A Global Compact on the rights of migrant persons

“Regulating migration” must stop being equated with impeding or criminalizing migrants. In regional and international forums, we promote alternative models that guarantee their rights.

A Global Compact on migration is being debated at the UN for adoption in 2018. This is happening while hundreds of thousands of people risk their lives to migrate in a context of restrictive policies and border controls that prioritize national security. Although there are countries with laws centered around migrant rights, particularly in South America, the international scenario is generally discouraging. We are one of a diverse array of organizations working to tackle – and change – this reality, on the national front and within international forums.

In Geneva yesterday, UN specialists and representatives of social organizations analyzed strategies for implementing international standards on the rights of migrants and shared the positive experiences we have had at the national level. At this side event that we co-organized during thematic sessions on the Global Compact, four pillars of the Argentine Migration Law were highlighted: equal rights for migrants and citizens, the promotion of migratory regularization, due process, and the principle of non-detention. This legislation inspired similar reforms in Uruguay, Bolivia and, more recently, Brazil. We also discussed local initiatives to support migrants and facilitate their regularization, for instance in the city of São Paulo.

For years CELS has been working in alliance with other organizations to influence international standards and debates. The framework for drafting an unprecedented inter-governmental Global Compact on migration was established in the New York Declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly this past September in a High-Level Summit. Thanks in part to contributions from our organizations, member states made a commitment to review the negative consequences of their migration policies and incorporated regularization into the Global Compact agenda.

However, many aspects of the New York Declaration contradict international human rights standards, such as allowing the detention of minors. It is very important that states recognize that restrictive policies are a structural cause of migratory irregularity and that access to national documentation is essential for the effective exercise of rights. We are still far from this objective.

Along with social actors from Brazil, Chile and Mexico, we have taken our concrete experiences and the standards achieved in the Inter-American Human Rights System to the global debates. In addition to advocacy work with states, we forged a strategic alliance with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and are actively participating in the creation of principles and directives for the protection of migrant persons in situations of vulnerability. We are also collaborating with the office of the UN Special Rapporteurship on the human rights of migrants, which is preparing its own contributions to the process of drafting the Global Compact.

Efforts to focus migration policy on the protection of the human rights of migrants are needed more than ever. And the participation of a broad base of actors with on-the -ground experience and legitimacy at the national level is essential.