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Bangladesh: Two Rohingyas found in repatriated Bangladeshi boatpeople

16 June 2015 - 7:46pm
Source: Kaladan Press Network Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh: On June 9, two Rohingyas have been found among 150 people, identified as ‘Bangladesh nationals’ who were brought back from Burma after being investigated, according to Detective Branch (DB) of Cox’s Bazar.

They are being detained in the police custody, but people don’t know what kind of action will be taken against the said two Rohingya refugees, according to sources.

Some of the Rohingya boatpeople unwilling to say Rohingya or from Rakhine state because of fear of torture while scrutinizing the Bangladeshi and Burmese, said Ahmed, a local elder quoting a Rohingya migrant.

The two Rohingyas are identified as--- Hamid Hussain (26), a Rohingya refugee from Kutupalong registered camp in Ukhiya, Shed #15, Block- F and Mohammad Idris (19), an unregistered Rohingya from Kututpalong makeshift camp, according to Detective Branch (DB) official said.

When asked a Bangladeshi migrant, he said, “The Burmese authorities severally torture us and they don’t provide us food and medicines on time.”

He also said, “I am very afraid of those boatpeople who have been kept in Taungbro temporally camp because of lacking of enough care.” But, the Rohingyas are forced to say “Bengali” by Burmese authorities while taking list.

The stranded Bangladeshi nationals will be brought to Bangladesh within the next one month who had been rescued from the sea in recent days, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said.

However, we, the Bangladeshi migrants urge the government of Bangladesh and IOM to bring the remaining boatpeople in Burma as early as possible, said another migrant preferring not to be named.

World: Human Rights Council holds clustered interactive dialogue on transnational corporations and trafficking in persons

16 June 2015 - 5:01pm
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Malaysia, Myanmar, World

Human Rights Council

MORNING/MIDDAY

16 June 2015 Concludes Clustered Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights of Migrants and on Minority Issues

The Human Rights Council today held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

Michael K. Addo, Chairperson and Rapporteur of the Working Group on transnational corporations and other businesses, said in opening remarks that global governance frameworks, which were meant to underpin sustainable development, had to be fully in line with international human rights standards. This meant that the United Nations system and especially its Member States should play a key role in ensuring the alignment of business and human rights standards. The year 2015 presented a historic opportunity for setting out the course for a more just, more equitable and more sustainable future for all. It was therefore critical to ensure that recognition of the increased role of business in development was coupled with adequate accountability measures.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, noted in opening remarks that Governments had an obligation to ensure policy coherence between anti-trafficking policies and migration and asylum policies, to exercise due diligence to identify, assist and protect actual and potential victims of trafficking in persons, as well as to provide access to justice and remedies. Victims had to be considered first and foremost rights holders, entitled to assistance and protection regardless of whether perpetrators were identified, investigated or prosecuted. The Special Rapporteur explained that she would pay particular attention to the prevention of trafficking, focusing on trafficking for labour exploitation.

Azerbaijan and Malaysia spoke as concerned countries. The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia also took the floor.

In the ensuing dialogue, speakers stressed that the only way to combat human trafficking was through cooperation and information sharing. They agreed that trafficking not only had a criminal law aspect, but was also closely linked to human dignity and respect and protection of the human rights of victims. The Special Rapporteur’s intention to continue to consult victims and to involve them in discharging the mandate was thus commended. The private sector should also be involved in the combat against trafficking, through the creation of employment opportunities for victims, as social inclusion was a key factor for their successful rehabilitation. Particular concern was voiced over women and girls becoming trafficking victims in the context of conflict and war.

Speakers welcomed the finding of the Working Group that more States were developing national plans based on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It was agreed that transnational corporations had an obligation to include due diligence principle in all their activities in order to improve accountability. The Guiding Principles provided a blueprint for action and it was important to develop national legislation to create conditions for their implementation. The Human Rights Council was asked to elaborate on how the Guiding Principles could be integrated in the post-2015 development agenda, stressing that the issues of transparency, accountability and remedy for human rights abuses linked to business practices were crucial for its implementation.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Addo said that there had been no formal response from the President of the World Bank to the letter which he and other mandate holders had written. It was hoped that before the Summit on Sustainable Development Goals, States would be able to embed the Guiding Principles in their proposals. It was important to recognize the rule of businesses, and it was time the Governments took leadership and provided guidance to other stakeholders, including businesses. Mr. Addo stressed that 2015 should not be lost as an opportunity to embed the human rights agenda in the major documents, which were to be adopted this year.

The interactive dialogue on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and on trafficking in persons will resume at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 17 June, to hear from a number of non-governmental organizations as well as the concluding remarks by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons.

States and organizations participating in the dialogue were: European Union, Belarus, Algeria, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Norway on behalf of Argentina, Ghana, Russia and Norway, Switzerland, Republic of Moldova, Council of Europe, Paraguay, Israel, China, Ireland, Uruguay, Italy, Belgium, Namibia, France, Iran, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Spain, Australia, Greece, Sierra Leone, Cuba, Mexico, Tunisia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Venezuela, Indonesia, Netherlands, Ghana, United States, Ecuador, Philippines, Austria, Sudan, Tajikistan, International Organization for Migration, Portugal, Nigeria, Angola, Estonia, Botswana, Chile, Chad, Iraq, Honduras, Morocco, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Fiji, Djibouti, Armenia, Egypt, Myanmar, Madagascar, Panama, El Salvador, and Bolivia.

Also taking the floor was the International Coordinating Committee of the National Human Rights Institutions, and Korea Centre for United Nations Human Rights Policy

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, and with the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák, which started on Monday, 15 June, in the evening and can been seen here. Speakers stressed the need for a concerted approach by the international community in dealing with the issue of irregular migration, which should be part of broader south-north cooperation. Respect for the human rights of migrants should be part of a global policy and appropriate measures, including the reform of border management policies, should be adopted to tackle the deeply rooted causes of migratory movements. As for the rights of Roma, speakers warned of low life expectancy rates among Roma, of local government decrees that were restricting the free choice of residence for Roma, and of the unfeasibility of the living conditions and vulnerability of Roma inhabitants living in segregated areas.

In concluding remarks, François Crépeau, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, noted that there was a need to distinguish between trafficking and smuggling. Smuggling was a mobility service that was not always a human rights violation, unlike trafficking. Governments needed to stop traffickers by outsmarting them and taking over their mobility market. At the same time, they should consider detention as the measure of last resort, especially in the case of children.

Rita Izsák, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, warned that the lack of mechanisms and institutions responsible for Roma could indeed push the Roma issue aside. States therefore had an obligation to adopt relevant short- and long-term policies in order to create conditions for the integration of Roma in society, which had considerable economic benefits, as shown by studies. Ms. Izsák also urged the United Nations to include more Roma staff in their teams in order to better assess their needs.

Speaking during the interactive dialogue were: Iran, Honduras, Latvia, Gabon, Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Congo, Morocco, Angola, South Africa, Ghana, United States, Slovakia, Malta, Benin, Nigeria, Hungary, El Salvador, Djibouti, Panama and Philippines.

The following national human rights institutions and civil society organizations also took the floor: Commissioner for Fundamental Rights of Hungary, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Conectas Diretos Humanos, Minority Rights Group, Save the Children International, Franciscans International, Edmund Rice International, Terre des Hommes Federation Internationale Lutheran World Federation, Jubilee Campaign, and Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. At 3 p.m., it will hold a panel discussion on realizing the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the Human Rights of Migrants and on Minority Issues

Iran called on European countries to address the death of migrants in the Mediterranean as a multi-dimensional and humanitarian issue and undertake all required measures. On Roma, Europe should take more concrete steps to implement the recommendations in the report and ensure political will to do so. Honduras agreed that the right to participate in all spheres of society was the basis for breaking cycles of stigma and discrimination. Irregular migration was not a crime, it was a global phenomenon, which, when properly managed, provided benefits to the countries of origin and destination. Latvia said May 2015 saw the introduction of the European Agenda on Migration, which tripled the capacity and assets for Frontex joint operations, as well as introduced an Action Plan against Migrant Smuggling and Guidelines on Fingerprinting. Gabon said that it had been affected by illegal migration for decades. This phenomenon provided fertile ground for trafficking. Gabon had adopted many measures, including the creation of retention centres since 2010 in order to provide migrants with better conditions.

Egypt said migration had become more and more connected to hiring workers across borders, and should not be seen only as a result of humanitarian situations. The current situation had led to a negative opinion of migrants, and this had to be addressed. Bangladesh shared the concern that human rights issues related to migrants still persisted, and underlined the need to recognize that the issue of migrants went beyond the death of migrants at sea. One important element of action was advancing the socio-economic situation of migrants. Syria said illegal migration was on the rise in countries that sought to manage their borders, and said international stability required collective action. Migration was tied to terrorism and trafficking. It was important to address the root causes of this phenomenon. Republic of Congo said the current mass migration from the developing world deserved attention, and underlined the necessity for a coordinated global response to its root causes, which meant giving the right to development greater attention. The Republic of Congo also called for the better treatment of migrants.

Morocco noted that the international community had to act responsibly and tackle the criminal networks that smuggled migrants. The management of migratory flows in the Mediterranean should be part of the north-south cooperation, based on solidarity and shared responsibility. Angola said the migration problem was a global concern, which required the attention of the international community. Respect for the human rights of migrants should be part of a global policy and appropriate measures should be adopted to tackle the deeply rooted causes of migratory movements. South Africa said that migration was not a choice, but a reality exacerbated by various factors. The increasing number of migrants who perished in the Mediterranean Sea demonstrated that the root causes of migration required greater comprehension by the international community. Ghana noted that every country had to ensure that migrants were treated as regular citizens, and should not be removed arbitrarily from the host country. As for minority issues, it was the duty of States to protect minorities from discrimination.

United States thanked the Special Rapporteurs for their reports and remarks and welcomed the opportunity to discuss Romani issues in the United Nations, which were priorities for the United States. The United States was committed to the inclusion of all Roma people, wherever they called home. Slovakia stated that the situation of Roma was a long-term priority for the Slovak Government. Further efforts were required, but there were positive examples in the housing, health, and employment sectors. Sovereign Military Order of Malta supported the protection of human rights, especially the right to life and to human dignity, of migrants in all situations and welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. Benin said that the tragedy of lives lost at sea that was seen on television was unbearable. The numbers had been growing on a daily basis over the last few months. Benin believed that urgent action was needed, nationally, regionally, and internationally.

Nigeria remained concerned about the deaths of migrants at sea, and noted with appreciation recent initiatives by the European Union on this issue, while stressing that more remained to be done. Nigeria urged all States to treat all Roma people with a sense of equality and fairness. Hungary said Roma populations faced severe discrimination and stigmatization in many regions, and underlined the crucial role of education on Roma culture and of improving their social integration. Hungary presented a series of domestic measures in that regard. El Salvador said international migration was a global issue that required long-term, effective and sustainable solutions. El Salvador was particularly concerned about the protection of migrants, particularly women and children. A balanced approach recognizing the responsibilities of countries of origin, destination and transit was needed. Djibouti was particularly concerned about the increased human rights abuses against migrants, including xenophobia against migrants. This needed to be combatted through coherent measures and inclusiveness.

Panama reiterated its appeal to States to implement policies that guaranteed the rights of migrants because they had the right to fully enjoy their rights just like any other citizen. Philippines welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s call that the European Union review its border management policies. A consistent and comprehensive approach to the management of borders was key, and the Philippines called on the European Union to seriously consider the Rapporteur’s proposal.

Commissioner for Fundamental Rights of Hungary shared findings on the human rights situation of Roma worldwide, which also dealt with the issue of local government decrees restricting the free choice of residence for Roma, and the unfeasibility of the living conditions and vulnerability of Roma inhabitants who lived in segregated areas. Equality and Human Rights Commission, in a joint statement, said that Roma had some of the worst outcomes of any group across a number of social indicators. In the United Kingdom they were 20 times more likely to suffer the death of a child, and their suicide rate was three times higher than that of the rest of the population.

Conectas Diretos Humanos, in a joint statement, said that two major challenges remained in Brazil, the first being the immigration law which was from the military dictatorship era. The second challenge was that migrants retained in airport facilities were denied due process of law. Minority Rights Group had long been documenting the Roma situation in all parts of the world and agreed with the report that underlined the vicious cycle of discrimination that Roma faced. The challenges facing Roma were interrelated and mutually reinforcing. An integrated approach to their resolution, including Roma participation, was crucial. Save the Children said that while welcoming the European Union’s commitment and the Frontex operations Triton and Poseidon, a rights framework had to go beyond rescue and protection at sea. The fight against smuggling and trafficking should not take precedence over humanitarian assistance. Franciscans International, in a joint statement, expressed deep concern for the human rights situation of Rohingya migrants from Myanmar and other migrant groups from Bangladesh who tried to reach Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. An estimated 200,000 Rohingya had sought refuge in Bangladesh, and several thousand remained at sea.

Edmund Rice International, in a joint statement, expressed concerns about the situation of asylum seekers in Australia, and in particular about children held in detention facilities. Terre des Hommes Federation Internationale called for a specific set of measures tackling the specific vulnerability and needs of children and young migrants in Europe, and called on European States to accept that they had a shared responsibility vis à vis migration. Lutheran World Federation called for the enhancement of knowledge on Roma culture and history, including during Holocaust remembrance events, and asked what role faith-based organizations could play to address this issue. Jubilee Campaign raised concern about the lack of willingness of some countries to provide asylum to refugees from Eritrea, despite large-scale human rights violations and crimes against humanity there.

Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants noted that the great number of perished migrants in the Mediterranean proved that the international community lacked systematic and comprehensive policies that would manage migratory flows. Iran was urged to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of Migrants, and to improve conditions for minorities, in particular Roma.

Concluding Remarks

FRANÇOIS CRÉPEAU, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, in concluding remarks noted that migration was not a tragic event itself, but that it should be considered as a dignity searching journey. As for the distinction between economic migrants and asylum seekers, he stressed that both groups deserved a do-no-harm approach. More importantly, there was a need to distinguish between trafficking and smuggling. Smuggling was a mobility service that was not always a human rights violation, unlike trafficking. In the Mediterranean Sea the world was witnessing the cases of smuggling, which actually saved lives. Governments needed to stop traffickers by outsmarting them and taking over their mobility market. Detention should be considered as the measure of last resort, especially in the case of vulnerable groups such as children. The debate on the root causes of irregular migration was important, including insufficient economic development and joblessness, leading to immediate mobility solutions. However, the most directly impacted people should be associated with relevant policies. Governments had to exercise political and moral leadership to create favourable conditions for integration and diversity, and to foster the participation of migrants in all aspects of social life. Migrants should not be stuck in the global south, away from the eyes of the north. The international community had to develop economies, collaborate in fighting trafficking, develop alternative mobility and migration options, and raise awareness on the dangers of irregular migration. Governments should work with private actors to allow for better labour rights of migrants. Mobility had to be facilitated in order to avoid underground employment, promote ethical recruitment practices, and allow migrants to organize themselves to defend their rights.

RITA IZSÁK, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, in concluding remarks underlined that it was worrisome that the protection of minorities depended on individual political will. The integration of minorities was well established in various international covenants, but it was also a matter of good governance. There were economic benefits for the integration of Roma in society, as shown by studies. Good policies and strategies required reliable information on the desires and challenges of the affected population, which could be easily acquired. The adoption of relevant measures and policies had to be an obligation of States, with short- and long-term plans in place. Ms. Izsák warned that if there were no mechanisms and institutions responsible for Roma, the Roma issue would indeed be pushed aside, so there should be monitoring and accountability of the ongoing Roma-related projects and programmes. Very often they did not function well because of the lack of trust, as Roma did not have a state of their own and were very heavily stigmatized. National political parties needed to reinforce messages of democracy and tolerance, as grass-root communities were often completely exposed to negative actions of local political leaders. In order to allow for better implementation of Roma-related policies globally, the United Nations was urged to include more Roma staff in their teams in order to better assess their needs.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (A/HRC/29/28)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on the Mission to Azerbaijan (A/HRC/29/28/Add.1)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises on the African Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights (A/HRC/29/28/Add.2)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises concerning identifying emerging approaches and lessons learned in corporate respect for human rights: reflections from discussions held at the 2014 Forum on Business and Human Rights (A/HRC/29/28/Add.3)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (A/HRC/29/28/Add.4)

The Council has before it Note by the Secretariat on the Summary of discussions of the Forum on Business and Human Rights (A/HRC/29/29)

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (A/HRC/29/38)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children on the Mission to Malaysia (A/HRC/29/38/Add.1)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children on the Second consultative meeting on strengthening partnerships with national rapporteurs on trafficking in persons and equivalent mechanisms (A/HRC/29/38/Add.2)

Presentation of Reports by the Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons

MICHAEL K. ADDO, Chairperson of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, presented the main report of the Working Group and three addendum reports which included observations and recommendations from a country visit to Azerbaijan in August 2014; the report of the African Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights held in September 2014; and a report reflecting examples of practical experiences presented during the annual Forum on Business and Human Rights in December. The main report sought to identify opportunities to strengthen accountability and coherence in global frameworks in support of sustainable development in the coming decades. Global governance frameworks meant to underpin sustainable development had to be fully in line with international human rights standards. This meant ensuring alignment with standards on business and human rights. The United Nations system and especially its Member States had a key role to play in ensuring such alignment given the fact that many key processes were Member State driven. The year 2015 presented a historic opportunity for setting out the course for a more just, more equitable and more sustainable future for all.

Two fundamental aspects were critical in this regard. Firstly, ensuring accountability for actors that had the capacity to affect sustainable development; and secondly, ensuring that frameworks and policies at all levels were aligned with international human rights standards. The emerging post-2015 framework recognized the positive role of businesses in the development process but not so much that business activities could also negatively affect the enjoyment of human rights. It was therefore critical to ensure that recognition of the increased role of business in development was coupled with adequate accountability measures. Achieving effective accountability would require coordinated and conversing approaches across global governance frameworks with a “business nexus” to ensure alignment with human rights standards. A unique opportunity for achieving such alignment was provided by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that were unanimously endorsed by the Council in 2011. The report identified efforts within the United Nations system that contributed towards scaling up implementation of the Guiding Principles. The United Nations as a whole was lagging behind many other actors in advancing the Guiding Principles. The most fundamental challenge addressed in the report was that of achieving policy coherence by States, especially in the context of State-driven processes at the United Nations. The Working Group hoped that the Guiding Principles would be adequately reflected in the final commitments by States.

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, presenting her thematic priorities for her mandate, said one of the priorities of her mandate was first of all the link between trafficking and migration and the link between conflict, post conflict and crisis situations and trafficking. A realistic approach suggested that all migrants were trafficked, although a significant number of migrants were not recognized as such by national authorities. Moreover, a much greater portion of migrants were at risk of trafficking as a consequence of conflict, human rights violations or poverty. Trafficking in persons was an umbrella concept that encompassed different forms of human rights violations. The key element was exploitation because of social vulnerability. Increasingly restrictive immigration policies, insufficient channels for regular migration and lack of regular access to labour markets for migrants contributed to an increase in their exploitation. Governments had an obligation to ensure policy coherence between anti-trafficking policies and migration and asylum policies, to exercise due diligence to identify, assist and protect actual and potential victims of trafficking in persons as well as to provide access to justice and remedies.

The Special Rapporteur also explained that during her mandate, she would pay particular attention to the prevention of trafficking, with a particular focus on trafficking for labour exploitation. She would adopt an inclusive and holistic approach to preventing and combatting trafficking through addressing the root causes of vulnerability. In addition, she intended to analyse laws, policies and practices around the world and take stock of promising practices and lessons learned on assistance to victims of trafficking. Victims had to be considered first and foremost rights holders, entitled to assistance and protection regardless of whether perpetrators were identified, investigated or prosecuted. She expressed her commitment to closely engage with all stakeholders, including civil society organizations and the private sector, to address trafficking effectively. With regard to her recent visit to Malaysia, the Special Rapporteur welcomed the Government’s commitment to combat trafficking , and pointed at remaining challenges, including the focus on sexual trafficking and the neglect of other forms of exploitation and the restrictive national immigration policy focused on rapid deportation of irregular migrants.

Statements by Concerned Countries Azerbaijan, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations for its visit, adding that it did not agree with all of its findings but it appreciated its recommendations. There were a number of laws and programmes adopted in Azerbaijan, including the 2022 National Action Plan for the protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms, which was in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The National Plan looked to promote better working conditions and equal opportunities, especially for women, to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth. However, the country faced difficulties in resolving the situation facing internally displaced persons and refugees as the result of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The unresolved conflict presented one of the greatest challenges for Azerbaijan. It was noted that representatives of civil society organizations had their rights and freedoms guaranteed. Only persons suspected of having committed crimes could be subjected to criminal investigations. The development of civil society was in the country’s focus. Nevertheless, financial discipline and transparency in the activities of civil society organizations had to be enforced in line with relevant regulations, in order to prevent the financing of terrorism.

Malaysia, speaking as a concerned country, expressed full commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights. The Government would duly consider the report of the Special Rapporteur and all its recommendations. Trafficking of persons was a real threat to the full enjoyment of human rights and it required extensive coordination of all government bodies. The Government had thus promoted the anti-trafficking national body to ministerial level. It had also promulgated amendments to the anti-trafficking act of 2007, and undertaken measures that involved domestic and international cooperation. The Government acknowledged the challenge to make the mechanism more effective, especially in relation to the link between migration and labour processes. The newly proposed amendment would allow for greater participation of non-governmental organizations and trafficking victims in the development of relevant policies, and it would provide for better movement of victims.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia said that the Government’s work on anti-trafficking in persons and anti-smuggling was commendable. Over 100 grave sites were a testament of the gravity of the human trafficking situation in the country. The interrelatedness of migrant smuggling and human trafficking had to be recognized. Underlying issues also had to be recognized, namely on the status of the Rohingya.

