Racism and Human Rights

Statement by Human Rights Watch to the First Preparatory Committee for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
Four Areas for International Action

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Racism, Nationality, Statelessness, and the Rights of Citizenship

Racism, Criminal Justice, and Public Administration

Migration and Refugee Flows

Race and Caste

Migration and Refugee Flows

A racist dimension of public policy toward both refugee flows and the treatment of migrant labor may be apparent in formal legal constraints on access, applied differentially to would be migrants or refugees of distinct racial or ethnic origins. The development of a common European policy toward refugees, often described as a 'fortress Europe' policy for its emphasis on exclusion and the deflection of refugee flows to host 'holding' countries outside the European Union, has been characterized in this manner.

A disparity founded on race may also be reflected in the definition of national policies to address a particular domestic crisis regarding migrants or refugees, or in the allocation of resources to address international crises and their attending refugee flows. Migrants or refugees may be either privileged or prejudiced in access to state protection depending on their race, ethnicity, or nationality. This may be most apparent in national policies to induce other states to receive refugees at a distance from their own borders, or even in interning refugees away from their own shores, without regard for treaty obligations or the welfare of those refugees intercepted.

The United Nations General Assembly has expressed special concern for the plight of migrants in its recent resolutions concerning racism. Most recently, in December 1999, it expressed deep concern "that racism and racial discrimination against migrant workers continue to increase," and condemning these forms of intolerance as well as "stereotyping of migrant workers and members of their families." All states were called up "to review and, where necessary, revise their immigration policies with a view to eliminating all discriminatory policies and practices against migrants which are inconsistent with relevant international human rights instruments..."

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