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States and UN discuss recommendations concerning rights of migrants

Representatives of 24 EU Member States participated in a seminar on the recommendations of international human rights mechanisms, organized in Brussels by the Regional Office for Europe of the UN Human Rights office (OHCHR) on 18 and 19 April 2013.

On 20 Apr 2013

The seminar focused on the ways in which the recommendations of the United Nations human rights mechanisms – the Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures, and the Universal Periodic Review – can be used to improve the human rights of migrants. The organizers provided the participants with a catalogue of all of the recommendations made by the human rights mechanisms to EU Member States during the period 2007-2011 in the area of migrants' rights.

"In creating migration policies and in their implementation, States should always remember that migrants are first and foremost human beings with human rights," says Pia Oberoi, OHCHR's Migration Advisor, who was among the Geneva-based experts who addressed the assembled Member States.

Apart from presentations by OHCHR experts, the seminar featured interventions by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau, the European Commission, UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration, the Council of Europe and Amnesty International. Open discussions under the Chatham House Rule enabled the exchange of experiences between Member States - representatives of Governments as well as National Human Rights Institutions - on tackling important issues related to the human rights of migrants. Their examples dealt, amongst other things, with policies aimed at preventing detention of migrant children as well as their separation from families and access of migrants to national health insurance schemes, legal protection of migrant domestic workers and other issues.

"Some of the examples presented at the seminar can be described as good practices and could be used by other States as sources of inspiration," commented Jan Jařab, OHCHR Regional Representative for Europe. "Our aim was to present the area of rights of migrants - one which is often viewed as politically sensitive - as something where practical progress can be made on concrete issues."

Isabelle Carles from the Free University of Brussels presented the results of her new study for OHCHR on the rights of migrant domestic workers, in which she illustrated some of these good practices. She described positive examples from several EU Member States which have created measures aimed at strengthening the situation of migrant domestic workers – for instance by creating incentives for formal employment rather than informal work, by reviewing their contracts, or by creating voucher schemes which allow domestic workers to work for multiple employers, thus reducing the risk of dependency on a single employer. "There are major differences between policies of Member States in various areas of migrant rights, and these differences matter," pointed out Dr Carles.

Several participants noted that the event also provided for a useful exchange and dialogue between representatives from the same State: between Governments and National Human Rights Institutions, or between Ministries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs. UN participants appreciated the possibility of relating substantive issues - those which are described in recommendations of the international human rights mechanisms - to parallel developments in regional systems, such as the policies developed by the European Union and the Council of Europe. Speaking of the international human rights mechanisms UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau stated “It is only by looking at all three mechanisms together, and ensuring effective implementation of recommendations emanating from all of them, that States can effectively make progress and ensure the effective protection of the human rights of migrants within their jurisdiction.