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons

European Union stressed the need to expedite the implementation of the Guiding Principles and provide justice to those suffering from human rights violations. It inquired whether the Working Group had found a better way to measure implementation of the Guiding Principles. On trafficking, the European Union had built a comprehensive and far-seeking legal and policy framework to tackle it. Belarus, speaking on behalf of the Geneva Group of Friends United Against Human Trafficking, agreed with the report which stressed the complex and interrelated problem of human trafficking, and which highlighted the importance of the three-step action plan of prevention, prosecution, and protection of victims. Algeria, on behalf of the African Group, said that the rising role of corporations in social and economic development meant that there had to be more accountability. The African Group had made the fight against people trafficking a priority on its agenda. Pakistan said extraterritorial accountability remained a serious challenge for the implementation of the Guiding Principles. Pakistan did not believe in a one size fits all resolution.

Norway, speaking on behalf of Argentina, Ghana, Russia and Norway, welcomed the growing number of companies taking steps to implement the Guiding Principles, and the development of national action plans for their implementation by several States. The need for the application of human rights in the business sphere was still enormous and needed to be closed. Switzerland shared the analysis of the continuing gaps in translating States' political commitment to the Guiding Principles into true protection of human rights on a global level. Switzerland believed that it was vital to develop new methods of fighting trafficking in persons in crisis and for this the role of the Special Rapporteur was indispensable. Republic of Moldova concurred that the protection of victims of trafficking was not dependent on their cooperation with criminal justice and asked about the research on new and emerging forms of trafficking, particularly in crises. Council of Europe said that the Group of Experts against Trafficking in Human Beings, in charge of reviewing the implementation of the Anti-Trafficking Convention, had found that many victims of trafficking in Europe were migrants and that trafficking for purposes of labour exploitation was on the rise.

Paraguay shared the Special Rapporteur’s view that human trafficking was a serious issue, and asked whether synergies with other working groups could be established in order to address this issue. Paraguay had prepared a law that would punish persons for any form of trafficking and would hand down stricter sentences for the trafficking of children. Israel stressed that the only way to combat trafficking was through cooperation and information sharing. The private sector should also be involved, for example in creating employment opportunities for victims of trafficking. Social inclusion was a key factor for the successful rehabilitation for trafficking victims. China said it paid great attention to corporate social responsibility and that it actively encouraged adequate institutional and legislative building. It suggested that developed countries should provide assistance to developing countries in order to promote corporal social responsibility. Ireland strongly welcomed the finding of the Working Group that more States were developing national plans based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Ireland was in the advanced stage of developing its own national plan.

Uruguay said it had opened fruitful channels of communication with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons and had improved data collection which allowed it to better understand the problems in the country, and was currently drafting a national action plan to combat trafficking in persons. Italy said it had been at the forefront of fighting trafficking in persons since 1998 and asked the Special Rapporteur how to prevent trafficking in persons in all its forms. Italy also asked about the impact of the Guiding Principles on the post-2015 development agenda and the involvement of small and medium enterprises in the discussions on business guiding principles. Belgium said it was finalizing its third National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings and asked the Special Rapporteur about cooperation between regional organizations, particularly the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Namibia said that there was a massive lack of awareness of the Guiding Principles and lack of action or active implementation at actual operating levels by transnational corporations and other business enterprises, as well as States. Quite a number of developing States with weaker legal systems lacked the full capacity to do so, which called for greater efforts and targeted capacity building.

France said it had an action plan in place to put the Guiding Principles in practice and supported the project “Responsibility and reparation” launched by the High Commissioner in November 2014. In order to put an end to the tragic situation with Mediterranean migrants today, root causes in the countries of origin and transit had to be addressed. Iran said that the root causes of the recent trends of trafficking could be found in armed conflict, humanitarian crises, poverty, and lack of access to health care and racial discrimination. The current international system was failing in integrating human rights in the areas of trade and economic governance. Qatar believed that a national, open-ended working group on human rights was trying to raise awareness of the importance of protecting human rights in business. Qatar stressed the continued importance it attached to that subject. The best interests of children ought to be taken into consideration when addressing trafficking of persons. United Arab Emirates stated that there were large numbers of workers with contracts in the country. In order to fight trafficking, the multi-faceted approach by the United Arab Emirates included prevention, pursuing legal processes, punishment, protecting the victims and enhancing international cooperation.

Germany said that trafficking not only had a criminal law aspect, but was also closely linked to human dignity and the respect and protection of the human rights of victims. It commended the Special Rapporteur’s intention to continue to consult victims and to involve them in discharging the mandate. Spain reiterated its commitment to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and asked how the Human Rights Council could help integrate those principles in the post-2015 development agenda. It also shared concern over women and girls becoming trafficking victims in the context of conflict and war. Australia regarded the trafficking of persons as a serious crime and grave abuse of human rights. Its National Action Plan provided a strategic framework for its ongoing response to human trafficking, and the country would continue to provide holistic and victim centred support. Greece fully supported the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and human rights, and aimed to develop solid practices of corporate responsibility. As for trafficking, it attached great importance to the issue of identification, protection and support for victims in various forms.

Sierra Leone believed that transnational corporations had an obligation to include the due diligence principle in all their activities in order to improve accountability. The Guiding Principles provided a blueprint for action and it was important to develop national legislation to create conditions for their implementation. Cuba shared the concern about difficulties in making progress on access to reparations for victims of human rights violations linked to business practices and therefore the legally binding instrument on corporations and human rights was needed. Cuba had a zero tolerance policy towards the crime of trafficking in persons and had put accent to punishing perpetrators and providing protection to victims. Mexico was currently examining how to extend public policies on corporations and human rights and believed that the issues of transparency, accountability and remedy for human rights abuses linked to business practices were crucial for the implementation of the Guiding Principles. Tunisia agreed that the Guiding Principles were increasingly held as international standards and regretted that major organizations paid little or no attention to the Guiding Principles. Tunisia had presented a bill on combatting treaty bodies which included the major pillars of the national strategy on the subject and stipulated the creation of a body to combat trafficking in persons.

South Africa firmly believed that the international community could not remain complacent with a situation, whereby corporate social responsibility initiatives which were voluntary became the norm. In fighting trafficking in persons, more work needed to be done on prevention. Saudi Arabia said that Islamic law prohibited trafficking in persons. Saudi Arabia had signed additional protocols to the Palermo Convention, which prohibited all forms of trafficking and removal of organs, inter alia. Algeria said it supported the preventive approaches in fighting the scourge of trafficking in persons. All countries in all regions were affected by that phenomenon. Algeria, as a transit country, had taken steps to stop kidnappings of children and trafficking in organs.

Response

MICHAEL K. ADDO, Chairperson and Rapporteur of the Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Businesses, commended national Governments for their efforts to implement the Guiding Principles. As for the issue of measuring the implementation of the Guiding Principles, he said that common benchmarks and indicators had to be established to that end. Addressing the question on whether the Guiding Principles were binding, he explained that all of those obligations were drawn from legally binding treaty obligations. Businesses would ensure through due diligence avoidance of human rights violations. In that sense it was expected that States would come up with laws and regulations that would require businesses to uphold human rights. The entire Guiding Principles, however, could not be claimed to be entirely legally binding. The Working Group was already engaged with a number of specialized agencies, and it intended at its session in September 2015 to arrange meetings with parts of the United Nations to expand its working relationships. The Working Group was focused on the post-2015 development agenda, where the United Nations Development Programme would play an important role in embedding human rights in all development programmes. It was willing to work with relevant inter-governmental groups.

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said that all Governments should be aware that anti-trafficking actions could result in further violations of the human rights of victims and that the practice of closed shelters should be abandoned. The practice of pushing back people was contrary to international obligations of States and it denied the possibility to victims of trafficking to claim benefits as victims. No country could deal with the issue of mixed migration flows individually and international cooperation in this regard was absolutely necessary. From the existing reports it was known that trafficking was always a systemic component of crisis situations: people were trafficked out of conflict areas in search for safety but due to extreme vulnerability it was easy to fall prey to traffickers. There were also cases of people being trafficked into conflict areas, for example for purposes of labour exploitation in a slavery-like manner. Women and girls were kidnapped by the Islamic State and Boko Haram, and were probably sold in prostitution or given as wives to fighters. Children were enlisted in armed groups, and early and forced marriages were means to traffic girls and make money. It was also known that armed groups in border areas made money by selling minors and women.

In terms of next steps, it was essential first to validate information and build a solid information background; to determine vulnerability profiles in conflict and post-conflict situations and natural disasters; and to give guidance to field operations and Governments to better deal with trafficking by adopting a genuine human rights based approach. In terms of prevention, it must be borne in mind that trafficking for sexual exploitation was different from other forms of trafficking, in terms of actors, methods and stakeholders. There was a need to build on existing efforts and institutions and construct more ample lists of anti-trafficking actions. There were three key issues concerning the role of transnational corporations in anti-trafficking: how to involve transnational corporations in an effective action to implement existing codes of conduct and self-regulatory instruments; how to involve small and medium enterprises; and the role of the State in encouraging businesses to take action in this field.

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons

Venezuela shared concerns on the process of making remedies accessible to the victims of trafficking. Victims should be involved in the meetings of the Working Group. Venezuela believed that it was urgently needed to address trafficking in persons in cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms, with the human rights of victims in the forefront. Indonesia said that trafficking in persons could not be examined in isolation from the broader socio-economic realities that were driving it. The underlying causes ought to be addressed in parallel with concerted efforts to combat trafficking. Indonesia stressed that adequate focus should be placed on prevention aspects. Netherlands said that business and human rights was a priority of its human rights policy. It was essential for national governments to take ownership and responsibility for that topic, which was why the Netherlands had been one of the first in the world to adopt a National Action Plan for the implementation of the Guiding Principles. Ghana supported strengthening a legal regime for effective legal remedies for victims of grave human rights abuses. When there were violations affecting the environment such as water bodies, Governments had to intervene to ensure that the affected communities obtained effective remedies. Ghana viewed trafficking as a form of slavery.

United States noted its continued support for the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, but remained concerned that the issue was being addressed by an intergovernmental working group which would unduly polarize the issue. Greater global attention was needed to address the forced labour side of human trafficking. Ecuador said it had specific programmes for combatting trafficking and smuggling, including support for victims. Exploitation relating to sexual exploitation, forced marriage and begging were all covered in the Ecuadorian justice system. Philippines welcomed the Special Rapporteur on human trafficking’s identified priorities and focus on women and children. Human trafficking required concerted action by the entire international community. Austria underlined the importance of access to effective remedy for victims of trafficking, and asked for advice on how to build migration policies that properly addressed and prevented trafficking. Sudan said trafficking in persons transcended barriers and borders, and pointed to the importance of regional and trans-regional cooperation. Sudan asked the Special Rapporteur what role she could play to protect victims.

Tajikistan was targeting measures to prevent and combat trafficking in persons. The labour services were conducting assessment of illegal employment, including that of minors. Laws had been adopted to cut activities of transnational organized crime, which was why Tajikistan had been taken off the list of affected countries. International Organization for Migration considered the issue of trafficking particularly relevant and was exploring the link between trafficking, natural disasters and conflicts. Forms of exploitation existing before crises tended to get exacerbated once crises occurred. Portugal said that human trafficking encompassed a wide range of human rights violations. As a party to the Palermo Protocol, Portugal had been implementing national action plans since 2007. Victims should be at the centre of any measures taken to combat trafficking. Nigeria was disturbed by the growing number of children trafficked around the globe, particularly girls, who were frequently forced into sexual slavery. The human rights of victims of trafficking should be placed at the centre of efforts to combat trafficking. Nigerian legislation contained very strong victim protection clauses.

Angola said that trafficking was a transnational and complex problem which, together with drugs and arms trafficking, was considered to be one of the world’s most profitable criminal practices. Conditions must be created for the implementation of international treaties to address migration in conflict and crisis situations, in particular the Palermo Protocol. Estonia was committed to combatting trafficking though regional and international cooperation and agreed that more attention needed to be paid to preventing trafficking and identifying and punishing perpetrators. Botswana agreed that the problem of trafficking in persons had been worsened by global inequality, discrimination and migration and that violent conflict and humanitarian crises were fertile grounds for trafficking. Despite the progress, many challenges remained and Botswana noted the Special Rapporteur’s agenda in addressing the human rights of victims of trafficking in persons. Chile stressed that in order to eradicate trafficking in persons, it was important to strengthen bilateral cooperation and the capacity of countries to dismantle criminal organizations and protect human rights of victims. Chile welcomed the proposal for the more robust inclusion of the Guiding Principles in the post-2015 development agenda, adding that progress on the Guiding Principles would improve protection standards for the human rights violations committed by enterprises.

Chad presented its domestic progress to combat human trafficking, including a national plan to combat trafficking in persons, in collaboration with international partners and other stakeholders. Chad insisted on the importance of synergy. Iraq explained what measures it had taken to combat human trafficking and protect the victims. The occupation by ISIS had led to the death of thousands of persons belonging to minorities, and ISIS was responsible for large-scale trafficking. Honduras welcomed the conclusions of the Working Group on transnational corporations and human rights and would continue to follow this topic. Honduras considered trafficking as one of the worst forms of human rights violations, and supported the importance of linking this with social development and migration. Morocco expressed support for the efforts by the Working Group on transnational corporations to promote the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and underlined the importance of awareness raising on this issue at the national level. Morocco shared the view of the Special Rapporteur that trafficking should be addressed in the light of other socio-economic factors.

Sovereign Military Order of Malta believed that the role played by faith-based organizations in fighting human trafficking ought to be emphasized. Suffering needed to be alleviated by lifting people out of poverty, which would in turn contribute to the prevention of trafficking. Fiji had criminalized human trafficking in 2009, and had identified two vulnerable groups – children and sex workers. Families might force their children into exploitative work in order to survive. Sex work was criminal in most countries, which was why it was sometimes difficult for the police and judiciary to recognize that the sex worker was not an offender but a victim. Djibouti valued embedding human rights considerations into the overall struggle against trafficking in human beings. Djibouti supported the work of the Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations. Armenia regretted that the report on business and human rights went outside of the mandate and mentioned issues related to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Minsk Group was the only internationally mandated group dealing with the resolution of that conflict.

Egypt said that the Guiding Principles were guided by legal norms and standards; they provided a helpful platform for engagement between Governments and business and for defining the framework of their respective responsibilities. On trafficking in persons, Egypt said that it was an expanding phenomenon and a lucrative crime. Myanmar objected to the terminology used in the report on trafficking in persons saying that the term “Rohingya from Myanmar” was not correct and that that category of persons was non-existent in the country. Myanmar was making significant efforts in the prevention of smuggling and illegal migration. Madagascar had adopted a law on anti-trafficking in 2014, established the National Bureau to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and developed a national plan of action. Since 2012, the Ministry of Justice had been conducting training on the application of legal norms and the Guiding Principles for its staff, civil society and businesses. Panama congratulated the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons on the identification of outstanding challenges to tackle the issue, including poverty and transnational organized crime. More than 80 per cent of trafficking was for sexual purposes and the great majority were women and girls. Victims of trafficking must be treated as victims of human rights violations and not irregular migrants.

El Salvador said trafficking in persons and smuggling migrants had similar features, and insisted on the necessity for an international alliance to combat international trafficking. El Salvador had national policies to combat and prevent trafficking in persona, and believed it was timely that countries provided special attention to the rights of victims. Bolivia welcomed progress made for the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, but regretted that gaps remained. Bolivia underlined the necessity to act in the field of access to water and child labour, and reiterated its support to the adoption of a legally binding instrument.

International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, in a video statement, encouraged all States to step up their efforts to meet their respective duties under the Guiding Principles and called for the elaboration of a legally binding instrument on business and human rights.

Korea Centre for United Nations Human Rights Policy regretted that there were no policies in the Republic of Korea to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and their human rights impact. It also regretted that the Republic of Korea had not taken measures to effectively prevent trafficking.

Concluding Remarks

MICHAEL ADDO, Chairperson and Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, in his concluding remarks, said that there had been no formal response from the President of the World Bank to the letter which he and other mandate holders had written. States could help the process in a whole variety of ways, for example like the Netherlands had, which was helping the Working Group financially. It was hoped that before the Summit on Sustainable Development Goals, States would be able to embed those principles in their proposals. The world was at a crossroads this year, when it needed to decide on which steps towards the future it would take. It was important to recognize the rule of businesses, and it was time that Governments took leadership and provided guidance to other stakeholders, including businesses. Mr. Addo stressed that 2015 should not be lost as an opportunity to embed the human rights agenda in the major documents, which were to be adopted. States and other stakeholders were invited to share their thoughts and best practices at a forum in November. Answering a comment from Armenia, Mr. Addo explained that the language referring to Nagorno-Karabakh used in the report stemmed from the General Resolution 62/243 (2008).

For use of the information media; not an official record

World: Global Humanitarian Overview Status Report, June 2015

16 June 2015 - 1:48pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Ukraine, Vanuatu, World, Yemen

Executive Summary

Intensifying conflict and slow and sudden-onset disaster are taking their toll. The result is that global financial requirements for the remainder of 2015 have risen by $2.4 billion. In early June 2015 they stand at $18.8 billion, to meet the needs of 78.9 million vulnerable people in 37 countries.

In February, a regional appeal for the Sahel was launched, requesting $1.98 billion to enable partners to meet the needs of some 9.3 million people in nine countries with food assistance. In Djibouti, partners have revised the multi-year strategy first developed in 2014.

They now seek $81 million. Over 40 per cent of Djibouti’s population is food insecure. The humanitarian landscape continues to evolve in Djibouti. By May, 9,700 people from Yemen had crossed the border. So far 1,600 of them have been registered as refugees. The latest global ask of $18.8 billion includes inter-agency response plans for Guatemala and Honduras, where persistent droughts have resulted in crop failures and deepening food insecurity. In Libya humanitarian conditions have worsened considerably in 2015. Ongoing hostilities and increased presence of non-state armed groups have affected 2 million people in the country while approximately 2.5 million others need access to health services. In addition, 400,000 people require food assistance. The escalation of the conflict in Yemen, the devastation wrought by Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, and the highly destructive earthquakes in Nepal all led to the development of flash appeals.

Across the 37 countries, humanitarian crises show no sign of abating. Violence and insecurity due to the scale of conflict in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Nigeria continue to cause internal and cross-border displacements. In Syria, for example, some 7.6 million people have been internally displaced, while another 4 million have fled the country. Humanitarian partners require $7.4 billion to respond to the needs of 12.2 million people inside Syria, including more than 5.6 million children, and to help people affected by this crisis in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Although millions of people are receiving desperately needed aid, access problems are still limiting the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Conditions are harsh for the 4.8 million people living in hard-to-reach and besieged locations in Syria where there is little or no access to humanitarian assistance for months at a time. In Iraq, the scale of the conflict has increased significantly. About 2.8 million people are internally displaced, half of whom are children. The number of newly displaced people has increased by 700,000 this year alone. Recently improved tracking methods have helped identify these numbers.

In Nigeria, sustained attacks by the Boko Haram armed group have displaced an estimated 1.5 million people and forced 210,000 to flee across Nigeria’s border, where they have become refugees in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

Violence, insecurity and restricted access continue to aggravate risk and hamper humanitarian operations in DRC, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. In addition, protection of civilians due to unrelenting hostilities in Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen remains a grave concern. Gross and flagrant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are rife. In Iraq, targeted attacks on civilians and sexual and gender-based violence prevail.

Food insecurity remains a recurring theme in most of the countries covered in this document. In Iraq, for example, food insecurity has increased by 60 per cent in six months. In DRC, 6.4 million people are food insecure — half are chronically undernourished children under age five. Malnutrition is even more endemic in Kasais and Bas-Congo Provinces, where it has caused 35 per cent of deaths among children under age five. In Nigeria,

4.6 million people are food insecure and 100,000 children are at risk of severe malnutrition this year. In Sudan, some 4.2 million people are expected to experience acute food insecurity during the upcoming lean season. In South Sudan, failure to intervene effectively could put millions at risk of starvation. Twenty per cent of Chad’s population of over 2.4 million people is food insecure. In Somalia, about 731,000 Somali people face acute food insecurity, while an additional 2.3 million are at risk of sliding into the same situation. In The Gambia, an estimated 500,000 people will be food insecure.

Donors have generously contributed $4.8 billion to humanitarian response plans, but that only represents 26 per cent of requirements, leaving a vast shortfall of $14 billion. Over half of the funding received (55 per cent) has gone to the highest-level emergencies, categorized as Level 3 crises, in Central African Republic,

Iraq, South Sudan and Syria. These crises have dominated 2015 and will continue to do so. The appeal for Vanuatu is the best funded at 54 per cent; the least funded humanitarian response plan is The Gambia, at 2 per cent. Clearly, the level of funding cannot match the level of need. Operations in several countries have been curtailed and risk shutdown if additional donor support is not secured immediately. In Iraq, for example, 60 per cent of frontline operations risk cut backs or complete stoppage. Health services in camps have been interrupted and food distributions scaled back due to underfunding. In Libya, underfunding has caused some agencies to decrease or shut down humanitarian programmes, with food distribution interrupted due to lack of funds.

The financial demands of the combined appeals are not only substantial, they are also essential for protecting, feeding, sheltering and saving the lives of millions of people in critical need.

World: Global Emergency Overview Snapshot 10–16 June 2015

16 June 2015 - 10:41am
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Haiti, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, Vanuatu, World, Yemen

Snapshot 10–16 June 2015

Ebola in Sierra Leone and Guinea: Weekly Ebola case incidence has risen for two consecutive weeks. Guinea recorded 16 new cases in the week to 7 June, five from unknown chains of transmission. Sierra Leone recorded 15 cases, the highest weekly total since late March. It has extended the state of emergency for 90 days.

Syria: May was the deadliest month of 2015, with 6,657 people killed, including 1,285 civilians. Fighting has intensified in Aleppo in June, and in Ar-Raqqa. 20,000 people who fled fighting in Ar-Raqqa were blocked at the border with Turkey for several days.

Ukraine: Humanitarian needs are increasing, as conflict intensifies again. Nearly 4.5 million people need health support, and 1.4 million people need shelter support, compared to 1.5 million and 600,000 end March.

Updated: 16/06/2015. Next update 23/06/2015.

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

Myanmar: Myanmar Officials Issue Green Cards to Muslims in Rakhine State

16 June 2015 - 2:01am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

The Myanmar government has started issuing green cards to Muslims in 13 townships in restive Rakhine state to verify their identities, bringing them a step closer to applying for citizenship, a local immigration official said Monday.

