men, girls and boys were respected at all stages of migration.

“It is essential for the Global Compact to be fully implemented, which can only be achieved if States cooperate with each other, with the support of the UN, civil society and other relevant groups. One important objective of the Global Compact that clearly needs more attention is working towards alternatives to immigration detention,” said González Morales and Ünver.

“We need to see full international cooperation, including States working with their regional neighbours, and we also need to see strong action within countries.”

The experts also urged all States to ratify the Convention on Migrant Workers, stressing its complementary role alongside the Global Compact.

“The Global Compact is firmly founded on international human rights norms, in particular the convention,” the experts said. “One of the key aspects of a human rights-based approach to migration is to ensure that gender issues are placed at the heart of policies – so that gender equality is promoted and all the standards, policies and practices that are developed fully take into account the particular situation of migrant women and girls.”


Mr. Felipe González Morales (Chile) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2017 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years. As a Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. He is Professor of International Law at the Diego Portales University, in Santiago, Chile, where he is also the Director of a Master’s programme in International Human Rights Law.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families monitors States parties’ adherence to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The Committee is made up of 14 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of State parties. Learn more with our videos on the Treaty Body system and on the Committee on Migrant Workers.

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