European leaders gathering in Seville next week should make a clear commitment to respect the fundamental human rights of migrants and refugees, Human Rights Watch said today. In a letter to the European Union heads of state, Human Rights Watch urged the E.U. to take immediate steps to ensure that all laws and policies pertaining to immigration and asylum fully comply with regional and international human rights standards.
In a letter to the European Union heads of state, Human Rights Watch urged the E.U. to take immediate steps to ensure that all laws and policies pertaining to immigration and asylum fully comply with regional and international human rights standards.
"Addressing illegal immigration requires more than reinforcing border controls," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "Migrants and refugees are people with fundamental rights who deserve certain protections, whether or not they are entitled to remain in Western Europe."
In the letter, Human Rights Watch detailed its research findings on a range of serious and widespread migrants' rights violations in a number of E.U. member states, including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, and Greece. Five key areas were addressed, including abuses related to immigrant detention; human trafficking; the return of undocumented migrants and rejected asylum seekers; the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children; and refugee protection. The letter identifies how current E.U. policy proposals fail to address and even exacerbate these concerns, and puts forward measures to remedy these gaps.
"Senior E.U. officials must live up to the promises made at the Tampere European Council in 1999," said Andersen. "That meeting reaffirmed the very principles upon which the E.U. was founded - human rights, democratic institutions, and the rule of law. The current treatment of migrants and refugees in Western Europe betrays those principles."
More generally, Human Rights Watch expressed deep concern about the E.U.'s persistent failure to incorporate rights protections into a range of recent legal and policy documents on immigration and asylum, and urged its leaders to uphold human rights.
In its specific recommendations, Human Rights Watch called on the E.U. to:
Include explicit procedural safeguards and guidelines for safe and sanitary conditions of detention - in compliance with regional and international human rights standards - in all immigration and asylum policy proposals that address the issue of immigration detention; and in general refrain from detaining asylum seekers;
Integrate measures for the protection of all victims of trafficking into all of its policy initiatives related to trafficking in human beings;
Take urgent action to ensure that all mechanisms for the return of undocumented migrants and rejected asylum seekers include safeguards against egregious abuses, such as violations of the right to life, the right to seek asylum, the prohibition against refoulement, the right to equal treatment under the law, and the right to be free from discrimination;
Ensure that the rights and special needs of unaccompanied migrant children are enshrined in all immigration and asylum policy proposals;
Honor the commitments made by E.U. member states at Tampere to uphold a full and inclusive application of the Refugee Convention and the fundamental right to seek asylum, and ensure that measures to combat illegal immigration within the E.U. do not undermine international refugee protection standards.
In July 2002, Human Rights Watch will release a report that addresses the arbitrary implementation of the Spanish immigration law. The report details widespread disparate treatment of migrants and asylum seekers depending on point of entry and demonstrates that migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Spain do not enjoy the procedural rights to which they are entitled under regional and international law.