“The Immigration Ministry has issued these cards to people who need and want to apply for citizenship,” Khin Soe, an immigration officer in the state capital Sittwe, told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “The advisory commission suggested that we issue the green cards, and we submitted this suggestion to the government. We have issued them according to the Immigration Act when we received permission from the government.”

Authorities have collected about 400,000 temporary identification cards, known as “white cards,” from displaced and stateless Rohingya Muslims in the state in western Myanmar as part of the process of applying for citizenship, he said, adding that the distribution of the green cards began two days ago.

In return, the Muslims have received a light green and blue card containing an identification number, name of the holder, their gender, date of birth, place of birth, marital status and father’s name with visible identification marks in Burmese and English, Khin Soe said.

“We’re giving this card to people who already returned their white cards to us,” he said. “This cardholder can verify that he or she lives in Myanmar, but that person still needs to apply for and be verified for citizenship eligibility.”

“Once a person receives a green card, he can apply for citizenship, and then we will verify them,” he added.

Officials are simultaneously issuing the green cards along with application forms to apply for Myanmar citizenship in 13 townships in Rakhine state, including Sittwe, Mrauk U, Thandwe, Buthidaung and Maungdaw, he said.

The cards are valid for two years after which holders can apply for an extension, he added.

The green cards also enable holders to stay in Myanmar as long as they want without applying for citizenship by repeatedly filing for extensions, he said.

But for green card holders who cannot produce the necessary documents to become a citizen, immigration officials must look to lawmakers for advice on how to handle the situation, Khin Soe said.

Whether the green card holders will be able to vote in Myanmar’s general elections in November hinges upon a law that the country’s Election Commission will issue, Khin Soe said, adding that the body soon would issue guidelines for the card holders.

Collection of white cards

The white cards have been collected in Rakhine since President Thein Sein declared in February that they would expire on March 31.

The move came about because of a bill that would have allowed white card holders to vote in a referendum on constitutional amendments, which drew sharp opposition from Buddhist nationalists.

Most of the 700,000 white card holders are persecuted Rohingya, a Muslim minority of around 1 million whom the government refers to as “Bengali” because it views them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many have lived in the country for generations. Myanmar has in recent weeks bristled at international criticism of its treatment of the Rohingya, some of whom were among the migrants found adrift in the sea near the country last month.

The Rohingya were given a May 31 deadline to submit their white cards so they could apply for Myanmar citizenship by June 1, according to the citizenship law of 1982.

The citizenship law does not recognize the term Rohingya as an ethnic minority of Myanmar, so that members of the group cannot obtain government documentation by using the term to identify themselves.

White card holders must show proof of a long family history in Rakhine state if they want to obtain Myanmar citizenship and have an identity card.

White cards were issued by Myanmar’s former military junta for the 2010 elections, which saw Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government take power from the regime. An army-backed political party won seats in areas with sizable numbers of white card holders.

Reported by Min Thein Aung and Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

World: L’indifférence des dirigeants du monde condamne des millions de réfugiés à une vie de misère et des milliers à la mort

16 June 2015 - 1:41am
Source: Amnesty International Country: Australia, Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Turkey, World
  • La crise des réfugiés la plus terrible depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

  • Un million de réfugiés ayant désespérément besoin d’être réinstallés.

  • Quatre millions de réfugiés syriens luttant pour survivre en Turquie, au Liban, en Jordanie, en Irak et en Égypte.

  • Plus de trois millions de réfugiés en Afrique subsaharienne, dont un petit nombre seulement se voit proposer des places de réinstallation depuis 2013.

  • 3 500 personnes mortes noyées en tentant de traverser la Méditerranée en 2014 ; 1 865 depuis le début de l’année 2015.

  • 300 personnes mortes dans la mer d’Andaman au cours du premier trimestre 2015 en raison du manque de nourriture, de la déshydratation et des violences commises par les équipages des bateaux.

Les dirigeants du monde condamnent des millions de réfugiés à une existence insupportable et des milliers d’autres à la mort en s’abstenant de leur fournir une protection humanitaire essentielle, écrit Amnesty International dans un nouveau rapport rendu public à Beyrouth lundi 15 juin, à l’approche de la Journée mondiale des réfugiés le 20 juin.

Ce document, intitulé Crise mondiale des réfugiés : la conspiration de l'indifférence, relate la souffrance de millions de réfugiés, du Liban au Kenya, de la mer d’Andaman à la mer Méditerranée, et demande un changement radical dans la gestion des réfugiés au niveau mondial.

« Nous assistons à la pire crise des réfugiés de notre histoire, des millions d’hommes, de femmes et d’enfants luttant pour survivre face à des guerres terribles, des réseaux de trafiquants d’êtres humains et des gouvernements qui privilégient leurs intérêts politiques au détriment de la compassion humaine, a déclaré Salil Shetty, secrétaire général d'Amnesty International.

« La crise des réfugiés est l’un des défis majeurs du 21e siècle, et la réponse de la communauté internationale est une honte et un échec. Nous avons besoin d’une refonte radicale de la politique et des pratiques afin de mettre sur pied une stratégie cohérente et globale à l’échelle mondiale. »

Amnesty International présente des propositions afin de redynamiser le système de protection des réfugiés. Elle exhorte les États à prendre desengagements fermes afin de s’acquitter de leurs obligations juridiques individuelles et à se montrer déterminés à assumer cette responsabilité partagée au niveau international. Elle invite notamment les gouvernements à prendre les mesures suivantes :

  • S’engager à réinstaller collectivement sur les quatre prochaines années un million de réfugiés qui en ont actuellement besoin.

  • Mettre en place un fonds mondial pour les réfugiés destiné à répondre à tous les appels humanitaires de l’ONU en cas de crise, et apporter un soutien financier aux pays qui accueillent un grand nombre de réfugiés.

  • Ratifier la Convention de l’ONU relative au statut des réfugiés.

  • Développer des mécanismes nationaux équitables afin d’évaluer les demandes des réfugiés et de garantir qu’ils aient accès à des services élémentaires comme l’éducation et la santé.

« Le monde ne peut plus rester passif tandis que des pays comme le Liban et la Turquie assument des fardeaux aussi lourds. Aucun pays ne devrait avoir à gérer une urgence humanitaire d’une telle ampleur en recevant si peu d’aide, au motif qu’il partage une frontière avec un pays en guerre, a déclaré Salil Shetty.

« Les gouvernements de par le monde ont le devoir de veiller à ce que personne ne perde la vie en tentant de se mettre en sécurité. Ils doivent offrir un abri sûr aux réfugiés désespérés, créer un fonds mondial pour les réfugiés et prendre des mesures concrètes pour lutter contre les réseaux qui se livrent à la traite d’êtres humains. Il est temps que les dirigeants du monde renforcent la protection des réfugiés – ils éviteront ainsi de se rendre complices de cette tragédie évitable. »

Syrie : la plus importante crise des réfugiés dans le monde

Plus de quatre millions de réfugiés ont fui la Syrie, et 95 % d’entre eux vivent actuellement dans cinq principaux pays d’accueil : la Turquie, le Liban, la Jordanie, l’Irak et l’Égypte.

Ces pays ont bien du mal à faire face à cette situation. La communauté internationale ne leur fournit pas de ressources suffisantes, pas plus qu’aux agences humanitaires qui viennent en aide aux réfugiés. Malgré les demandes du Haut-Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés (HCR), le nombre de places proposées aux réfugiés syriens au titre de la réinstallation reste largement insuffisant.

La situation est telle que des pays voisins de la Syrie en sont venus à prendre des dispositions inquiétantes : ils ont notamment refusé à des réfugiés l’entrée sur leur territoire, et en ont renvoyé d’autres vers le conflit.

Depuis début 2015, le Liban a fortement réduit l’entrée des personnes fuyant la Syrie. Les autorités ont mis en place de nouvelles directives, aux termes desquelles les Syriens doivent remplir des critères spécifiques afin d’être autorisés à entrer dans le pays. Depuis l’entrée en vigueur de ces critères, on constate une nette baisse de l’enregistrement des réfugiés syriens : au cours du premier trimestre 2015, le HCR a enregistré une baisse de 80 % de réfugiés syriens par rapport à la même période en 2014.

Mer Méditerranée : l’itinéraire maritime le plus dangereux

La mer Méditerranée est l’itinéraire maritime le plus dangereux pour les réfugiés et les migrants. En 2014, 219 000 personnes ont fait la traversée dans des conditions extrêmement périlleuses et 3 500 personnes y ont laissé la vie.

En 2014, les autorités italiennes ont porté secours à plus de 166 000 personnes. Cependant, en octobre 2014, l’Italie, sous la pression des autres États membres de l’Union européenne, a mis fin à l’opération de sauvetage Mare Nostrum, remplacée par l’opération Triton, beaucoup plus restreinte et menée par l’agence de protection des frontières de l’UE, Frontex.

L’opération Triton disposait d’un nombre de bateaux réduit et son secteur d’intervention était éloigné de la zone d’où proviennent la majorité des appels de détresse. Cela a contribué à une nette hausse du nombre de victimes en Méditerranée. D’après l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM), au 31 mai 2015, 1 865 personnes étaient mortes en tentant de traverser la Méditerranée ; elles étaient 425 pour la même période en 2014.

À la suite de plusieurs tragédies survenues en Méditerranée, fin avril, les dirigeants européens ont finalement augmenté les ressources dédiées aux opérations de recherche et de sauvetage, et étendu la zone d’opération de Triton, pour les faire correspondre à celles de Mare Nostrum. En complément, des États européens comme l’Allemagne, l’Irlande et le Royaume-Uni ont déployé des navires et des avions, afin d’accroître la capacité d’assistance aux naufragés. Ces mesures, que prônait depuis longtemps Amnesty International, sont un pas en avant pour accroître la sécurité en mer des réfugiés et des migrants.

Par ailleurs, la Commission européenne a proposé que les États membres de l’UE offrent 20 000 nouvelles places au titre de la réinstallation à des réfugiés venus de pays extérieurs à l’UE. Cette proposition est un pas en avant, mais ce nombre demeure insuffisant pour contribuer dûment au partage international des responsabilités.

Les réfugiés syriens, qui bénéficient d’une assistance humanitaire réduite dans les principaux pays d’accueil et n’ont aucune perspective de rentrer chez eux dans un futur proche, continueront de tenter la traversée de la Méditerranée pour gagner l’Europe. Si des voies de migration sûres et légales ne sont pas mises en place pour les réfugiés – mais aussi pour les migrants – ils continueront de risquer leur vie.

Afrique : des crises oubliées

On compte plus de trois millions de réfugiés en Afrique subsaharienne. Les explosions de violences dans des pays comme le Soudan du Sud et la République centrafricaine ont contraint un nombre croissant de personnes à fuir les conflits et les persécutions. Sur les 10 principaux pays dans le monde que les populations fuient pour se réfugier ailleurs, cinq se trouvent en Afrique subsaharienne. Quatre des 10 pays qui accueillent le plus grand nombre de réfugiés se situent également dans cette région du globe.

Les conflits et les crises dans la région entraînent un afflux de réfugiés vers les pays voisins, dont beaucoup accueillent déjà depuis longtemps des populations de réfugiés, venus notamment de Somalie, du Soudan, d’Érythrée et d’Éthiopie.

Dans certains cas, comme au Soudan du Sud et au Soudan, les réfugiés se retrouvent dans des pays eux-mêmes ravagés par la guerre.

Les crises des réfugiés en Afrique ne retiennent guère l’attention des forums politiques régionaux ou mondiaux. En 2013, moins de 15 000 réfugiés venus de pays africains ont été réinstallés et les appels humanitaires de l’ONU ont été largement sous-financés. Par exemple, en raison du conflit qui a éclaté au Soudan du Sud en décembre 2013, plus de 550 000 personnes ont fui le pays, et la majorité d’entre elles se trouvent actuellement en Éthiopie, au Soudan, au Kenya et en Ouganda. Au 3 juin 2015, le plan d’action régional de l’ONU pour les réfugiés du Soudan du Sud n’était financé qu’à hauteur de 11 %.

Asie du Sud-Est : des migrants en détresse renvoyés en mer

Au cours du premier trimestre 2015, le HCR a révélé que 25 000 personnes avaient tenté la traversée du golfe du Bengale, soit environ le double par rapport à la même période en 2014. Cet itinéraire est surtout emprunté par des musulmans Rohingyas fuyant le Myanmar et par des Bangladais.

Le 11 mai, l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations a estimé que 8 000 personnes se trouvent encore en perdition en mer, au large des côtes de la Thaïlande. Beaucoup seraient des Rohingyas fuyant les persécutions cautionnées par l’État au Myanmar.

Au mois de mai, l’Indonésie, la Malaisie et la Thaïlande ont renvoyé en mer des bateaux transportant des centaines de réfugiés et de migrants qui avaient besoin d’aide, en dépit des dangers auxquels ils sont confrontés. Selon le HCR, au cours du premier trimestre 2015, 300 personnes sont mortes en mer en raison « de la faim, de la déshydratation et des violences commises par les équipages des bateaux ».

Le 20 mai, l’Indonésie et la Malaisie ont changé de cap, annonçant qu’elles accueilleraient provisoirement jusqu’à 7 000 personnes se trouvant encore en mer. Toutefois, cette protection temporaire ne serait valable que pour un an maximum, et à la condition que la communauté internationale participe aux efforts de rapatriement ou de réinstallation. L’Indonésie, la Malaisie et la Thaïlande n’ont pas ratifié la Convention de 1951 relative au statut des réfugiés.

Dans la région, le gouvernement australien a établi un précédent désastreux : sa ligne dure vis-à-vis des demandeurs d’asile qui arrivent par bateau, sous prétexte de sauver des vies, bafoue en fait ses responsabilités au titre du droit relatif aux réfugiés et aux droits humains.

« De la mer d’Andaman à celle de la Méditerranée, des hommes et des femmes meurent en tentant de se mettre en lieu sûr. La crise actuelle des réfugiés ne trouvera pas d’issue tant que la communauté internationale n’admettra pas qu’il s’agit d’un problème mondial qui exige des États de renforcer nettement la coopération internationale. Cette semaine, le HCR publiera son rapport annuel sur les réfugiés et conclura sans doute que la crise s’aggrave. Il est temps d’agir », a déclaré Salil Shetty.

Myanmar: Villagers Urge Environmental Protections for Inle Lake

16 June 2015 - 1:22am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By SAN YAMIN AUNG / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Over 100 local communities in Shan State banded together on Monday to demand a stop to the deterioration of Inle Lake, which has suffered a dramatic drop in water levels and quality as a result of nearby development.

An event in Nyaung Shwe Township organized by Senior Women of Shan State, which included public talks and discussions with local villagers, kicked off a signature campaign to petition the government for environmental safeguards to protect the lake from further degradation.

“Changes in the past decades are threatening the health of the lake,” read a statement released by the group on Monday. “If it continues like this, the lake could dry up in the near future and local livelihoods would be ruined. We are concerned enough that locals from Inle, local monks and village elders have joined together to start a movement to conserve the lake, in order to prevent damage and ensure sustainable development.”

Inle Lake is the second largest body of fresh water in Burma. For years, it has suffered from a range of environmental problems such as drought, deforestation and pollution, and concerns over its health have accelerated with the construction of new hotel developments to accommodate the burgeoning tourist trade.

Khin Nyunt, a 51-year-old villager from Mine Thout, told The Irrawaddy that water levels had recently shrunk dramatically across the lake.

“The lake is our second city,” she said. “In the past, there was no chopping down trees, not many hotels and no destruction of floating gardens. But now, since conditions are worsening, we have become very worried.”

A photo exhibition documenting the lake’s current condition, pollution emanating from hotel developments on the eastern side of the lake and damage to the area’s famed floating gardens was also unveiled at Monday’s event.

“We cannot have another hotel zone and more new buildings,” Sao Haymer Thaike, a member of SWSS, told The Irrawaddy. “We need to raise community awareness to conserve the lake and stop polluting the surroundings.”

The UN cultural agency, Unesco, last week added Inle Lake to its list of 651 biosphere reserves, becoming the first location in Burma to join the list. Locals hope the designation will bring international help to arrest the lake’s decline. The SWSS will collect signatures until World Rivers Day on Sept. 27, and will present its petition to Union, state and local authorities.

World: Le Conseil des droits de l'homme tient un débat approfondi sur les droits de l'homme des migrants

15 June 2015 - 11:19pm
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Australia, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Africa, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, United States of America, World, Yemen

APRES- MIDI

15 juin 2015

Des appels sont lancés pour privilégier une perspective globale axée sur l'aide au développement sur une approche sécuritaire des migrations

Le Conseil des droits de l'homme a tenu, cet après-midi, un «dialogue renforcé» sur le thème des droits de l'homme des migrants.

Après une déclaration liminaire du Haut-Commissaire aux droits de l'homme, M. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, le Conseil a entendu son rapporteur spécial chargé de la question, M. François Crépeau, ainsi que trois responsables de haut niveau d'institutions des Nations Unies: M. Gilbert Houngbo, Directeur général adjoint pour les opérations de terrain et les partenariats de l'Organisation internationale du Travail; Mme Laura Thompson, Directrice générale adjointe de l'Organisation internationale des migrations; et Mme Carol Batchelor, Directrice de la division de la protection internationale au Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés.

Le Haut-Commissaire aux droits de l'homme a constaté d'emblée «l'incapacité de la communauté internationale de protéger les droits des migrants». Avec ou sans visa, les migrants ont des droits, a affirmé M. Zeid, qui s'est dit choqué par la «diabolisation» des migrants dans de nombreux pays «qui ne manquent de rien». Il appelé les membres du Conseil à s'opposer à cette tendance dangereuse. Le Haut-Commissaire a aussi demandé aux autorités européennes d'intégrer pleinement l'idée que l'Europe a besoin des migrants, estimant que «le continent peut donner refuge, à terme, à un million de personnes déplacées par les conflits en Syrie», au Yémen, en Somalie, en Libye et ailleurs.

M. Crépeau a souligné que les migrants sont convaincus qu'ils ne font rien de mal, qu'ils ne font que fuir la violence et les persécutions et cherchent un travail pour subvenir aux besoins de leurs familles, ajoutant que chacun ferait de même dans la même situation à condition d'avoir le même courage. Les politiques répressives contre l'immigration irrégulières ont échoué, de même que la fermeture des frontières: c'est une des conséquences inévitables de la mondialisation. Les États ne gagneront contre les réseaux de passeurs qu'en détruisant leur modèle économique, qui découle des barrières dressées contre les migrants, a encore observé M. Crépeau.

M. Houngo de l'OIT a déclaré que la question des migrations devait être considérée comme un problème mondial, au même titre que la crise financière de 2008 ou le changement climatique. Il a rappelé qu'il fallait accorder des conditions de travail dignes tant dans les pays d'origine que de transit ou d'accueil des migrants. Il faut également concevoir des programmes de réintégration dans le cadre des retours, librement consentis ou non. Mme Thompson, de l'OIM, a mis l'accent sur la vulnérabilité des migrants: les États ont, certes, le droit souverain de définir «qui peut entrer et séjourner sur leur territoire» mais ils doivent le faire dans le respect des droits de l'homme des personnes concernées. Mme Batchelor, du HCR, a souligné en particulier le fait que les requérants d'asile ont le droit de ne pas être renvoyés dans leur pays d'origine. Le fait de recevoir et protéger des migrants est essentiel, mais la prévention est nettement préférable, a-t-elle ajouté.

Au cours du débat, les délégations ont souligné l'importance de lutter contre les raisons profondes des migrations. La communauté internationale a ainsi été priée de prendre conscience du fait que la migration est associée étroitement au problème de la pauvreté. Il a été relevé que les solutions sécuritaires préconisées par les pays riches devaient céder la place à une perspective globale, qui donnerait une place de choix à l'aide au développement en faveur des pays d'origine. L'adoption de cadres de développement à long terme qui permettent de créer des stratégies de migrations respectueuses des droits de l'homme a été recommandée. Une délégation a cependant mis en garde contre «les amalgames entre le régime du droit d'asile et le traitement des migrants économiques». Les intervenants ont plaidé, en outre, pour une meilleure coordination de l'action des institutions internationales concernées et pour la protection des droits et de l'intégrité physique des personnes qui cherchent refuge hors de leur propre pays. L'Union européenne a été encouragée à appliquer une véritable stratégie de gestion des migrations et à créer des filières légales de migration. Les délégations ont enfin appelé de leurs vœux une lutte coordonnée contre l'exploitation inhumaine des migrants par les groupes de trafiquants, invitant tous les États à ratifier et mettre en œuvre le Protocole de Palerme sur la lutte contre la traite des migrants. Les organisations non gouvernementales ont pour leur part regretté en particulier l'incapacité des pays d'accueil et de départ des migrants de Méditerranée d'apporter des réponses aux problèmes de fond qui expliquent cette migration.

De nombreuses délégations ont participé au débat*, ainsi que plusieurs organisations non gouvernementales**.

À 18h30, le Conseil sera saisi des rapports présentés par M. François Crépeau, Rapporteur spécial sur les droits de l'homme des migrants, et Mme Rita Izsák, Rapporteuse spéciale sur les questions relatives aux minorités, avant de mener des débats interactifs sur ces questions, qui devraient se poursuivre jusqu'à 21 heures.

Débat sur les droits de l'homme des migrants

Déclaration liminaire du Haut-Commissaire

M. ZEID RA'AD AL HUSSEIN, Haut-Commissaire des Nations Unies aux droits de l'homme, a d'emblée constaté «l'incapacité de la communauté internationale à protéger les droits des migrants». Les conflits, les persécutions, la mauvaise gouvernance et les violations des droits de l'homme et des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels forcent des millions de personnes à quitter leur pays, donnant lieu à l'exploitation, à la violence et au refus d'aide, a-t-il poursuivi. Ces personnes sont trop souvent confrontées à d'autres formes d'exploitation, à la discrimination et à la violence, associées aux pires difficultés dans l'obtention des autorisations d'entrée dans les pays d'accueil, a-t-il souligné. Avec ou sans visa, a rappelé le Haut-Commissaire, les migrants ont des droits. Il s'est dit choqué par la «diabolisation» de ces personnes dans de nombreux pays qui ne manquent de rien et a appelé les membres du Conseil à s'opposer à cette tendance dangereuse.

