Human Rights Watch has appealed to foreign ministers of twenty-seven European, North African, and Middle Eastern states meeting next week to heighten attention paid to the treatment of migrants in Europe.
The Valencia meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is expected to be dominated by discussion of the campaign against terrorism and the Middle East crisis. Regarding the Israel-Palestinian Authority conflict, Human Rights Watch has condemned the pervasive disregard for civilian lives by all parties and repeatedly called on the international community to secure the urgent deployment of independent and impartial international monitors to report on serious and systematic violations of international humanitarian law. (See links below.)
At the same time, in a letter sent to all twenty-seven foreign ministers, Human Rights Watch urged the leaders to address the plight of migrants in Europe.
"Urgent measures to curb the loss of civilian life in the Middle East conflict should certainly top the agenda," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "But the Euro-Med Partners have committed to uphold human rights throughout the region, including in Western Europe, where the exclusion, discrimination, and abuse suffered by migrants are persistent problems. Partner states have a common interest in these issues and should make these meetings a forum for addressing them."
The Human Rights Watch letter details a range of abuses suffered by migrants and asylum seekers, including arbitrary detention; substandard conditions of detention; procedural violations in criminal and administrative law proceedings, and in the asylum system; racial and ethnic discrimination; police abuse; arbitrary and collective expulsions; violations of children's and women's rights; and horrendous abuses of migrants and asylum seekers at the hands of human traffickers, often in complicity with immigration and law enforcement officials in E.U. member or accession states. The letter notes that while many states have justified ever more restrictive approaches to immigration management in light of the September 11 attacks in the United States, many restrictive policies and abusive practices were either already in use or proposed for use before the attacks.
"Governments have a right to control immigration and to guarantee national security, but immigration management is about more than law enforcement," said Andersen. "It also has to reflect the fundamental rights of migrants, no matter what their legal status."
Human Rights Watch monitors the treatment of migrants throughout Europe and has published specific findings on migrants' rights in Spain and Greece. These reports-conveyed to the Euro-Med foreign ministers-include:
Greece: Recommendations Regarding the Draft Law for the "Fight against Trafficking of Human Beings and the Provision of Aid to the Victims of Crimes related to the Financial Exploitation of Sexual Life" (March 2002)
For Human Rights Watch reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
Israel: Allow Access to Jenin Camp (April 2002)