Le terrible bilan humain en Méditerranée montre que la force militaire est impuissante à limiter les migrations, a poursuivi le Haut-Commissaire. Il s'est félicité de la décision de l'Union européenne d'aborder le problème des migrations d'une manière cohérente tout en intensifiant les mesures de recherche et de secours des migrants (en mer). M. Zeid a toutefois appelé les autorités européennes à faire preuve d'audace et à intégrer pleinement l'idée que l'Europe a besoin des migrants, quel que soit leur niveau de formation. Il a estimé que l'Europe pouvait tout à fait donner refuge, en plusieurs années, à un million de personnes déplacées par les conflits en Syrie, au Yémen, en Somalie, en Libye et ailleurs: cela ne représenterait que 0,2% de la population de l'Union européenne, a-t-il souligné. Le Haut-Commissaire a rappelé que le Liban, pour sa part, accueille un nombre de réfugiés représentant plus d'un quart de sa population. Les conflits ne sont pas les seuls moteurs des migrations, a toutefois souligné le Haut-Commissaire. De nombreux Érythréens, cinq mille par mois selon certains rapports, fuient leur pays en direction de l'Europe, a-t-il ajouté.

Le Haut-Commissaire s'est ensuite dit scandalisé par l'hostilité et le mépris dont les femmes, les hommes et les enfants migrants sont victimes en Australie, une nation pourtant elle-même issue de l'émigration. Il a par ailleurs fustigé la discrimination institutionnalisée dont sont victimes les Rohingyas qui fuient la persécution au Myanmar et la pauvreté au Bangladesh. M. Al Hussein a d'autre part appelé les pays concernés à réfléchir aux causes profondes des importantes migrations des pays d'Amérique centrale vers les États-Unis, observant que là où prévalent la responsabilité des autorités, l'état de droit, l'inclusion et le respect des droits économiques, nul ne songe à risquer la vie de ses enfants sur les chemins de l'exil.

Les pays du Conseil de coopération du Golfe (CCG) profitent très largement des contributions des travailleurs migrants, a par ailleurs relevé M. Zeid. Pourtant, les droits fondamentaux des migrants sont bafoués dans plusieurs pays du fait de violences physiques, de conditions de travail inhumaines et de la confiscation des passeports. Le Haut-Commissaire a rappelé aux autorités et aux employeurs des pays membres du CCG qu'ils sont tenus de respecter les normes de droits de l'homme et du droit international du travail applicables aux migrants.

Le Conseil devrait envisager de convoquer une session extraordinaire consacrée aux problèmes rencontrés par les migrants, a suggéré le Haut-Commissaire, jugeant d'autre part essentielle l'application, par les États, des recommandations faites à l'occasion de l'Examen périodique universel.

Exposés

M. GILBERT HOUNGBO, Directeur général adjoint des opérations de terrain et du partenariat à l'Organisation internationale du travail (OIT), a déclaré que la question des migrations devait être considérée comme un problème mondial, au même titre que la crise financière de 2008 l'avait été ou que l'est le changement climatique. Il a rappelé qu'il fallait accorder aux migrants des conditions de travail dignes, tant dans les pays d'origine que dans les pays de transit ou d'accueil. Pour l'Organisation internationale du travail, il convient également de se pencher sur les programmes de réintégration dans le cadre des retours, librement consentis ou non, a-t-il ajouté. M. Houngbo a mis l'accent sur l'importance de la coopération régionale et interrégionale en matière de migrations, ajoutant que les institutions spécialisées des Nations Unies devaient coordonner leurs efforts et examiner les effets secondaires des migrations, comme le travail et la traite des enfants. Il a par ailleurs rappelé que les pratiques d'embauche seront examinées prochainement par l'OIT, alors que 80% des migrants versent des montants exorbitants pour obtenir un emploi.

MME LAURA THOMPSON, Directrice générale adjointe de l'Organisation internationale des migrations (OIM), a mis l'accent sur la vulnérabilité des migrants et a estimé que les Gouvernements devraient faire un effort supplémentaire pour tenir compte de ces vulnérabilités. Les États ont certes le droit souverain de définir qui peut entrer et séjourner sur leur territoire, mais ils doivent le faire dans le respect des droits de l'homme des personnes concernées, de manière générale mais aussi du fait des droits particuliers de certaines catégories de migrants, comme par exemple les enfants mineurs non accompagnés, a-t-elle rappelé. Les différentes situations présentées par le Haut-Commissaire aux droits de l'homme ont chacune leurs propres caractéristiques, mais elles ont aussi des éléments communs, dont le premier est qu'il s'agit de situations complexes, a-t-elle souligné. En outre, on ne prend souvent conscience de la situation de ces personnes que lorsqu'elles apparaissent dans la lumière des médias, a fait observer Mme Thompson; or, il ne faut pas oublier que leur migration a souvent commencé depuis longtemps, ce qui signifie qu'elles ont souvent été exposées depuis longtemps à de multiples violations des droits de l'homme. Il ne faut pas se concentrer sur les seuls aspects mis en exergue par les médias, a insisté la Directrice générale adjointe de l'OIM. S'il faut certes toujours veiller en priorité à sauver des vies humaines, il faut aussi s'interroger sur les situations qui provoquent de tels mouvements de populations, a-t-elle ajouté. À cet égard, il existe un élément de fuite face aux violations massives des droits de l'homme et aux conflits, mais aussi un élément d'attrait de certaines régions du monde, a-t-elle indiqué. Dès lors qu'un tel élément d'attrait existe, il faut ouvrir des voies régulières d'immigration vers les régions attractives, a-t-elle estimé.

MME CAROL BATCHELOR, Directrice de la Division de la protection internationale au Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés (HCR), a mis l'accent sur le lien entre migrations et asile et sur l'exploitation des demandeurs d'asile. De l'avis du HCR, les violations des droits de l'homme dont sont victimes ces personnes atteignent le niveau de la persécution. Mme Batchelor a rappelé le principe de non-refoulement attaché aux droits des demandeurs d'asile. Elle a rendu hommage à l'hospitalité manifestée par les pays voisins immédiats des États d'origine des migrations de masse, tout en observant la fermeture de certains autres pays. Le fait de recevoir et protéger des personnes est essentiel mais la prévention est nettement préférable, a poursuivi Mme Batchelor, avant de conclure que la Journée mondiale des réfugiés, qui est célébrée le 20 juin de chaque année, risquait cette année d'être marquée par la publication de chiffres particulièrement mauvais concernant le nombre des réfugiés.

M. FRANÇOIS CRÉPEAU, Rapporteur spécial sur les droits de l'homme des migrants, a déclaré que les migrants ne sont pas seulement un nombre statistique, mais des êtres humains, dépositaires de droits, comme n'importe quelle autre personne. Les chiffres ne font que les déshumaniser, a-t-il souligné. Il a par ailleurs déclaré que les migrants n'ont d'autre choix que de partir. Ceux qui survivent croient qu'ils ne font rien de mal, qu'ils ne font que fuir la violence et les persécutions et cherchent un travail pour subvenir aux besoins de leurs familles. Qui peut dire que ces stratégies de survie ne sont pas bonnes, a demandé le Rapporteur spécial, affirmant que nous ferions tous la même chose si nous étions dans la même situation et avions le même courage? M. Crépeau a également relevé que les politiques répressives contre l'immigration irrégulière ont échoué. En dépit de ce qui arrive aux autres ou à eux-mêmes, les migrants pensent que les prochaines tentatives seront les bonnes, a-t-il souligné. Affirmant que les enfants et petits-enfants de survivants des génocides passés sont très fiers du courage de leurs ancêtres et des décisions qu'ils ont prises pour survivre, il a rappelé que ces décisions incluaient parfois d'immigrer illégalement, en usant parfois de fausses identités ou de documents falsifiés. Fermer les frontières ne marche pas non plus, a poursuivi le Rapporteur spécial, soulignant que c'est là l'une des conséquences inévitables de la mondialisation. Les migrants viendront d'une manière ou d'une autre, tout simplement parce qu'ils seront chassés par la violence, les conflits ou les catastrophes naturelles et l'extrême pauvreté, a insisté M. Crépeau; ils seront aussi attirés par le travail illégal dans des secteurs d'activité jugés sales, difficiles ou dangereux et que les nationaux ne veulent pas faire. Paradoxalement, les pays qui ont fermé leurs frontières ont également perdu leur contrôle, car les passeurs et autres contrebandiers et trafiquants ont toujours une longueur d'avance sur les autorités, a déclaré le Rapporteur spécial, insistant tant sur le caractère contreproductif de la répression que sur la priorité qui devrait être accordée à la traduction en justice de ces personnes sans scrupules. Les États ne gagneront contre ces trafiquants qu'en détruisant leur modèle économique, qui a été créé lorsque des barrières ont été érigées, a expliqué M. Crépeau.

Dans les années 1950 et 1960, des millions d'Africains et de Turcs ont traversé la Méditerranée pour chercher du travail en Europe, a rappelé le Rapporteur spécial. Or, aucun n'est mort, ni n'a été victime de trafic; pourtant, il existait un contrôle des frontières, mais le cadre général facilitait la mobilité, notamment du fait d'un accès aisé aux visas et de bas prix pour les voyages. Au lieu de forcer les gens à entrer dans des mécanismes qui ne répondent pas à leurs besoins, il faudrait au contraire comprendre la logique de leur décision et adapter nos politiques, a souligné M. Crépeau. Si l'on opte pour une mobilité qui répond aux besoins des migrants et du marché de l'emploi, on ôte toute capacité (de nuisance) des mains des trafiquants, a-t-il expliqué. Cela n'enlève rien au pouvoir des États de déterminer quel migrant peut vivre sur son territoire ou non, a-t-il souligné, expliquant qu'il s'agit simplement d'adapter les politiques migratoires à la réalité. C'est pour cette raison que le rapport que le Rapporteur spécial présente ce soir invite l'Union européenne à choisir la mobilité et non la fermeture, a indiqué M. Crépeau, ajoutant que cela ne se fera évidemment pas d'un seul coup, mais de manière progressive.

Débat interactif

L'Union européenne s'est dite fermement engagée, avec ses États membres, pour la promotion et la protection des droits de l'homme des migrants. Profondément préoccupée par la mort de nombreux migrants, l'Union européenne a pour priorité de limiter les pertes en vies humaines. Elle préconise en outre de lutter contre le trafic des êtres humains, d'améliorer la gouvernance des pays d'origine et de remédier aux causes économiques et politiques du départ des migrants. L'Union européenne a constaté que les défis actuels ne pourront être relevés que par une approche globale, engageant les institutions spécialisées des Nations Unies et les États. L'Italie a insisté sur la nécessité de renforcer la coopération internationale entre tous les pays concernés.

Le Saint-Siège a regretté que l'Union européenne n'applique pas de véritable stratégie de gestion des migrations. Le Saint-Siège plaide pour une meilleure répartition des migrants dans les nombreux pays qui composent l'Union européenne et pour la création de filières légales de migration. Pour la Fédération de Russie, la situation dans le sud de la Méditerranée résulte en grande partie des initiatives européennes malvenues en Afrique. La Russie estime important de combattre les raisons profondes des flux migratoires, toute initiative locale dans ce domaine risquant d'avoir des conséquences néfastes.

La Namibie a observé que les migrants partent à la recherche de vie meilleure pour des raisons liées à leur survie et que la communauté internationale n'avait donc aucun intérêt à politiser cette question, mais plutôt à rechercher des solutions à leurs difficultés. Le Niger a estimé qu'il était temps que la communauté internationale passe aux actes pour arrêter durablement une spirale macabre. Il estime nécessaire que l'Union européenne travaille étroitement avec les instances africaines, régionales et sous-régionales pertinentes pour y apporter des solutions. Il a indiqué avoir renforcé pour sa part le cadre de coopération avec ses voisins.

L'Algérie, au nom du Groupe africain, a demandé à la communauté internationale de prendre des mesures d'urgence pour protéger les migrants et éradiquer les réseaux de passeurs. Les États doivent aussi respecter leurs obligations s'agissant de la protection de demandeurs d'asile. Ils doivent enfin agir sur les causes profondes des migrations, notamment économiques. L'Inde a plaidé pour la lutte contre l'exploitation inhumaine des migrants par des groupes criminels organisés. Trois mille personnes ont péri en Méditerranée en 2014, a rappelé le Costa Rica. Les États doivent faire la distinction entre les trafiquants et les responsables de la traite des personnes. Le Costa Rica a plaidé en outre pour une meilleure coordination de l'action des institutions internationales concernées.

L'Équateur a demandé qui était responsable de la tragédie en Méditerranée: les États ou les organisations criminelles internationales ? Il a rappelé que le continent américain avait lui aussi connu un exode massif du Sud vers le Nord et ajouté que les murs et barrières mises en place au nord n'arrêtaient pas les migrants.

Dans un contexte où les migrants sont souvent victimes de l'exploitation, comme l'a souligné la Belgique en particulier, la Suède a relevé que l'adoption de politiques adéquates devait permettre aux pays d'accueil de protéger les migrants et de tirer le meilleur parti possible de leurs contributions. La Suisse a rappelé la complexification croissante des mouvements migratoires et celle, parallèle, des formes de vulnérabilités. Concernant la Méditerranée, elle estime qu'une action solidaire et concertée de tous les acteurs est nécessaire et que les solutions doivent être élaborées à court, moyen et long terme, et de prendre en compte les causes profondes des migrations, tout en assurant la protection des droits des travailleurs migrants.

L'Argentine a jugé nécessaire de passer d'un modèle de gestion des migrations axée sur le contrôle aux frontières à un modèle plaçant l'intégration des migrants au centre de toutes les préoccupations.

L'Australie a contesté les affirmations du Haut-Commissaire concernant la situation dans son pays, assurant que l'Australie veille au contraire au respect des droits fondamentaux des migrants. Elle contribue largement au renforcement de la gouvernance et de moyens de lutte contre le trafic des êtres humains dans les pays voisins.

La Bulgarie appelle elle aussi à une approche mondiale de la question afin de sauver les vies humaines, de combattre les trafiquants et d'étudier les causes profondes des migrations. Elle a expliqué être depuis 2013 sous la pression de divers mouvement migratoires. La Tunisie a estimé que le Conseil des droits de l'homme devait interpeller la conscience internationale et que la priorité absolue devait être donnée à sauver des vies. Elle a également rappelé que les migrants avaient, comme tout être humain, des droits et a appelé les États d'origine, de transit et d'accueil à coopérer plus étroitement.

Cuba a souligné que c'était la pauvreté qui poussait de nombreuses personnes à migrer et à dénoncer la sélectivité dans les politiques migratoires des États. Pour Cuba, il faut reconnaître le caractère international du problème et accroître la coopération internationale.

Pour l'Organisation de la coopération islamique, les migrations ne sont pas un phénomène nouveau et les tragédies récentes interpellent la conscience de l'humanité. Les normes internationales prescrivent de protéger les vies et les droits des migrants, qui ne sont pas de simples statistiques mais des êtres humains.

La République de Corée a estimé que les tragédies observées en Asie du Sud-Est ou en Méditerranée exigeaient des solutions globales qui fassent intervenir toutes les parties prenantes. Elle préconise notamment les cadre de développement à long terme qui permette d'établir des stratégies de migrations qui respectent les droits de l'homme.

La Sierra Leone a estimé qu'une «approche droits de l'homme» de la migration impliquait un rôle de catalyseur du Conseil des droits de l'homme. Elle a souligné qu'il fallait s'attacher aux causes profondes des migrations et a invité des États occidentaux à accorder davantage de visas pour réduire la migration illégale. L'Égypte a elle aussi demandé que soient multipliées les voies d'immigration légale, tout en aidant les pays d'origine à se développer par le biais de l'assistance technique; s'attaquer aux causes des migrations illégales ne devrait pas se faire par le recours à la force mais plutôt en tenant compte de l'apport de migrants à toute société. Le Népal a également estimé que la migration devait être considérée comme un phénomène positif qui enrichit tant le pays d'origine que celui d'accueil et a opposé ces bienfaits à la situation souvent critique des migrants, vulnérables et exploités. Il a rappelé que le Népal dépend de manière importante des ressources de ses propres migrants.

La Malaisie a mis l'accent sur la crise de la migration en Asie du Sud-est, en estimant que la solution à cette question complexe nécessiterait temps et collaboration. Elle a annoncé le rapatriement d'ici un an des personnes d'origine bangladaise alors que celles qui viennent du Myanmar seront réinstallées avec l'aide de pays tiers. Elle a estimé que la responsabilité reposait sur les pays d'origine qui doivent s'interroger sur les raisons pour lesquelles leur population veut quitter le pays. Le Sénégal a rappelé lui aussi que c'est à l'État d'origine qu'incombe en premier lieu la responsabilité de protéger ses citoyens mais a demandé ce que pouvaient espérer ces derniers dans les pays en proie à la guerre civile ou s'il sont pourchassés par leur propre Gouvernement. Il a rappelé la Déclaration de haut niveau sur migration et développement d'octobre 2013 et a mis l'accent sur la lutte contre les organisations criminelles et mafieuses qui exploitent la détresse des populations migrantes.

Le Fonds des Nations Unies pour l'enfance (UNICEF) a mis l'accent sur les enfants en situation de migration et rappelé les traumatismes qui résultent pour les enfants de leur détention aux fins de contrôle de l'immigration, ce qui ne peut jamais être dans l'intérêt de l'enfant. L'UNICEF rappelle que la Convention relative aux droits de l'enfant oblige les États parties à soigner les enfants, où qu'ils se trouvent, et donc les enfants migrants, y compris en mer.

Pour le Bangladesh, la question des migrations doit être traitée de manière globale en associant pays d'origine, de transit et de destination. La migration doit se faire de manière organisée, sûre, ordonnée et dans la dignité. Chypre a souligné que les États avaient un devoir partagé de faire en sorte que les droits des migrants soient respectés, la coopération entre les pays d'origine, de transit et de destination étant fondamentale à cet égard. Les causes du phénomène doivent être identifiées. La Libye a souligné l'importance de prendre en compte tous les pays de transit sans exception. Son représentant a souligné qu'elle ne pouvait pas faire face seule à l'afflux de migrants sur son territoire.

Malte a jugé important de renforcer la coopération avec les pays d'origine et de transit, tout en intensifiant le dialogue, notamment au travers des processus de Rabat et de Khartoum. Aucun pays ne peut éluder ses responsabilités. Malte considère que la stabilisation de la Libye constitue une étape essentielle si l'on entend mettre un terme aux tragédies en Méditerranée. Monaco s'est dit conscient que les États devaient œuvrer de concert pour des migrations sûres, dignes et sans risque. La délégation a indiqué que la Principauté avait accueilli au début juin une conférence conjointe de l'Organisation pour la sécurité et la coopération en Europe (OSCE), d'Interpol et de l'Office des Nations Unies contre la drogue et le crime (ONUDC) à laquelle ont pris part les «Pays partenaires méditerranéens pour la coopération» de l'OSCE dont l'objet était de définir des actions pour renforcer l'échange d'informations et la coopération afin de lutter contre la façon la plus efficace contre les réseaux de trafiquants tout en respectant les droits de l'homme et les libertés fondamentales des migrants.

Plusieurs délégations ont condamné l'«obsession sécuritaire». Le Brésil a estimé par exemple que l'élément humanitaire devait être renforcé. Selon son représentant, le débat sur la migration doit être déplacé depuis la priorité donnée à la sécurité vers les droits humains. Le Brésil considère que la lutte contre la traite des migrants passe par la mise en place de filières de migration régulière. Lui emboîtant le pas, les Philippines ont souligné que l'objectif premier et immédiat devait consister à protéger les migrants, d'autant que les actions fondées uniquement sur des critères de sécurité entraînent des violations des droits de l'homme. Il y a une responsabilité partagée entre les pays de départ, de transit et de destination, estiment-elles. Le Bangladesh estime que les migrants doivent être en mesure de bénéficier d'une assistance humanitaire à tout moment. La Turquie a jugé qu'il n'était pas convenable de se focaliser uniquement sur les mesures sécuritaires pour faire face à la migration irrégulière. Elle a mentionné «l'immense tragédie humanitaire» en cours dans la mer d'Andaman. Elle s'est engagée à débloquer un million de dollars en faveur de l'organisation internationale des migrations et du Haut-Commissariat pour les réfugiés et se propose d'assister les pays de la région face à l'afflux de migrants bangladais et rohingyas.

Parmi les mesures prises au plan national, l'Afrique du Sud a indiqué qu'une commission ad hoc de son Parlement s'était attelée à développer un programme d'action globale afin d'étudier et de remédier aux causes de la migration et de l'intolérance face aux flux migratoires dans le pays. Des systèmes de migration régulés sont fondamentaux en matière de développement, a-t-elle souligné. Le gouvernement sud-africain est engagé avec d'autres agences dans une initiative intitulée «opération pyramide» afin de sécuriser les frontières du pays. La Serbie, qui a rappelé le grand nombre de réfugiés et de déplacés internes sur son territoire, a dit être confrontée en outre depuis plusieurs années à un afflux significatif de migrants en transit et de demandeurs d'asile. Il s'agit d'une décision difficile mais le pays veille à relever les défis en matière de droits de l'homme. L'Espagne a souligné elle aussi son engagement sans réserve en faveur de la protection des droits des migrants. Elle dispose pour cela d'un cadre juridique très progressiste en matière de de droits et libertés des étrangers. Pour éviter le drame des morts en mer, l'Espagne appuie depuis plusieurs années une stratégie reposant sur la coopération avec les pays d'origine et de transit, incluant la prise en compte du lien entre migration et développement, tout en luttant sans relâche contre les réseaux criminels de la traite d'êtres humains.

La Géorgie a recommandé que la priorité soit donnée à la sécurité des migrants, compte tenu des nombreux décès en mer enregistrés ces derniers mois. Tout en plaidant elle aussi pour la prise de mesures plus fortes en vue d'assurer la sécurité des migrants, l'Albanie a insisté sur la nécessité de s'attaquer aux causes profondes des migrations. La Thaïlande elle aussi a estimé que les problèmes des migrants devraient être traités à leur racine. Le Portugal, pays marqué par une longue histoire de migrations, a mis l'accent sur la priorité à accorder aux opérations de sauvetage des migrants en Méditerranée; mais il a aussi mis en garde contre toute politique se limitant au court terme et a préconisé une coopération à long terme entre pays d'accueil et de départ. La Norvège a invité au respect du droit international relatif aux droits de l'homme et aux réfugiés, tout en notant la complexité des situations en cause. La Norvège juge notamment nécessaire de respecter le principe de non-refoulement et de s'attaquer aux causes profondes des migrations. L'ex-République yougoslave de Macédoine s'est présentée comme un pays de transit et a plaidé en faveur de programmes internationaux visant à étudier les causes profondes des migrations.

L'Algérie a demandé à la communauté internationale de prendre conscience du fait que la migration est étroitement associée au problème de la pauvreté. De l'avis de la délégation algérienne, les solutions sécuritaires préconisées par les pays riches doivent céder la place à une perspective globale qui accorderait une place de choix à l'aide au développement en faveur des pays d'origine.

L'Iraq a souligné que la migration est aussi l'expression du courage d'un individu qui souhaite surmonter ses difficultés et part à la recherche une vie meilleure. Si les États ont le droit de poser des conditions à l'entrée sur leur sol, ils sont aussi tenus par le devoir de protection des personnes, a rappelé la délégation iraquienne.

L'Indonésie a invité les pays de la communauté internationale à faire moins de déclarations politisées et à respecter leurs engagements internationaux. La protection des droits des migrants ne doit pas être imposée aux seuls pays qui les reçoivent et il convient de distinguer entre les migrations dues à la fuite devant des situations de conflits ou des violations massives des droits de l'homme et celles qui sont essentiellement à caractère économique, a-t-elle estimé. Le Maroc a pour sa part rappelé que certains migrants traversaient effectivement les mers à la recherche d'une vie meilleure mais que beaucoup fuyaient des conflits. Les migrations posent donc un triple défi: sauver des vies, s'attaquer aux causes profondes de la migration et enfin tirer le meilleur profit du phénomène.

Le Mexique a souligné que le débat sur les migrants devra dépasser la seule optique sécuritaire pour s'inscrire dans le contexte plus général des droits de l'homme et des prochains objectifs pour le développement durable. À l'instar de la Grèce, le Mexique a insisté sur la responsabilité que partagent les pays d'origine, de transit et de destination en matière de protection des droits des migrants.

La Nouvelle-Zélande a indiqué participer aux initiatives qui ont été lancées dans sa région pour remédier aux problèmes que rencontrent les migrants et pour lutter contre les trafiquants.

Les États-Unis ont rappelé qu'il appartient à tous les gouvernements de respecter les droits des migrants, indépendamment de leur origine et de leur condition. Les États-Unis demandent par ailleurs que l'on aide les pays de transit et de destination à gérer les migrations avec davantage d'humanité. Les trafiquants d'êtres humains doivent être sanctionnés, ont en outre souligné les États-Unis.

Considérant l'ampleur des migrations actuelles comme un phénomène extrêmement préoccupant, El Salvador a préconisé la construction d'un cadre contraignant pour garantir le respect des droits humains de la population migrante. Le pays a soutenu la proposition visant à convoquer une session spéciale du Conseil des droits de l'homme consacrée aux questions des migrations.

La France a elle aussi relevé que le phénomène migratoire était mondial et requérait donc une attention mondiale. Soulignant que les migrants sont aussi les victimes de réseaux lucratifs et criminels de trafiquants, la France a invité tous les États à ratifier et mettre en œuvre le Protocole de Palerme sur la lutte contre la traite des migrants. Elle demande aussi d'éviter les amalgames entre le régime du droit d'asile et le traitement des migrants économiques. La réponse européenne face aux migrations est responsable et repose sur le respect des droits de l'homme, a assuré la France. L'Autriche a rappelé que de nombreux pays étaient à la fois des États d'origine, de transit et de destination des migrants et que la situation ne pouvait être gérée que par le biais de la coopération internationale. L'Autriche soutient donc pleinement l'approche de l'Union européenne, y compris pour ce qui est d'un système commun de réinstallation.

Indiquant subir les conséquences des flux migratoires, le Monténégro a préconisé une approche centrée sur les droits de l'homme des migrants qui ne se limite pas au court terme; il estime notamment qu'il faut œuvrer à améliorer la situation dans les États d'origine. Pour la Chine, la communauté internationale devrait chercher à réguler les flux migratoires et les États adopter une attitude plus humaine et plus ouverte à l'égard des migrants, qui ont des droits légitimes.

Le Panama a insisté sur l'importance d'assurer le plein respect des droits de l'homme pour tous, y compris pour les migrants. Les migrants sont avant tout des êtres humains et non des données économiques, a souligné la délégation panaméenne. La migration n'est pas un phénomène intrinsèquement négatif et destructif, a souligné le Portugal.

À l'instar du Pakistan, qui a mis en exergue l'apport potentiel des migrants pour les économies des pays qui les accueillent, le Maroc a indiqué croire fermement que la migration offre une opportunité plus qu'une menace et la Côte d'Ivoire a mis l'accent sur le rôle positif joué par les migrants dans les pays d'accueil. La Côte d'Ivoire a par ailleurs invité chacun à se demander pourquoi tant de personnes prenaient le risque, au péril de leur vie, de traverser la mer sur des embarcations de fortune et a dénoncé les violations massives des droits des migrants. Le Pakistan a quant à lui demandé aux États concernés de respecter les particularités culturelles et religieuses des migrants, estimant que cela ne peut que faciliter leur intégration. Le Ghana a appelé à traiter les migrants avec dignité, rappelant qu'il ne pouvait y avoir d' «être humain illégal». Le pays a demandé aux États de ne pas expulser sans jugement les migrants jugés illégaux.

La Thaïlande a indiqué concentrer ses efforts sur l'intégration du million de migrants qu'elle accueille, notamment du point de vue de leur accès au travail et à la santé. L'Arabie saoudite a quant à elle déclaré accueillir non pas des migrants mais près de dix millions de travailleurs sous contrat. Le Qatar a souhaité mettre l'accent sur les efforts déployés par les pays membres du Conseil de coopération du Golfe (CCG) en faveur des droits des travailleurs migrants, dont il a salué la contribution à la richesse des pays du CCG tout en vantant la contribution de leurs salaires au développement des pays d'origine.

La République dominicaine a affirmé que les craintes de déportation massive des immigrés haïtiens du pays étaient infondées et a assuré que les mesures prises le seront dans le plein respect des droits de l'homme. Le Myanmar a quant à lui dénoncé des «impressions fausses» résultant d'informations erronées au sujet des incidents survenus dans un État du pays il y a trois ans; le pays a exprimé son désaccord avec les observations négatives du Haut-Commissaire aux droits de l'homme concernant la situation au Myanmar.

Pour les organisations non gouvernementales,leForum asiatique pour les droits de l'homme et le développement a déclaré que la résolution de la crise des milliers de migrants rohingyas et bangladais rejetés en mer exigeait des mesures concertées et à long terme. L'ONG a insisté sur l'importance de remédier aux causes profondes de la crise, qui – selon elle – sont à chercher dans la situation des droits de l'homme au Myanmar, en particulier dans l'État de Rakhine, comme l'ont montré plusieurs rapports du Rapporteur spécial sur cette question.

Pour l'Alliance internationale d'aide à l'enfance, le sauvetage et la protection des personnes en détresse constituent des «impératifs humanitaires», qui ne doivent pas céder le pas à la lutte contre la traite des êtres humains. Save the Children a souligné la nécessité de prendre compte des besoins particuliers des enfants migrants, lesquels ne devraient jamais être placés en détention sur la base de leur statut migratoire.

Le Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil , au nom également de Conectas Direitos Humanos, a condamné les réseaux illégaux qui organisent le voyage des migrants dans des conditions épouvantables. Le Centre a regretté que les politiques migratoires «policières» entraînent des violations des droits de l'homme inacceptables et a recommandé que les États respectent des normes minimales de traitement des migrants.

Human Rights Watch a rapporté des expériences individuelles de migrants représentatives de la diversité des motifs de départ. Toutes ces expériences mettent en lumière l'arbitraire, la violence voire les persécutions que les migrants sont trop souvent contraints de fuir et qui imposent un devoir de protection aux pays de destination. Sïdwind Verein Entwicklungspolitik a attiré l'attention du Conseil sur le sort des migrants iraniens qui se rendent en Australie via l'Indonésie dans des conditions d'extrême insécurité. Enfin, la RADDHO, au nom également de Nord-Sud XXI, a regretté l'incapacité des pays de destination et de départ des migrants africains décédés depuis un an dans la Méditerranée d'apporter des réponses aux problèmes de fond qui sous-tendent cette migration.

Conclusions des panélistes

Synthétisant le débat, MME FLAVIA PANSIERI, Haut-Commissaire adjointe aux droits de l'homme, a souligné que personne n'avait mis en question le fait évident que les migrants sont «avant tout des êtres humains» et, à ce titre, titulaires de droits qu'il faut respecter. Les intervenants ont souligné qu'il fallait apporter des réponses aux problèmes rencontrés par les migrants dans leurs pays d'origine et lutter contre la traite des êtres humains. Le Conseil devrait réfléchir aux outils dont il a besoin pour rester informé de la situation des migrants et pour apporter des réponses aux difficultés qui sont les leurs.

M. HOUNGBO a noté que les débats avaient mis en lumière la dimension intégrée de la question des migrations. Le Directeur général adjoint des opérations de terrain et du partenariat à l'OIT a rappelé la disponibilité de son organisation pour travailler avec les différents pays concernés dans le domaine du droit du travail, que ce soit pour les travailleurs migrants ou pour les autres types de migrants, qui risquent de se retrouver exploités dans le travail dans les pays de destination.

MME THOMPSON a noté une grande convergence dans les points de vue exprimées, notamment s'agissant du respect de la dignité humaine et des droits des migrants, ou encore la nécessité d'étudier les causes profondes des migrations et d'une réponse globale qui rassemble les différentes catégories de pays concernés. La Directrice générale adjointe de l'OIM a rappelé la nécessité d'augmenter le nombre des voies d'immigration légale. Elle a noté un accord politique de principe qui doit désormais de traduire sur le plan pratique. Elle a rappelé que son organisation cherchait à protéger les migrants au cours de leur migration et qu'elle était actuellement très présente en Méditerranée, s'efforçant notamment à étoffer les objectifs européens en matière de migration. Elle a également détaillé certaines opérations sur le terrain, dont une campagne d'information pilote en préparation au Niger pour expliquer les modalités et les risques de la migration aux candidats.

MME BATCHELOR a insisté sur l'aspect fondamental d'un respect des droits de l'homme. La Directrice de la Division de la protection internationale au HCR, a rappelé le caractère fondamental du droit d'asile, qui doit être reconnu concrètement. Elle a insisté sur l'importance de la communication à l'intention des candidats à la migration, afin qu'ils ne tombent pas aux mains des trafiquants de toute sorte. Elle a remercié en conclusion les États qui accordent des fonds à son organisation.

*Déclarations faites dans le cadre du débat interactif par des membres du Conseil: Union européenne, Algérie (au nom du Groupe africain), Fédération de Russie , Australie, Saint Siège, Belgique, Inde, Costa Rica, Namibie, Argentine, Suède, Italie, Népal, Tunisie, Équateur, Sierra Leone, Égypte, Malaisie, Cuba, Suisse, Sénégal, Fonds des Nations Unies pour l'enfance (UNICEF), République de Corée, OCI , Bulgarie, Monaco, Brésil, Philippines, Bangladesh, Afrique du Sud, Niger, Chypre, Turquie, Lybie, Serbie, Malte, Espagne, États-Unis, Pakistan , Géorgie, Albanie, Thaïlande, Mexique, Nouvelle Zélande, Grèce, Iraq, Algérie , Indonésie, Maroc , Arabie saoudite, France, Côte d'Ivoire, Chine, Ghana, Myanmar, Autriche, Norvège, Monténégro, Qatar, ex-République yougoslave of Macédoine, El Salvador, Panama, République dominicaine, Portugal

**Déclarations faites dans le cadre du débat interactif par les organisations non gouvernementales: Forum asiatique pour les droits de l'homme et le développement, Alliance internationale d'aide à l'enfance, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil (au nom également de Conectas Direitos Humanos), Verein Südwind Entwicklungspolitik, Human Rights Watch, Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme-RADDHO (au nom également de Nord-Sud XXI).

Ce document est destiné à l'information; il ne constitue pas un document officiel

Malaysia: Report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro: Addendum - Mission to Malaysia (A/HRC/29/38/Add.1) (Advance Edited Version)

15 June 2015 - 5:17pm
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Malaysia, Myanmar

Human Rights Council

Twenty-ninth session

Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Summary

The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, visited Malaysia from 23 to 28 February 2015, at the invitation of the Government. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur highlights the country’s commitment to combating trafficking in persons, as evidenced by its legislative and policy framework, and its multidisciplinary approach in taking anti-trafficking measures, which involves key Government agencies and some civil society organizations (CSOs). She nonetheless expresses concern about, inter alia, the focus on trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation to the neglect of other forms of trafficking, particularly labour trafficking; and the restrictive national immigration policy focused on rapid deportation of irregular migrants, which does not provide the opportunity for accurate identification of and provision of assistance to victims of trafficking. Other concerns include the placement of victims in shelters without freedom of movement and the capacity gap of enforcement officials which is further exacerbated by reported prevalence of corruption of some officials. On that basis, the Special Rapporteur makes a number of recommendations to the Government, including with regard to ratification of key international legal instruments, strengthening of national legislation and policies to combat trafficking, and increasing capacity-building activities for government officials. The Special Rapporteur also encourages the Government to address key gaps in the assistance provided to victims of trafficking, especially in terms of providing them with effective remedies, and increasing the involvement of CSOs in the provision of assistance to victims. She also calls on the Government to improve the justice delivery system and strengthen its regional and international engagement in cooperating with countries of origin to address the root causes of trafficking and create more opportunities for safe migration.

Myanmar: Supplementary Appeal: Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea Initiative - Enhancing responses and seeking solutions, June–December 2015 (Revised (12 June 2015))

15 June 2015 - 3:15pm
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

CONTEXT

Introduction

Irregular movements by sea in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea have tripled since 2012. An estimated 63,000 individuals made the journey in 2014, and 25,000 people have already taken the same route in the first quarter of 2015 - double the number of departures in the same period last year. The discovery of mass graves in smugglers’ camps in Thailand and Malaysia, as well as the many stranded boats, indicates that unsafe population movements are likely to continue and increase. Coupled with much-publicized tragedies in the Mediterranean, this longstanding movement in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea is drawing global attention. Governments of both transit and destination countries (sometimes one and the same) have called for action. While the humanitarian needs of the situation have been recognized from the outset, the demand for a more holistic protection-sensitive response has taken longer.

However there are now widespread calls for action to address the root causes of these movements, as presented in this appeal, which seeks both resources for the immediate response to the crisis in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, and enduring solutions to the drivers of irregular movements.

World: Human Rights Council holds enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights of migrants

15 June 2015 - 12:51pm
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Australia, Bangladesh, Dominica, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Africa, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, United States of America, World, Yemen

AFTERNOON

15 June 2015

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an enhanced interactive dialogue on the human rights of migrants.

In his opening statement, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed his growing alarm at the failure of the international community to protect the rights of migrants, who in their search for safety and opportunity were too often met with more exploitation, discrimination and violence, coupled with harshly enforced refusals to permit entry. The death-toll of migrants in the Mediterranean was a cause for profound alarm: it demonstrated conclusively that militarised deterrence and enforcement policies would fail and that if no other option was available, they would brave terrible peril to seek safety for themselves and their children. The High Commissioner welcomed the European Union’s recent determination to tackle migration in a more comprehensive manner, and the newly intensified search and rescue effort in the Mediterranean, noting that far bolder steps were needed to integrate the notion that the European Union needed and should welcome more migration at all skill-levels. The only effective approach to migration must be grounded in the human rights of the people concerned, focusing on root causes and long-term solutions.

Gilbert Houngbo, Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships of the International Labour Organization, said migration was a global issue, and that closing borders was not a solution. He underlined the importance of coordinated action among countries, including countries of origin, of destination and of transit.

Laura Thompson, Deputy Director-General of the International Organization for Migration, noted that Governments had the sovereign right to decide who could enter their country, but requirements had to be implemented in full respect for human rights. There was no one solution on how to deal with migration, but it was necessary to take the suffering of migrants into account.

Carol Batchelor, Director for the Division of International Protection at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, underlined that saving lives had to be a priority irrespective of whether people travelled irregularly or regularly. Migrants faced various human rights violations and were preyed upon by smugglers. All stakeholders had to work in tandem to address the issues of migrants and their plight.

François Crépeau, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, noted that repressive policies failed to deter irregular migration because mobility was an inescapable consequence of globalization and migrants would come anyway due to violence, natural disasters, extreme poverty, war, conflict or persecution. States needed to reclaim the mobility market by offering better mobility options than what the smugglers were offering.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers stressed that saving lives was the first priority in addressing the alarming cost of human lives in migratory flows. They concurred that the root causes of migration had to be investigated, including socio-economic and political conditions in the countries of origin. Speakers also noted that migration should be regarded as an opportunity rather than economic cost, considering that migrants brought in certain skills that could be beneficial for the local economy. All speakers agreed that the tackling of irregular migratory flows required long-term strategies rather than short-sighted policies, such as closing down of borders.

In concluding remarks, Flavia Pensieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the very large number of interventions by Member States proved that there existed a great concern about the migration issue. The issue of migration should be therefore discussed from a rights-based perspective, and its root causes had to be investigated. Criminalization of migrants should be discouraged, as well as flawed assumption about migration, such as that migration was a cost for receiving countries. Migration had to be addressed in line with the principles of solidarity and comprehension.

Taking the floor in the enhanced dialogue were: European Union, Algeria, Russian Federation, Australia, Holy See, Belgium, India, Costa Rica, Namibia, Argentina, Sweden, Italy, Nepal, Tunisia, Ecuador, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Malaysia, Cuba, Switzerland, Senegal, United Nations Children’s Fund, Republic of Korea, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Bulgaria, Monaco, Brazil, Bangladesh, South Africa, Niger, Cyprus, Turkey, Libya, Serbia, Malta, Spain, United States, Pakistan, Georgia, Albania, Thailand, Mexico, New Zealand, Greece, Iraq, Algeria, Indonesia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, France, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Ghana, Myanmar, Austria, Norway, Montenegro, Qatar, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, El Salvador, Panama, Dominican Republic and Portugal.

The following civil society organizations also spoke: Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development, Save the Children International, Centre for Legal and Social Studies, Sudwind, Human Rights Watch and Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme.

During its evening session, the Council will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the human rights of migrants, and on minority issues.

Opening Statements

ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed his growing alarm at the failure of the international community to protect the rights of migrants, who in their search for safety and opportunity were too often met with more exploitation, discrimination and violence, coupled with harshly enforced refusals to permit entry. The death-toll of migrants in the Mediterranean was a cause for profound alarm: it demonstrated conclusively that militarised deterrence and enforcement policies would fail and that if no other option was available, they would brave terrible peril to seek safety for themselves and their children. High Commissioner Zeid welcomed the European Union’s recent determination to tackle migration in a more comprehensive manner, and the newly intensified search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean, and said that far bolder steps were needed to integrate the notion that the European Union needed and should welcome more migration at all skill-levels. It was well within the European Union’s means to give refuge, over a number of years, to one million refugees displaced by the conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. This would represent barely 0.2 per cent of the European Union's population – compared to Lebanon, which had taken in 26 per cent of its population in refugees. The resources currently deployed for ineffective border control systems could instead be invested in maximizing the benefit of regular migration channels. For many years, people had been fleeing persecution in Myanmar and poverty in Bangladesh, notably via trafficking and smuggling rings. Mass graves had been discovered last month in Thailand and Malaysia, containing the bodies of presumed victims of human trafficking and smuggling gangs; most of these victims were said to have been Rohingya from Myanmar, who were denied citizenship and suffered a pattern of persecution which was considered to be a driver of the Rohingya exodus.

Australia’s response to migrant arrivals had set a poor benchmark for its regional neighbours and it did not permit entry to even recognized refugees in urgent need of protection, but had set up relocation arrangements with countries that may be ill-prepared to offer them any durable solution. Many on the unaccompanied children who had crossed into the United States last year were fleeing uncontrolled violence by criminal gangs in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as deprivation, social exclusion and discrimination. The response in the form of the increasing militarization of Mexico’s southern borders was not accompanied by improvements in the countries of origin regarding the conditions which pushed them to migrate. The United States maintained the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world, at a cost of some $2 billion per year; alternatives to detention were urgently needed, and the High Commissioner stressed that in particular, the detention of children based on their migrant status constituted a violation of the rights of the child. The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council benefited massively from the contributions of migrant workers, and yet there were pervasive violations of their rights in several countries, including physical abuse and there was frequently no effective mechanism where abused migrants could seek redress. The Kafala sponsorship system, which enabled multiple abuses of migrants' human rights and labour rights, should be repealed as a matter of urgency, and private recruitment agencies should be properly regulated.

The High Commissioner said he was deeply concerned about recent violence in South Africa, in which seven people were killed, hundreds injured and thousands displaced, adding that xenophobic attacks, including hate speech that incited violence and intolerance, merited public condemnation and prosecution. He was also concerned about plans to expel large numbers of undocumented Haitians from the Dominican Republic. The only effective approach to migration must be grounded in the human rights of the people concerned, focusing on root causes – including in countries of origin and transit – and long-term solutions. With so many countries locked in internal conflict, from Syria and Iraq to Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Mali, the task of re-establishing peace, justice and the rule of law was increasingly urgent. Conflict was not the only driver of migration, said the High Commissioner, noting that numerous Eritreans were fleeing their country, including large numbers of unaccompanied minors. The Human Rights Council should consider convening Special Sessions on migration issues in the future, and it was vital that States addressed, both singly and together, the economic despair that drove so many to risk death to escape the prison of their poverty.

GILBERT HOUNGBO, Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships, International Labour Organization, said migration was a global issue, and that closing borders was not an answer. He underlined the importance of coordinated actions among countries, including countries of origin, of destination and of transit. The International Labour Organization was also concerned about abuses against seasonal migrant workers. Another critical issue was the risk for migration to be translated in increased child labour or child trafficking. The International Labour Organization would be launching an event later in June on how to minimize the risk for such abuses to take place.

LAURA THOMPSON, Deputy Director-General, International Organization for Migration, said the human rights of a person did not depend on this person’s location and on whether or not this person was a regular or irregular migrant. Governments had the sovereign right to decide who entered their country, but requirements had to be implemented in full respect for human rights. It was sometimes extremely complex to distinguish between categories of migrants. There was no one solution on how to deal with migration, but it was necessary to take the suffering of migrants into account. The first issue was to save the lives of migrants at risk. Addressing the root causes of migration was also key. This included preventing conflicts and addressing extreme poverty.

CAROL BATCHELOR, Director of the Division of International Protection at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), underlined that saving lives had to be the priority irrespective of whether people travelled irregularly or regularly. Migrants faced various human rights violations and were preyed upon by smugglers. Violence and conflict forced them to flee and look for better livelihood elsewhere. All State holders had to work in tandem to address the issues of migrants and their plight. States had an obligation towards those seeking asylum and to uphold the principle of non-refoulement. While some States welcomed thousands of refugees, others demonstrated that much needed to be accomplished in the protection and sheltering of migrants. Receiving and protecting was critical, but solution and prevention was much preferred. The dialogue on the protection of the human rights of migrants would thus be focused on root causes of migration. Sadly, the statistics released by UNHCR this year would be the worst in human history. Thus, cooperation was key in addressing the issue of migration.

FRANÇOIS CRÉPEAU, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, noted that migrants were not just numbers, but human beings with rights. Migrants often had very few options and had to migrate in order to survive. They believed that they were taking flight to find protection against violence, or a job to support their families. Repressive policies failed to deter irregular migration because hope was always stronger. Sealing borders did not work because mobility was an inescapable consequence of globalization and migrants would come anyway due to violence, natural disasters, extreme poverty, war, conflict or persecution. States needed to reclaim the mobility market by offering better mobility options than what the smugglers were offering. States should adapt their policies to the facts and recognize that it was much better to create systems that incentivized people to abide by the rules, rather than systems that drove people to evade the rules. Accordingly, the Special Rapporteur would propose to the European Union to choose mobility over closure in its migration policy framework.

Discussion

European Union was firmly committed to the promotion of the human rights of migrants and said that the immediate priority must be saving lives. A comprehensive approach consistent with international human rights law must address the root causes of migration. Algeria said that migration was a complex issue which some viewed as a threat. The international community must address root causes and consequences of migration, save lives and provide assistance to those lucky enough to arrive to their destination. Russia said that the situation on the south European coasts was the result of irresponsible European interference in internal affairs of some countries in Africa. Russia believed it was important to consider the reasons behind this migration. Australia said that the priority was the protection of lives at sea. Unscrupulous and criminal behaviour that undermined peoples’ right to protection and dignity must be met with a firm response. Australia took strong issue with the High Commissioner’s assessment of Australia’s policy and attitude towards irregular maritime arrivals.

Holy See said a long range immigration strategy was still lacking, and suggested that rescue operations be strengthened, resettlement policies be increased, and efforts be made to protect migrants’ rights and acknowledge the contribution of migrants to economic growth. Belgium said migrants were often exploited and expressed concern about recent deaths at sea. Belgium supported a number of partner countries in strengthening asylum systems, and was active in terms of alternatives to detention, particularly for unaccompanied minors. India was deeply concerned about the inhumane treatment of migrants by smuggling groups, and called for a holistic response to the increased number of deaths at sea. India said challenges had to be addressed in countries of destination and origin, including racism and discrimination. Costa Rica noted with concern the alarming number of deaths in the Mediterranean, and was concerned that the increased number of crises would lead to increased migration. Smugglers and traffickers had to be combatted, and appropriate resources had to be allocated to protecting the rights of migrants.

Namibia noted that the root causes of migration lay in insufficient economic development because people sought their livelihood elsewhere, warning that such a situation was the breeding ground for various criminal groups. Argentina underlined the need to move from a border and security approach in dealing with migrants to one that stressed human rights. Promoting adequate socio-economic conditions was vital in dealing with migration. Sweden said the recent developments in the Mediterranean highlighted the need for the international community to share the responsibility in welcoming migrants, who could bring knowledge and skills to the countries receiving them. Italy called for a new approach to the issue of migration, based on cooperation and solidarity among the countries of origin, transit and destination.

Nepal said that there was more international migration today than ever before and expressed concern about the exploitation of migrant workers. Nepal was focusing on improving domestic labour legislation and better protecting labour migrants abroad, and was drafting a policy on safe migration. Tunisia said that absolute priority must be given to saving the lives of migrants and to protecting their rights. Countries of origin, transit and destination must cooperate more closely in seeking global and multi-dimensional issues, and the international community must address root causes of migration. Ecuador said that 3,000 migrants had died in the Mediterranean, and asked who was responsible for those deaths and if the international community was going to seek out the perpetrators of human trafficking and disband the criminal bands of smugglers. Sierra Leone stressed the need for a proper analysis of the problem to better understand the issues and said that smugglers must be brought to justice. Immediate and long-term root causes of people seeking out illegal services of traffickers must be addressed, such as visa regimes of many Western countries.

Egypt said migration was a positive phenomenon that should be promoted and dealt with in a holistic approach and with full respect for human rights. Joint management included capacity building and northern States accepting more migrants. Efforts to address the root causes of migration had to be respectful of States’ sovereignty. Malaysia said finding a long-term solution to the issue of migration would require a holistic approach and include States of origin, transit and destination. Malaysia had been sheltering migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar. The solution to this problem was to tackle the root causes of migration. Cuba underlined the importance of addressing the root causes of migration, without selectivity, by strengthening the right to development. Selective migration stripped developing countries from intellectual resources. Switzerland said migrants’ movements had become more and more complex over recent years, and their vulnerability had increased. A long-term vision looking at the root causes of migration was needed, and efforts had to be made to better protect the rights of migrant workers and their families.

Senegal recalled that in 2014-2015, some 24,000 migrants died, mainly at sea. It was important to take stock of persons fleeing conflict and persecution, and to provide them with new livelihood prospects. UNICEF warned of the negative effects of detention of children, stressing that detention of children should be used only as a measure of last resort, and only to help them. UNICEF noted that the migration agenda was an opportunity for the European Union to apply its values. Republic of Korea noted that the tragedy of migrants at sea required the coordinated approach of key stakeholders, including the countries of origin and the countries of destination. Organization of Islamic Conference noted that Governments had the responsibility to protect migrants in accordance with international human rights law, and to address the migration issue in a comprehensive way, by dealing with root causes of migration.

Bulgaria said that increased migration and refugee flows, people smuggling and associated human rights abuses were global phenomena and required global responses. The situations in Syria and Iraq were of particular concern, and Bulgaria empathized with neighbouring countries which shouldered the refugee burden. Monaco said that most migrants faced a number of risks and dangers, and were often victims of smugglers who abused their vulnerable situation. Countries must ensure that migration took place in safe circumstances. Brazil said that the international community must prioritize the humanitarian dimension of migration, strengthen the humanitarian component of its responses and shift the response to migration from security to human rights fields. Philippines said that migration was not only a human rights but a social and humanitarian concern that must be addressed appropriately. Responses based solely on the grounds of border control and national security led to human rights violations; migrants stranded at sea must be considered as victims and not criminals.

Bangladesh said that as long as the international community failed to find a solution to the root causes of migration, smugglers would continue to abuse migrants. The issue had to be addressed in a cooperative and holistic manner, through international cooperation. South Africa said it had taken a decision to integrate migrants in its society, and had taken measures to address intolerance against them. Migration systems were key to fostering development. Niger said the complexities and gaps involved when it came to migration deserved the international community’s immediate attention. People would continue to seek a better life elsewhere, and would continue to try to go to Europe. European countries should work closely with African countries of origin and transit. Sanctioning and restriction would not be productive. Cyprus said the immediate imperative was to save lives, and the migration phenomenon needed to be addressed in a comprehensive and cooperative manner, in full respect with human rights.

Turkey said that the recent migrant crisis had proved that taking a solely security approach was not appropriate and that the well-being and dignity of migrants must be considered, as well as addressing the push and pull factors of migration. Libya said that transit countries must secure their borders in order to curb illegal migratory flows. Serbia agreed that both the root causes of migration and its humanitarian consequences must be addressed, and that tackling organized crime, trafficking in organs, and prostitution were regional challenges which required coordination and solidarity. Malta said that it remained important to strengthen cooperation with countries of origin and transit and Malta would be hosting a summit later this year to strengthen cooperation with its African partners in this regard. Stabilizing Libya was a key step in preventing further migratory flows in the region.

Spain said migration was a global and complex phenomenon, and constituted both a source of opportunities and tragedies. Spain had been putting forward a strategy based on cooperation between countries of destination and of origin, including to combat human trafficking. United States supported efforts, including by the European Union and south-east Asian countries, to support safe and humane migration and to crackdown on traffickers. Vulnerable workers should not be dealt with like criminals. Pakistan underlined the importance of combatting racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, as migrants were often the first to suffer from these phenomena. Pakistan underlined the importance of giving due attention to the deaths at sea. Georgia said there was an urgent need to respond to the deaths at sea with a holistic solution, joint efforts and close cooperation. It was important to prevent the further loss of lives as a matter of priority, in cooperation with countries of destination and origin. Albania encouraged stronger and more integrated cooperation among Member States and partners of the European Union to address the issue of deaths of migrants at sea and to combat human trafficking.

Thailand said migrants in Thailand now had access to health care and education for their children. Thailand attached great importance to addressing the issue of migrants through a multi-actor, concerted approach and identifying durable solutions. Mexico said that multiple crises in recent times had shown the cross-cutting nature of migration. The focus in discussions on migration had moved from managing migration to more substantive issues, such as human development. New Zealand believed that a comprehensive approach was needed to address both push and pull factors which caused irregular migration. While challenges to the European Union from Mediterranean migrants were serious, the response had to be in line with international standards. Greece stated that a holistic approach to migration was needed more than ever. Greece was experiencing a huge influx of migrants, with an estimated 800 refugees expected to arrive every day in the summer. The protection of human rights was a cross-cutting issue, arising in all stages of human migration; shared responsibility was important.

Iraq said that recent migratory flows shed light on the obvious link between development and migration. Those links were complex and multi-dimensional. Every country was obliged to discourage discrimination of migrants. Algeria noted that the debate on the human rights of migrants should contribute to the reduction of differences in the perception of challenges with respect to human mobility, and to promote the kind of cooperation that respected the rights of migrants. Indonesia stressed the importance of investigating the root causes of irregular migratory flows, as well as of differentiating between persons fleeing conflict and war and those migrating for economic reasons. Morocco underlined that the alarming human cost of migration was discerning. Saving lives should be the first priority in addressing the issue, followed by addressing the causes of migration and regulating them through laws.

Saudi Arabia said it had 10 million migrant workers in its territory, and that, in accordance with the Koran and Sharia law, their rights were protected without discrimination. France said migration was a global phenomenon that required a global approach. Closer cooperation between countries of destination and origin was needed, as well as a clear response to traffickers. Côte d’Ivoire underlined that although host States had the right to regulate migratory flows, the rights of all migrants, including regular and irregular migrants, and including children, had to be protected. China said countries should adopt a more positive attitude toward migration. China was concerned about the crisis of migrants in the Mediterranean.

Ghana shared the view that migrants were human beings, first and foremost. There could be no illegal human beings, so all migrants deserved a decent treatment. Illicit trafficking of undocumented migrants had to be seen for what it was – a contemporary form of slavery. Myanmar believed that the issue of the boat people was the issue of people smuggling and trafficking. Poor people who sought better livelihoods were often taken advantage of. In the absence of a regional mechanism to address this issue, such people were exploited by traffickers. Austria stated that migration affected every region of the world, and needed a comprehensive approach, which dealt with social, economic and security factors. Austria supported the multi-faceted approach currently promoted by the European Union. A common European resettlement scheme would be welcomed by Austria. Norway was deeply concerned by the human rights situations many migrants in the Mediterranean and the Andean were facing. Concern for the individual migrant had to be at the centre of all efforts. Root causes of migration should be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

Montenegro noted that migrants at sea faced human rights violations and suffered different forms of discrimination even when they reached the country of destination safely. The complexity of the migration issue necessitated long-term strategies rather than short-sighted policies. Qatar, responding to allegations of negative treatment of migrant workers, noted that the contribution of migrant labour was recognized by Qatar’s Government. The Gulf countries had legislation that regulated the wages and other rights of migrants. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said that the migration issue was the result of numerous conflicts and wars worldwide. Migratory flows in the Mediterranean Sea particularly highlighted the severity of the situation, which required comprehensive action. El Salvador said it was first important to define a legal framework for the protection of the rights of migrants, which would be of a binding nature. The responsibility for migrants should be shared among countries, and it was thus important for the Council to hold a special session on migrants.

Panama agreed that migrants were human beings with human rights and were protected by international law on an equal basis with citizens. Despite the existing legal framework, migrants continued to suffer abuse and violence. Dominican Republic reiterated that the fears of widespread deportation of Haitians residing in the country were unfounded. The deportation process for irregular migrants would be done in accordance with due process and mass deportations would not happen. Portugal said saving lives must be a priority and search and rescue operations must be strengthened. There must be safe and regular channels for migration, in cooperation between the countries of origin, transit and destination.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development expressed concern about the situation of thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded at sea and stressed the importance of a long-term approach to address this crisis and its root causes. Save the Children International said that the rescue and protection of people in distress was a humanitarian imperative. The fight against smuggling and trafficking should not take precedence over humanitarian assistance. Around 11 million migrants were children between 15 and 19, whose protection had to be a priority. Centro des Estudios Legales y Sociales in a joint statement with Conectas Direitos Humanos said that this year, more than 1,500 persons had died while trying to cross the Mediterranean. It was worrying that the European Union was threatening to use military force against migrant boats. Similar practices were being used along the frontier between the United States and Mexico. Sudwind stated that Iranian refugees were traveling to Australia through Indonesia in the hope of a better life, but for even those who reached their destination, the integration process was a very challenging task. Human Rights Watch said it frequently heard the stories of human beings who were forced to migrate. Human rights abuses drove people from their homes in search of help and safety. States should ensure access to fair and efficient asylum procedures and respect the non-refoulement obligation. Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme noted that it was utterly unacceptable that a growing number of young people from Africa were paying their life savings only to lose their lives trying to reach Western Europe. The absence of adequate responses to the calls of numerous human rights groups was disappointing.

Concluding Remarks

FLAVIA PENSIERI, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in concluding remarks that the very large number of interventions by Member States provided evidence that there existed a great concern about the migration issue. There was not a single voice that questioned the fact that migrants were human beings with rights. It was a moral imperative to recognize their human rights. The approach to the migration problem should be therefore rights-based and the root causes of migration had to be investigated. Strong search and rescue operations had to be used to help migrants. The criminalization of migrants was not welcome, as well as flawed assumptions about migration, such as that migration was a cost for receiving countries. Migration had to be dealt with based on the principle of solidarity and comprehension. The human rights of all migrants, documented or undocumented, had to be upheld.

GILBERT HOUNGBO, Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships, International Labour Organization, said in his concluding remarks that the International Labour Organization was perfectly prepared to work on the issue of labour migrants both with countries of transit and destination, to prevent their exploitation and abuse and to develop equitable migration policies.

LAURA THOMPSON, Deputy Director-General, International Organization for Migration, in her concluding remarks said that many delegations today agreed on the importance of saving lives and taking long-term measures to address the root causes of migration, including insecurity and political persecution. Many also recognized the need for regular channels of migration. Such a great level of agreement was an opportunity to move the discussion from a discussion on principles to a discussion on action and practical work.

CAROL BATCHELOR, Director for the Division of International Protection, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in her concluding comments said that it was important to see consolidation around the protection of human rights, the need for protection-sensitive entry mechanisms and for practical protection safeguards to be in place. It was important to communicate about migrants, but also to migrants so that they had the information to make appropriate decisions. When designing a solution or approach, it was important to look at the spectrum of reasons for migration or movement for each country because not all countries were created equal.

For use of the information media; not an official record

Indonesia: In Indonesia’s Aceh, a warm welcome for refugees in a sea of misery

15 June 2015 - 10:33am
Source: IRIN Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar

LANGSA, Indonesia, 15 June 2015 (IRIN) - Nur Yanah can’t hold back the tears when she recalls hundreds of emaciated boat people arriving in her native Aceh province after being rescued by local fishermen in defiance of the government decision to leave them adrift.

The new arrivals were Bangladeshis escaping poverty and ethnic Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar. They had paid human smugglers to take them to Malaysia, but many turned out to be traffickers who would hold migrants hostage in camps along the border between Thailand and Malaysia until their families paid thousands of dollars.

In early May, Thailand cracked down on human trafficking rings and discovered graves near the jungle prisons. The crackdown created a crisis at sea as smugglers either refused to land or, in many cases, abandoned the boats, leaving their victims adrift with little food and water. Thousands of boat people found themselves at the centre of a regional emergency as Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia refused to accept them.

On 20 May, Malaysia and Indonesia finally agreed to allow the boats ashore – but not before Acehnese fishermen had chosen to ignore their government’s policy and rescue almost 2,000 people.

Many in Aceh could not ignore the boat people’s predicament, having themselves suffered terribly during years of ruthless conflict between the Indonesian military and separatist rebels, which only ended when the new horror of the 2004 tsunami devastated the region.

“We Acehnese have suffered a lot, that’s why we understand well the plight of the Rohingya,” she said. “My husband disappeared during the conflict and we have never seen him again.”

Yanah said she sends leftover food from her restaurant to the nearby camp at Kuala Langsa, a port that shelters 425 Bangladeshi migrants and 231 Rohingya refugees.

“I feel that they are part of our family, part of the Acehnese society, because they have suffered as much as us,” she said. “It’s better if they stay permanently here.”

Many refugees have the same hope.

“This is the safest place for us,” said Rehama, a 19-year-old Rohingya woman who provided only one name.

She left her home in Maungdaw in eastern Myanmar near the Bangladeshi border with her sister and two daughters, hoping to join her husband in Malaysia.

“Now I would like him to join us here in Indonesia,” she said at another camp, Bayeun, which shelters 340 Rohingya and 92 Bangladeshis.

Extraordinary welcome

The welcome that the boat people have received in Aceh is unmatched anywhere else in the region.

On 14 May, Human Rights Watch accused the governments of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia of playing “human ping pong” with the boats by refusing to let them land and in some cases even pushing them back into international waters. After intense international pressure, Indonesia and Malaysia finally agreed to provide shelter for the refugees – on condition that they would be resettled elsewhere within one year.

The refugees have found no sympathy in their home countries.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was quoted in state media calling them “mentally sick” for endangering their lives and “tainting the image of the country” by getting on the boats.

In Buddhist-majority Myanmar, about one million Rohingya Muslims live under virtual apartheid with their movements tightly restricted and with little access to health care and education. Almost 140,000 remain in dismal camps, unable to return to their villages after their homes were burned by mobs of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists during violence in 2012 that killed more than 200 people, mostly Rohingya.

But in Aceh, the refugees were welcomed with a concert on 29 May that was organized by Rafly, a popular local singer who like many Indonesians uses only one name. The event was held to raise money for the refugees and it was also a Pemulia Jamee, a traditional Acehnese ceremony to honor guests, which opened with the thunderous beating of more than 50 Rapai Pasee traditional drums.

Rafly is also a senator and says he will use his position of influence to advocate for the Rohingya in the capital Jakarta.

“I really wish they will stay permanently in Aceh,” he told IRIN. “I have lobbied the governor of Aceh on this matter and will raise it with the head of the senate.”

Uncertain future

Once their identities have been established by embassy personnel – who have already visited the camps – the Bangladeshis are likely to be repatriated, but the situation for the Rohingya is uncertain.

Almost all Rohingya in Myanmar are stateless after decades of institutional discrimination, including a 1982 law that stripped most of their citizenship. The government and many people in Myanmar refuse to accept the term Rohingya, referring to them instead as “Bengali”, a term that suggests they are migrants from Bangladesh despite the fact that many families have been in Myanmar for generations.

Myanmar’s government has launched a verification programme, which aims to grant citizenship to Rohingya who can provide evidence that they qualify. But it has had little success so far and faces resistance from both within the Rohingya community and without.

Nationalist ethnic Rakhine Buddhists oppose the programme, because they consider the Rohingya interlopers from Bangladesh, while many Rohingya refuse to participate in it because it requires them to list their identities as “Bengali”. In addition, many Rohingya have lost identification documents over the years, either because they turned them over to the authorities or because they were destroyed during the 2012 violence.

The Rohingya in Aceh would likely have difficulty proving they qualify for Myanmar citizenship, while resettlement to a third country could take years. Yet, the camps cannot serve as permanent homes.

In Bayeun, Rehama shares a cramped room of about 30 square metres with dozens of other women and children. Men are sheltered metres away in huge tents that barely protect them from the wind and the rain.

Still, the makeshift camps are an improvement from the terrible journeys at sea.

Mohammad Idiris, a 25-year-old fisherman from Maungdaw, said he was held captive for six months in an overcrowded ship and beaten regularly by human traffickers who demanded a ransom from his parents that they couldn’t pay.

“I didn’t know it was going to be like this. If I had known, I would have stayed in Myanmar,” he said. “We feel happy here, because the Acehnese people are treating us as brothers, but we are still worried about our families in Myanmar.”

csg/jf/ag

World: Opening Statement to the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council by the High Commissioner for Human Rights

15 June 2015 - 9:53am
Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Country: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burundi, Colombia, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Russian Federation, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), World, Yemen

Mr. President, Excellencies, Colleagues,

Seventy years after the founding of the United Nations, what can we conclude about our achievements in the protection and promotion of human rights? That we have protections today, in the form of treaties, national legislation and their implementation – and all supported by a broader awakening of the hitherto tranquilized parts of the human conscience, whether it be in the realization of women and children’s rights, for example, or the right to food security or health; all are a sign, indisputable signs, of a better human world. And this, when separated from everything else we see around us – the wars and deprivation around us – we can and should celebrate, for they, our achievements, are considerable.

Yet it is the nagging persistence of “the everything else” which leaves us deeply worried. It shows the unmistakable signs of a growing abandonment, of a headlong retreat, by too many States, who seem to be taking leave of their respective commitments to uphold those obligations. We live in an age of contradictions, or contrary motions, where improvements and regressions collide to obscure certainty, cloud the future, giving rise to our present-day anxieties. Simply put, too many of us live among brutal conflicts, and are threatened by greed, ambition and contempt for human life. Too many are still denied their economic and social rights, and the result is suffering on a colossal scale. Discrimination so severe and pervasive still, that it deprives too many people of the means of existence. Repression that stifles the human voice, and breaks the spirit, is also still too evident.

And so the people of this world yearn desperately for decisive moral leadership from your leaders and your countries: a leadership based on principle, law and humility. And not just from your leaders. We in the UN must do so too. My own conduct, and the conduct of my Office, must always accord with the highest standards of professional integrity in relation to those who suffer. We must always be sensitive and act sensitively where their rights have been violated. In recent weeks, there has been much criticism of the UN made by a number of observers, and specifically of my Office and its leadership, in respect of how we handled allegations of appalling child abuse in the Central African Republic last year. The conduct which drew the criticisms deserves judgement, and I support the Secretary-General’s decision to establish an external review in which those criticisms and the conduct will be examined and judged. I will accept the result, and abide by its findings, of course, whether they relate to my Office or my own conduct in this matter. We must all be held to account, with no exceptions. And we must all be guided always by the needs of victims in our thoughts and deeds. It is the rights of those who suffer from discrimination, deprivation and violence, that must occupy centre-stage in every aspect of our work – in this chamber and outside of it. The more they suffer, the more we must focus on them.

The member states must show this leadership too. It is of deep concern to me, and my Office, when court orders are issued by the ICC in respect of the serving head of state of Sudan, and State Parties to the Rome Statute openly flout them. In this regard, we await the ruling of the Pretoria High Court this morning, as it assesses the request submitted by the ICC.

Mr. President,

I am often told in this chamber, in our debates, that I should not be "naming and shaming" member states. Somehow the naming is, or has become, the very shame itself. This is a disfigurement of the truth, which we must now reset. The shame comes not from the naming: it comes from the actions themselves, the conduct or violations, alleged with supporting evidence or proven. The greatest factory of shame is the blanket denial of human rights. The denial of the right to life shames unreservedly. Killing on a massive scale, shames stunningly, and inexhaustably. The denial of the right to development also shames. The denial of human dignity shames. Torture shames. Arbitrary arrests shame. Rape shames. We name; the shame of States, where it exists, has already been self-inflicted. The loss of face for the affected countries has come well before OHCHR raises its independent voice. We say what we believe to be the truth, on behalf of victims. We have no monopoly over truth, but we believe our contentions can be supported by fact.

Mr. President,

Political turbulence, repression, violence and war have become so widespread that they impel millions of the world's people to risk their lives to find a place of relative safety. Migration is the symptom; the cause is despair, after repeated human rights violations have stripped an individual of all hope of justice and dignity. I am heartened that later today this Council will address the human rights of migrants. Your leadership on this issue will be vital, particularly in terms of the multiple crises regarding migrants en route to Europe, South-East Asia and Australia.

Mr President,

The conflict in Syria is the most mind-numbing humanitarian crisis of our era, and the magnitude and nature of its human rights violations pose a defining test of what we so often term the international community. After more than four years of a sustained campaign of terror directed by the Government against its own people, and the rise of non-State actors capable of the most appalling horror, this conflict has killed at least 220,000 women, men and children and blighted the lives of countless others. It has forced the largest movement of people since the Second World War, with well over 7 million people displaced within the country and 4 million fleeing it. If the words "international community" are to mean anything, they must mean that we collectively bring assistance and protection to the Syrian people.

The entire country has become a war-zone. Three out of four Syrians now live in poverty. Half of all school-age children are deprived of education or adequate nourishment and warmth. Allow me to quote one 15 year-old living in Aleppo: "We are living in a horror movie -- attacks, torture, assassinations, kidnappings, sieges, refugees, explosions, missiles, snipers, and finally ruins above the house, and all down the road...The most horrible thing is there are no bulldozers to clean up the ruins: people die in the rubble and nobody saves them." "We are living in a horror movie": it may be impossible to imagine the anguish and the terror of Syria's children.

The Secretary-General, in his latest monthly report to the Security Council, writes, "The level of carnage and devastation throughout the Syrian Arab Republic should shock the collective conscience of the world." His Special Envoy, Steffan de Mistura, continues his consultations with Syrian, regional and international actors, and I deeply hope that they will pave the way for peace. Any agreement must be focused on the human rights of all the Syrian people, and the need to repair the fissures between ethnic and religious communities who for decades before this crisis lived in mutual respect.

In this room are the representatives of many States with influence in the region, including regional and global powers. I urge you to exert that influence, singly and collectively, to reverse the living nightmare that Syria has become for its people, and to encourage more constructive choices by all actors. I particularly welcome the recent call by the Government of the Russian Federation for accountability regarding allegations that barrel bombs filled with chlorine gas have been used. All sides must be held accountable for violations. There will never be sustainable peace where impunity prevails.

I am also deeply concerned by the ongoing deterioration of human rights and the humanitarian situation in Iraq. The Takfiri group ISIL continues to perpetrate the most despicable abuses on the Iraqi people under its control, in particular women, children and minorities, and has added to these crimes the deliberate destruction of monuments, which symbolize the deep roots and cultural and religious identity of many communities. The Iraqi government has made commitments to hold to account all those who have committed human rights violations – including, but not limited to, so-called ISIL – and this is welcomed. Countering extremism and addressing sectarian violence will require more than military action. We stand ready to assist the government to promote the rule of law and good governance; increase accountability; encourage community reconciliation; and ensure respect for the rights of minorities and of women.

Meanwhile, more than half of the humanitarian assistance that is brought to over 8 million people in Iraq by UN operations may very soon be cut off, because States will not fund it. This is shameful.

Mr President,

In Libya, armed groups continue to engage in violent clashes using heavy weaponry, and indiscriminate shelling of residential neighbourhoods, as well as attacks on protected sites, have resulted in numerous civilian casualties. Large numbers of civilians have been abducted and tortured by all sides because of their actual or perceived ethnic or religious origin, opinions, family ties or political affiliation, and many have died in custody – possibly summarily executed or tortured to death. Detention of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees is widespread and prolonged, involving multiple violations of their rights. I am very concerned about their disastrous situation, as well as that of other vulnerable groups, including detainees and the internally displaced. This Council has requested that I despatch an investigative team, and we will report on its findings in March.

In Yemen, I am gravely concerned about the high number of civilian casualties. My Office has received information suggesting that indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks are being used on densely populated areas, including the attack on the Al Mazraq camp. Such attacks must be thoroughly investigated, and greater protection of civilians must be ensured by all sides. By now well over 20 million people are in need of assistance, and conditions in Yemen are described by OCHA as catastrophic. It is urgent that all sides ensure safe access of humanitarian agencies to affected areas, and the blockade on imports of food, medicine and fuel should be lifted immediately.

Mr President,

Much of the Middle East is now engulfed in violence, and this ferocity is spreading. Several governments in the region are fearful of extremist threats. Widening outwards, to Somalia, Nigeria and Mali, we also see horrific abuse of human rights by Takfiri groups. But repressing human rights is not a solution to these conflicts: it is a contributing cause.

Crackdowns and repression are counterproductive. I remind you that in March 2011, my predecessor warned that the use of firearms against peaceful protestors in Syria "risks creating a downward spiral of anger, violence, killings and chaos." The authorities chose to ignore that advice, and the results are painful to behold.

When governments attack civil society, they undermine the foundations of stability and prosperity. A tight grip on freedom of expression, crackdowns on peaceful protest, massive detention and even torture, denial of economic and social rights – these are the soil on which extremist groups flourish. They create opportunities for extremist or sectarian movements to step in and fan the flames of rage.

In particular, policing and security forces must embody the rule of law – or fail. It is they who are often seen as the face of the State. When security forces act with contempt for people’s rights, treating them as enemies, then enemies are what they may become. Every act of torture contributes to extremism; and every arbitrary arrest and abusive crackdown – every act that represses civil society and legitimate dissent – is a step towards further violence.

Respect for human rights offers States a path towards greater stability, not less. Dialogue and respect for human rights, including the rights of minorities, build confidence and loyalty as well as thriving political and economic institutions.

Mr President,

I am concerned that in Egypt, cursory mass trials without adequate procedural guarantees have resulted in the imposition of the death penalty on hundreds of people since March 2014; seven have been put to death so far. It is time for a moratorium on the death penalty. We have also received reports of torture in interrogation centres, and I urge the authorities to thoroughly investigate these allegations, with appropriate action. The State should also end the practice of mass arrests and mass prosecutions, and release all those who are currently detained in connection with peaceful protest. It is important to appreciate that counter-terrorism efforts will not bear fruit unless measures are also taken to address socio-economic grievances, to strengthen good governance, and to promote rule of law and human rights. Egypt’s rich culture is threatened when civil society and human rights defenders are under attack.

In Bahrain, dozens of detainees have reportedly suffered torture and ill treatment, including in Jou prison, and I urge an immediate investigation into these allegations. All those detained in connection with their peaceful activities should be released. The way forward to ensure peace, stability and prosperity for all Bahrainis is through genuine dialogue between the Government and the opposition, without preconditions.

I am also concerned by the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This year, UNRWA marks its 65th year, and sadly its work continues to be needed. In Gaza, the longstanding blockade and slow reconstruction is generating more poverty, and has further undermined economic and social rights. I fear this may create the conditions for renewed violence. Gaza needs not just physical reconstruction, but the reconstruction of hope; development, accountability and respect for human rights are a counterweight to violence and extremism. The Commission of Inquiry in respect of Gaza will be releasing its report for the Council’s consideration at this session. It is my hope the report will pave the way for justice to be done to all civilians who fell victim to the fighting last year, by holding to account those alleged to have committed grave and other serious violations of internatonal humanitarian law, through investigation and where required, prosecution.

I am also disturbed by all the pending demolition orders affecting Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The continued presence and expansion of Israeli settlements and related activities, as well as settler violence, remain at the core of most of the violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and I repeat my calls to Israel to end immediately the expansion of the settlements, and to address settler related-violence.

I have recently briefed this Council about my growing alarm regarding the situation in Burundi, where Presidential, local and parliamentary elections have been postponed. The increasingly violent actions of the Imbonerakure militia have accentuated my concerns, and I urge the authorities to take measures urgently. I also recently briefed the Council on South Sudan, where my acute concern has not abated. Eighteen months of devastating conflict have been marked by brutal violence against civilians, with disturbing reports of children being killed, raped or recruited into armed forces by both sides – most recently a report of 95 children being killed in recent violence. I urge the Council and the entire international community not to lose sight of this ongoing tragedy, and to seek decisive steps to end the fighting.

This afternoon we will examine more deeply the factors that drive so many millions of people to leave their homelands. I am particularly concerned about the persecution of the Rohingya community in Myanmar. I believe the time has come for the Human Rights Council to probe more deeply into the nature and scope of these violations, and how they might more effectively be addressed.

Later in this course of this month's session we will discuss the human rights situation in countries affected by Boko Haram. Civilians in northeast Nigeria and neighbouring countries bordering Lake Chad have been living through horrifying acts of cruelty and violence by this group, especially women and girls. Their plight is compounded by extremely worrying reports of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the very armed forces that should protect them.

The Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea will present its findings and recommendations during this session. I urge you to consider these recommendations carefully, together with those of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea which will also be presented at this session, with a view to ensuring implementation, and the promotion and protection of human rights for all Eritreans.

I deplore the serious human rights violations and abuses that continue in eastern Ukraine, in particular in the areas controlled by armed groups. Persistent reports indicate continuing flows of arms and fighters from the Russian Federation, and the creation of parallel structures not in line with the Minsk Agreement, the Ukrainian Constitution or international law also contribute to the situation. The large and growing numbers of IDPs and refugees confirm that there has been considerable impact on the human rights of millions of people throughout Ukraine. The same is true of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the status of which is prescribed by General Assembly resolution 68/262.

In the Russian Federation, the new Federal Law No. 129-FZ will allow authorities to declare foreign and international organizations “undesirable”, and shut them down, if they are perceived as presenting a threat to Constitutional order, to state security, or to defence. I note that the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation has raised her own concerns about the possible negative implications of the law. For our part, we are concerned that as presently worded, this law may be open to arbitrary interpretation, as it fails to provide clear legal definition or criteria for how determination of such a threat will be conducted. This may also have serious implications for civil society, particularly human rights defenders.

In several countries of Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, draft legislation targets non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding. If adopted, these laws may also contribute yet further to the shrinking of the democratic space.

In Azerbaijan, I continue to be concerned about reported violations of the right to a fair trial and excessive resort to pre-trial detention. I call on the authorities to release on humanitarian grounds those who are in fragile and rapidly deteriorating health, and to pardon and drop charges against those who have been deprived of their liberty simply for exercising their rights.

I am troubled by discussion of plans to scrap the United Kingdom's Human Rights Act, and challenges to the vital role played by the European Court of Human Rights. I am worried by the impact of this initiative both in the UK and in other countries, including many where the UK is working to promote and protect human rights. As a long-standing democracy, the UK should set an example at home by ensuring that human rights protection, once brought in, is not subsequently weakened.

In Nepal, OHCHR’s long-standing involvement in the country has meant that we are able to deploy staff with deeply relevant experience to work on protection issues in the humanitarian response to the recent earthquakes. I welcome the announcement last week that political parties have finally agreed on the outline of a new Constitution, opening up hope of a new chapter for the resilient people of their country.

The new Government in Sri Lanka has passed a constitutional amendment which, if implemented appropriately, brings renewed hope for democracy and the rule of law. OHCHR will remain very engaged in discussions with the Sri Lankan authorities on the need for transparent and inclusive processes to develop credible mechanisms for accountability and reconciliation, ahead of my report to the September session. I encourage the Government to consult broadly with all political parties, civil society, and above all victims and their families, to ensure full national support and ownership of these processes.

I also welcome the leadership shown by President Joko Widodo of Indonesia last month in releasing five Papuan political prisoners. I hope this will mark the beginning of a new and far-sighted effort by the Indonesian Government to address the long-standing grievances in Papua and promote political dialogue and reconciliation. I remain troubled by Indonesia’s decision to suspend the moratorium on the death penalty and appeal to Indonesia, and to other countries who have done likewise, to have re-instate the moratoria.

In Colombia, despite recent flares of violence, the Government and FARC-EP continue to be committed to a negotiated peace that can restore the human rights of Colombia’s people. Last week agreement was reached to establish a Commission on the Clarification of the Truth, Co-existence and Non-Repetition, and this could be a key factor in providing the basis for sustainable peace after a half-century of armed conflict.

In Venezuela, I am seriously concerned about the legality and conditions of people who have been detained for peacefully exercising freedom of expression and of assembly. Some have been on hunger strike for weeks now, which adds to our concern. They should be promptly and unconditionally released. We are also concerned about harassment, threats and public disqualification of human rights defenders, especially those who have travelled abroad to give testimony to UN and regional human rights mechanisms. I and my Office remain available to engage with the authorities and other stakeholders to ensure that the human rights of all Venezuelans are respected, and to define a positive way forward.

I am also concerned about child labour legislation in Bolivia, which permits 12 year-olds to be put to work.

Mr President,

Across all these contexts, women suffer in distinct and often disproportionate ways. In conflict situations and beyond, women and girls are often the victims of specific, and cumulative, violations and abuses, including mass abductions, rape, the increasing and despicable practice of sexual slavery, and forced pregnancies.

Extremists have placed the subordination of women, and the brutal denial of their rights, at the heart of their strategy; women's rights should be at the heart of ours. Governments and the international community must focus on the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights in their responses to violence extremism. They should also take measures to ensure that women seeking refuge in countries neighbouring conflict areas are protected from violence and exploitation.

Mr President,

There have been many recent advances in the protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people – including the introduction of new anti-discrimination and hate crime laws; legal recognition of same-sex relationships; protection of intersex children; and changes that make it easier for transgender people to have their gender identity legally recognized. Even so, LGBT and intersex people in all regions face continuing, pervasive, violent abuse, harassment and discrimination, as our thematic report before this Council on this issue indicates. Far more must be done to end this damaging discrimination.

Mr President,

Our current context recalls the world's situation at the turn of the 20th century, a time of simultaneous human progress and great destructive violence. This is a year of vast opportunity for development, with the pivotal Financing for Development Conference to be held in July in Addis Ababa and the Post-2015 Development Agenda summit in September in New York.

The integration of human rights in that agenda can become a turning point. Sustainable development is about freedom from fear and freedom from want for all. And from the right to health movement in South Africa, to right to food litigation in India, the rejection of austerity in Greece, and the current demands for greater racial equality in the United States, the empirical evidence for human rights-based development is growing. As the Secretary General has said, we are the first generation that can end poverty: with the Sustainable Development Goals, this is a prospect that offers real hope.

Distinguished delegates, let us also remember our responsibilities for the right to development. As we meet today, a host of major multilateral trade and investment agreements are under negotiation, spanning the globe. There can be no doubt that in the wake of a devastating global financial crisis, stepped-up international cooperation in the economic sphere is essential to rebooting global trade and investment. But let us be vigilant: negotiations that sidestep democratic processes, or which may suffer political or regulatory capture by private sector actors, may agree on provisions that impact internationally guaranteed human rights, and may be inconsistent with the obligations of democratic political participation. All agreements must respect, and must not undercut, guarantees for economic and social rights, including labour rights and rights to food, water, health, and social security.

Sadly, we are living in an age when assaults on human rights are myriad. They come from, and occur in, countries rich and poor, from state actors and private companies, from hate groups and local mobs, from criminal gangs and armed militias. They manifest themselves in organized violence, discriminatory laws, bad economic policies, gross inequalities, and dangerous concentrations of power and wealth. The offensive agendas and ideologies that underpin them are reflected in the statements of politicians, the columns of mainstream media outlets, and the virtual world of the internet. They are delivered in many languages, and with many supposed justifications. But their common message is this: all human beings are not born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, this Council is charged with delivering the opposite message—forcefully, consistently, unabashedly. Let the message go out that we will defend the victim and the voiceless, the minority and the migrant, the blogger and the human rights defender. Let the world know that we will do so without fear or favour, and regardless of the name of the victim or the profile of the perpetrator.

This year we mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta – a document that changed the course of history, because it limited the absolute powers of the king. Over hundreds of years, societies built on its premise that rulers must abide by law, until we arrived at the conception of rule of law as we know it today – with human rights at its heart. And yet still, after 800 years, not all leaders abide by human rights law, and this is a tragedy of historic proportion. For human rights are effective. They build strong and successful societies.

I was recently reminded that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been translated into 444 languages and dialects. People from four hundred and forty four different linguistic communities were so eager to explore the content of that text that they carefully translated it, for better understanding. Such a text is truly universal, by popular vote. And its message is clear: States owe their people justice, equality and dignity, under the rule of law. If they do not ensure this, and regulate the apparatus of government so that it serves the interest of a limited few and represses all others, the people may be – and I quote from the UDHR – "compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression".

Bangladesh: WFP Bangladesh | Brief Reporting period: 01 January – 31 March 2015

15 June 2015 - 9:46am
Source: World Food Programme Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

COUNTRY STRATEGY

WFP aims to achieve significant gains in reducing hunger and undernutrition in the coming years by implementing and developing — through effective partnerships — innovative nutrition and hunger solutions and responding to emergencies.

To underpin the ambitious development agenda of the Government of Bangladesh, WFP focuses on enhancing select Government safety net programmes and on mainstreaming nutrition. WFP’s interventions are geographically directed to areas of greatest food insecurity and vulnerability, increasingly also to urban slum areas. WFP has been present in Bangladesh since 1974.

World: World leaders’ neglect of refugees condemns millions to a life of misery and thousands to death

15 June 2015 - 5:00am
Source: Amnesty International Country: Australia, Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Turkey, World

• Worst refugee crisis since World War II.

• One million refugees desperately in need of resettlement.

• Four million Syrian refugees struggling to survive in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

• More than three million refugees in sub-Saharan Africa, and only a small fraction offered resettlement since 2013.

• 3,500 people drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in 2014 -- 1,865 so far in 2015.

• 300 people died in the Andaman Sea in the first three months of 2015 due to starvation, dehydration and abuse by boat crews.

World leaders are condemning millions of refugees to an unbearable existence and thousands to death by failing to provide essential humanitarian protection, said Amnesty International as it published a new briefing in Beirut today, ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June.

The Global Refugee Crisis: A conspiracy of neglect explores the startling suffering of millions of refugees, from Lebanon to Kenya, the Andaman Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and calls for a radical change in the way the world deals with refugees.

“We are witnessing the worst refugee crisis of our era, with millions of women, men and children struggling to survive amidst brutal wars, networks of people traffickers and governments who pursue selfish political interests instead of showing basic human compassion,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“The refugee crisis is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century, but the response of the international community has been a shameful failure. We need a radical overhaul of policy and practice to create a coherent and comprehensive global strategy.”

Amnesty International is setting out a proposal to reinvigorate the system for refugee protection and urging states to make firm commitments to live up to their individual legal obligations and renew their commitment to international responsibility-sharing. Amongst the actions Amnesty International is urging governments to take are:

• A commitment to collectively resettle the one million refugees who currently need resettlement over the next four years.

• To establish a global refugee fund that will fulfil all UN humanitarian appeals for refugee crises and provide financial support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees.

• The global ratification of the UN Refugee Convention.

• To develop fair domestic systems to assess refugee claims and guarantee that refugees have access to basic services such as education and healthcare.

“The world can no longer sit and watch while countries like Lebanon and Turkey take on such huge burdens. No country should be left to deal with a massive humanitarian emergency with so little help from others, just because it happens to share a border with a country in conflict,” said Salil Shetty.

“Governments across the world have the duty to ensure people do not die while trying to reach safety. It is essential that they offer a safe haven for desperate refugees, establish a global refugee fund and take effective action to prosecute trafficking gangs. Now is the time to step up protection for refugees, anything less will make world leaders accomplices in this preventable tragedy.”

Syria: World’s largest refugee crisis More than four million refugees have fled Syria, 95% of them are in just five main host countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

These countries are now struggling to cope. The international community has failed to provide them, or the humanitarian agencies supporting refugees with sufficient resources. Despite calls from the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, far too few resettlement places have been offered to Syrian refugees.

The situation is so desperate that some of Syria’s neighbours have resorted to deeply troubling measures, including denying desperate people entry to their territory and pushing people back into the conflict.

Since the beginning of 2015, Lebanon has severely restricted entry to people fleeing Syria. The Lebanese authorities issued new guidelines whereby Syrian nationals are required to fulfil specific criteria in order to enter. Since these criteria were imposed, there has been a significant drop in registration of Syrian refugees – in the first three months of 2015 UNHCR registered 80% fewer Syrian refugees than in the same period in 2014.

Mediterranean: The most dangerous sea route The Mediterranean is the most dangerous sea route for refugees and migrants. In 2014, 219,000 people made the crossing under extremely dangerous conditions and 3,500 died attempting it.

In 2014, the Italian authorities rescued over 170,000 people. However in October 2014, Italy, under pressure from other EU member states, cancelled the rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by the much more limited Operation Triton (by the EU border agency, Frontex).

Operation Triton did not have a search and rescue mandate, had fewer vessels and a significantly smaller area of operation. This contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of lives lost in the Mediterranean. As of 31 May 2015, 1,865 people had died attempting the Mediterranean crossing, compared to 425 during the same period in 2014 (according to the IOM).

Follow several horrific cases of loss of life in the Mediterranean, at the end of April, European leaders finally increased resources for search and rescue. Triton’s resources and area of operation were increased to match Mare Nostrum’s. In addition European states such as Germany, Ireland and the UK have deployed ships and aircrafts, additional to Operation Triton resources to further boost capacity for assisting people at sea. These measures, which had long been advocated for by Amnesty International, are a welcome step towards increasing safety at sea for refugees and migrants.

The European Commission also proposed that EU states offer 20,000 additional resettlement places to refugees from outside the EU. While this proposal is a step forward, 20,000 is too small a number to adequately contribute to international responsibility-sharing.

For example, Syrian refugees faced with reduced humanitarian assistance in the main host countries and with no prospect of returning home in the near future, are likely to continue to attempt to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Without sufficient safe and legal alternative routes for refugees – but also for migrants – people will continue to risk their lives.

Africa: Forgotten crises There are more than three million refugees in sub-Saharan Africa. Outbreaks of fighting in countries including South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR), have led to an increasing number of people on the move – fleeing conflict and persecution. Of the top 10 countries globally from which people are fleeing as refugees, five are in are in sub-Saharan Africa. Four of the top ten refugee-hosting countries are in sub-Saharan Africa

The conflicts and crises in the region have led to an influx of refugees to neighbouring countries, many of which already host tens of thousands of long-standing refugee populations from countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, among others.

In some of these situations, as in the case of South Sudan and Sudan, refugees are hosted by countries that are themselves beset by conflict.

The refugee crises in Africa receive little or no attention in regional or global political forums. In 2013 fewer than 15,000 refugees from African countries were resettled and UN humanitarian appeals have been severely underfunded. For example, as a result of the conflict which broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, more than 550,000 people became refugees, the majority of whom are now in Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. Only 11% of the UN’s South Sudan regional refugee response plan was funded as of 3 June 2015.

South East Asia: Turning away the desperate In the first quarter of 2015, UNHCR reported that some 25,000 people attempted to cross the Bay of Bengal. This is approximately double the figure for the same period in 2014. This Bay of Bengal sea route is predominantly used by Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshi nationals.

On 11 May, the International Organization for Migration estimated that there were 8,000 people stranded on boats close to Thailand. Many of those aboard were believed to be Rohingya fleeing state-sponsored persecution in Myanmar.

During May, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand turned back boats carrying hundreds of refugees and migrants desperate for help, despite the dangers they faced. UNHCR estimates that 300 people died at sea in the first three months of 2015 due to “starvation, dehydration and abuse by boat crews”.

On 20 May Indonesia and Malaysia changed course, announcing that they would provide “temporary shelter” for up to 7,000 people still at sea. However, this temporary protection would only last for up to a year, and on condition that the international community would help with repatriation or resettlement of the people. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have not ratified the UN Refugee Convention.

Elsewhere, a terrible precedent has been set in the region by the Australian government whose hard-line approach to asylum-seekers attempting to arrive by boat has, under the guise of saving lives, violated its responsibilities under refugee and human rights law.

“From the Andaman to the Mediterranean people are losing their lives as they desperately seek safe haven. The current refugee crisis will not be solved unless the international community recognizes that it is a global problem that requires states to significantly step up international cooperation. Later this week UNHCR will release their annual statistics on refugees and we will likely find that the crisis is getting worse. It is time for action,” said Salil Shetty.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
In Beirut: Sara Hashash, MENA press officer , sara.hashash@amnesty.org, +44 (0) 7831640170 In London: Amnesty International's press office in London, UK email press@amnesty.org or call +44 20 7413 5566 or +44 (0) 777 847 2126

Myanmar: Anti-migrant protests in Myanmar's troubled Rakhine

14 June 2015 - 10:30am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Sunday 6/14/2015 - 14:09 GMT |

Buddhist hardliners backed by monks protested in Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state Sunday against help being offered to desperate migrants found adrift on boats in the Bay of Bengal.

Rakhine, one of Myanmar's poorest states, is a tinderbox of tension between its Buddhist majority and a persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority, many of whom live in displacement camps after deadly unrest erupted there in 2012.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled Rakhine in recent years, joined increasingly by economic migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, mainly headed for Malaysia and Indonesia.

The exodus was largely ignored until a crackdown on the people-smuggling trade in Thailand last month caused chaos as gangmasters abandoned their human cargos on land and sea.

Some 4,500 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have since washed ashore in the region while the UN estimates around 2,000 others are still trapped at sea.

After mounting international pressure Myanmar's navy rescued more than 900 migrants who were brought to Rakhine.

Some 150 have since been repatriated to Bangladesh.

But the rest are being held in border camps while Bangladesh and Myanmar decide their original nationality.

The rescues have infuriated Buddhist hardliners who want the Rohingya -- one of the world's most persecuted minorities -- expelled from Myanmar altogether and say the central government should not help those stranded in the Bay of Bengal.

Around 500 people, backed by dozens of monks, gathered under heavy rain on Sunday in the state capital Sittwe chanting slogans, a witness who joined the protest told AFP by phone. The protest finished some two hours later.

The witness' account was confirmed by a protest leader who said simultaneous demonstrations would take place in 10 townships across the state.

"We are protesting against Bengalis that were sent to Rakhine State," Aung Htay, a protest leader in Sittwe, told AFP.

Most Myanmar nationals, including the government, use the term Bengali to describe Rohingya, many of whom have lived in the region for generations.

Most of the country's estimated 1.3 million Rohingya are refused citizenship and face a raft of restrictions on their movement, family size and access to jobs.

In Maungdaw, the town closest to where the rescued migrants are being held, protest organiser Tin Maung Than said he expected 200 people to turn out.

"We are gathering people to protest against Bengali boat people here," he said.

A flyer promoting protest plans seen by AFP called on people to "protect the future of Rakhine" and also referred to migrants as "Kalar", a commonly-used racist epithet used to describe Myanmar's Muslim population.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has been on the rise across Myanmar in recent years with radical monks accused of stoking religious tensions with fiery warnings that Buddhism is under threat from Islam.

Neither the government nor opposition parties have shown much appetite to confront communal tensions for fear of alienating Buddhist voters ahead of crunch elections slated for later this year.

hla/jta/kb

Myanmar: Protecting the Rohingya: Delivering on a Shared Responsibility

14 June 2015 - 3:29am
Source: International Peace Institute Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

by Alex J. Bellamy

In April and May this year, around 25,000 Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar and, to a lesser extent, Bangladesh fled their countries on boats organized by people smugglers. Many hundreds reportedly died along*the way. Around 8,000 of them were stranded in the Andaman Sea until late May, when the governments of Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia agreed to provide temporary shelter. At the same time, mass graves of Rohingya smuggled through the jungle into Malaysia were discovered.

The international community, including the government of Myanmar and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has a responsibility to protect Rohingya Muslims. A declaration issued at a meeting of regional leaders in Bangkok on May 29 provides an important framework for doing just that. Attention and resources should now be focused on delivering on the commitments made there.

The Rohingya crisis itself is not new. But it is complex and multi-faceted. There are around 1.3 million Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar, mostly living in Rakhine state. In 1982, they were made stateless by government legislation and to this day the government maintains that they are illegal “Bengali” immigrants. Prejudice against them is deep-seated. Not only the country’s majority Buddhist Burmese—whose radical elements lead the charge against the Rohingya—but also other ethnic minorities exhibit strong prejudices against them.

In October 2012, violence erupted between the majority Rakhines (Arakanese) in Rakhine state and the Rohingya. Around 200 people were killed in the violence and more than 100,000 forced to flee their homes. Since then, there has been periodic inter-communal violence, including clashes in May 2013.

The Myanmar government’s response to the unfolding crisis has been decidedly mixed. On the one hand, it has repeatedly promised to pursue reconciliation and address the citizenship issue. On the other, it has tried to contain the violence by imposing ever-tighter restrictions on the Rohingya. Around 140,000 live in appalling conditions in internally displaced person camps and a series of laws has tightened discrimination against them—a point recognized by successive UN human rights special rapporteurs. However, public opinion in Myanmar strongly supports the government’s strong line. Efforts to ease the persecution are often met with resistance, street protests, and violence.

Herein lies a crucial dilemma. Myanmar’s transition to democracy and the opening up of free speech has sharply exacerbated inter-communal tensions and prejudice. Myanmar is a country largely held together by its military; one where the government faces around a dozen armed separatist groups. Amongst other things, with democratic opening comes a stronger voice for hardline Buddhist nationalists and the further marginalization of the Rohingya.

Given how fragile Myanmar’s transition is, and the great underlying potential for violence around a general election scheduled for later this year, the government and other actors engaged in the election process need to tread very carefully. Already, popular protests and general disorder have forced the government to retreat from its earlier position of allowing Rohingya to have voting rights. Likewise, it was plausible fear of communal violence that caused the government to backtrack on allowing the Rohingya to self-identify in a national census.

None of this means that pressure should not be brought to bear on the government to improve the protection of Rohingya. It is simply to emphasize that the situation is neither straightforward nor lacking in hidden dangers. It is not difficult to see how ill-conceived international pressure could result in a far worse series of crises.

There are a number of reasons why the region’s leaders have found it so difficult to resolve this problem. ASEAN itself remains wedded to the principle of non-interference in its member states’s domestic activities, which limits the amount of pressure that can be brought to bear on Naypyidaw; outsiders have to strike a careful balance between encouraging the regime to reform and actions that could increase the country’s social and political fragmentation during its fragile transformation; and the region’s governments are only too aware that an influx of migrants could add to the demands for social services and pressures on their own vulnerable communities, heightening the risk of inter-communal violence.

Yet, while we must recognize these challenges, they do not absolve the region of its protection responsibilities. Not only have all the relevant states committed themselves to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as well as a range of international legal instruments that grant intrinsic rights to the Rohingya, but ASEAN’s own Declaration of Human Rights applies to all people in Southeast Asia regardless of “race, gender, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, disability or other status” (Article 2). It affords rights to life (Article 11), personal liberty and security (Article 12), asylum (Article 16), and nationality (Article 17). It provides freedoms from servitude, slavery and people smuggling (Article 13), torture and cruel and degrading behaviour (Article 14). It also affords freedom of movement (Article 15). These are the rights that the region’s leaders themselves say underpin the emerging ASEAN community.

The region’s response to the Spring 2015 crisis was slow, but significant. Governments responded to domestic pressure calling for them to do more to protect the Rohingya. Eminent Southeast Asians such as Surin Pitsuwan, former ASEAN secretary-general, and the popular Malaysian columnist Marina Mahathir—both, incidentally, members of the High Level Advisory Panel on R2P in Southeast Asia—called upon governments to shoulder their protection responsibilities. The parliamentary network ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights did likewise. That the pressure to act came from within the region suggests that, gradually, the ideals of the ASEAN community are starting to shape the region’s humanitarian policies.

More importantly in the immediate term, the recent Bangkok declaration contained a realistic roadmap for resolving the problem—one that is likely to have influence because it comes from within the region itself and includes the government of Myanmar. Critics complained that the declaration did not mention the Rohingya by name or blame the crisis on the government of Myanmar. Neither was likely, not least because the government was itself a signatory to the declaration, but its absence would have doomed any initiative to failure. Nor would either of these statements have added to the protection of vulnerable communities.

Substantively, the declaration achieved three important things. First, it created a process for resolving the immediate crisis through the granting of temporary shelter for Rohingya in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. The region also agreed to step up search and rescue efforts and end the practice of turning boats around. It is now for the rest of the region, including states such as Australia and Japan, to do their share in fulfilling R2P by assisting the process of turning temporary shelter into longer-term resettlement. The declaration invites the UN High Commission and the International Organization on Migration to lend their assistance. Significantly, and almost unnoticed by external commentators, it made specific note of the particular protection needs of the most vulnerable groups, including women, children and unaccompanied minors, and called for particular attention to be paid to their protection needs

Second, it establishes new impetus for efforts to stem the tide of human suffering by furthering cooperation to end people smuggling. This includes the usual security-focused measures such as enhanced intelligence sharing and measures to strengthen national law enforcement. But, again, almost unnoticed, among these measures were “enhancing legal, affordable, and safe channels of migration.” Countries agreed to empower their populations to enable them to migrate in a safe, legal, and orderly fashion.

Third, and significantly for a region so committed to non-interference, the declaration called for action to address the “root causes” of the problem. In addition to focusing on issues of economic development—which are hugely significant in Rakhine state, which is among Myanmar’s poorest for all living there – it made specific mention of human rights, committing parties to “promoting full respect for human rights and adequate access of people to basic rights and services such as housing, education and healthcare…” This is nothing short of remarkable: a regional declaration recognizing that human rights lay at the heart of the matter and committing states to their promotion.

The recent Bangkok declaration therefore constitutes a viable roadmap for addressing the protection crisis confronting Myanmar’s Rohingya population and fulfilling R2P. The challenge now lies in ensuring its implementation. This process should be led by ASEAN and its member states in partnership with Myanmar, but supported by the wider international community. In particular, in the first instance, the wider community has a responsibility to ensure adequate resettlement places for Rohingya refugees, to support frontline rescue services, and to support the provision of humanitarian aid. In the longer term, international assistance needs to be carefully calibrated to address the needs identified in the Bangkok declaration.

At the same time, ASEAN, the UN and other interested parties need to begin assessing the very real risks of election-related violence across Myanmar later this year, which—as a recent fact-finding mission by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights found—includes a credible risk of crimes against humanity. A concerted prevention effort, involving multiple actors ranging from the UN in New York to civil society and private sector actors inside Myanmar, will be needed to support the country at this most difficult time in its transition.

Originally published in the Global Observatory

Bangladesh: Bangladesh's Rohingya relocation plan raises concerns

14 June 2015 - 12:47am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Hatiya, Bangladesh | AFP | Sunday 6/14/2015 - 04:27 GMT

by Sam JAHAN

The remote Bangladeshi island of Thengar Char disappears completely under several feet of water at high tide, and has no roads or flood defences.

But that hasn't stopped the government from proposing to relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees living in camps in the southeastern district of Cox's Bazar which borders Myanmar to its marshy shores.

Bangladesh said last month it was looking to move the around 32,000 registered refugees, in part because they were hampering tourism in the coastal resort district -- home to the world's longest unbroken beach.

The proposal has been met with alarm from leaders of the Rohingya, who began arriving more than two decades ago after fleeing persecution in Myanmar, and whose desperate search for a secure homeland has recently been thrown into the spotlight by a regional smuggling crisis.

The UN refugee agency, which has been helping them since 1992, said a move would be "logistically challenging" -- an assessment confirmed by a recent visit to the area by AFP.

Police on the neighbouring island of Hatiya prevented the boat AFP was travelling on from going to Thengar Char, saying they could not guarantee its safety.

But accounts from local people and a forest department official who oversaw the 2011 planting of mangroves on Thengar Char gave an indication of the challenges.

"At high tide the entire island is under three to four feet (about a metre) of water," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It is impossible to live there," he said, comparing the plan to "compelling a guest to sit on a spiked chair after inviting him to your home".

Low-lying Thengar Char, around 30 kilometres (18 miles) east of Hatiya island, only emerged from the sea around eight years ago and does not appear on Google Maps.

The 10,000-acre island is administered from Hatiya, which has a population of 600,000, but local boat operators told AFP they rarely went there.

Such a journey would in any case be impossible during the monsoon months of June to September, when the seas are perilous -- and the island would be completely cut off.

The island, around two hours away from the mainland by speedboat, is in an area frequently hit by cyclones, which have killed thousands in Hatiya and Bangladesh's southern coast in the past.

'Isolated and frequented by pirates'

Hatiya's top government official A.H.M. Moyeenuddin said the island had been chosen by a team of government surveyors dispatched to the area on the orders of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

He admitted that relocating thousands to the island would be challenging, but said the construction of cyclone shelters, a barrage and a hospital would be enough to "make the place liveable".

Hatiya police chief Nurul Huda declared it an "ideal place for Rohingya relocation" -- even though it is "isolated and frequented by pirates".

"All we need is a police station to maintain law and order," he told AFP.

But residents of Hatiya remain to be convinced by the proposal.

"We are already tired of Bengali pirates and river erosion. We don't want our peace disrupted any further," said Abdul Halim, who took part in a recent protest by scores of islanders.

Rights groups have expressed concern at the proposed relocation of the refugees living in Cox's Bazar, which comes as Bangladesh is under scrutiny over its treatment of the Rohingya.

The Muslim minority Rohingya are denied citizenship and face a raft of restrictions in Myanmar, including on their movement, family size and jobs, leading thousands to flee every year.

The exodus was largely ignored until a crackdown on the people-smuggling trade in Thailand last month caused chaos as gangmasters abandoned their human cargoes on land and sea.

Thousands are now living in tents on scrubland on the frontier between the two countries, wanted by neither.

Most of Myanmar's 1.3 million Rohingya have no citizenship and are considered by the government to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Those living in the Bangladesh camps have refugee status and receive support from the United Nations, meaning they have access to food, shelter and other basic necessities.

But as Bangladesh and Myanmar face international scrutiny over the fate of the stateless Rohingya, some fear a plot to move them as far from scrutiny as possible.

"There are other islands nearby, habitable for humans," said the forest department official.

"But somehow, this island, which becomes inundated during every single high-tide was proposed as the relocation site."

sj-sa/cc/jg/psr/st

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Hundreds of thousands in need of critical aid in Myanmar, warns UN humanitarian arm

12 June 2015 - 6:56pm
Source: UN News Service Country: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

12 June 2015 – Nearly half a million people continue to require humanitarian assistance three years after inter-communal violence raked Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, the United Nations relief arm reported today.

According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 416,000 people remain in need of relief, including almost 140,000 displaced people living in dire conditions in camps and many others without citizenship in isolated villages.

To that point, OCHA confirmed that up to 40,000 of the displaced people in Rakhine state live in camps within 500 metres of the coastline, leaving them vulnerable to the elements amid an imminent monsoon season.

The UN body added that access to adequate healthcare and livelihoods remained a major concern for displaced people and vulnerable communities across Rakhine state while restrictions on the freedom of movement of hundreds of thousands of people had severely compromised their basic rights to food, healthcare, education, livelihoods and other basic services, leaving them dependent on humanitarian aid.

The tensions in Rakhine state have contributed to a growing exodus of ethnic Rohingya who have been risking their lives by crossing the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea for nearby states.

The UN refugee agency recently reported that more than 1,000 new Rohingya arrivals have been registered in Indonesia, which has distributed relief supplies and are counselling dozens of new arrivals in southern Thailand, and in Malaysia the refugee agency is scaling up to meet the needs of arrivals.

World: Report of the Secretary-General: Children and armed conflict (A/69/926–S/2015/409)

12 June 2015 - 1:05pm
Source: UN Security Council, UN General Assembly Country: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, World, Yemen

I. Introduction

  1. The present report, which covers the period from January to December 2014, is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2068 (2012), by which the Council requested that I continue to submit annual reports on the implementation of its resolutions and presidential statements on children and armed conflict.

  2. The report highlights recent global trends regarding the impact of armed conflict on children and provides information on grave violations committed against children in 2014. The main activities and initiatives with regard to the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions and the conclusions of its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict are outlined. In line with the resolutions of the Council pertaining to children and armed confli ct, the report includes in its annexes a list of parties that engage in the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children, the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and/or hospitals and attacks or threats of attacks against protected personnel, in contravention of international law.

  3. All information presented in the present report and its annexes has been documented, vetted and verified for accuracy by the United Nations. In situations where the ability to obtain or independently verify information is hampered by such factors as insecurity or access restrictions, it is qualified as such. The preparation of the report and its annexes involved broad consultations within the United Nations, at Headquarters and in the field, and with relevant Member States.

  4. Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), and in identifying situations that fall within the scope of her mandate, my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict is guided by the criteria found in international humanitarian law and international jurisprudence for determining the existence of an armed conflict. Reference to a situation is not a legal determination, and reference to a non-State party does not affect its legal status.