Friday, February 06, 2015

Migrants are people, too

Migration has always been a fundamental part of European history. The UN estimates that more than 150,000 migrants and asylum seekers entered Europe in 2014 by sea, compared to 80,000 in 2013, as conditions worsened in places like Syria.

François Crépeau is an international law professor at McGill University. He has been appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants in 2011.  He said the EU  must accept that migrants will continue to enter the EU by any means possible, and therefore must offer incentives for migrants to use official channels of entrance. According to Crépeau, sealing the borders, as nationalist populist groups call for, is not sustainable and will further migrant suffering. Excessive border security policies have reportedly created more porous borders, as migrants seek other avenues beside official channels to enter the EU. Push factors, such as war, poverty, natural disasters, persecution and oppression, and pull factors, including Europe's unrecognized labor needs, are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Without proper channels of entry, Crépeau says migrants entering by unlawful means are further pushed underground, creating conditions of alienation, discrimination and marginalization. Crépeau claims this is counterproductive, empowering smuggling rings and disenfranchising migrants. In one report his agency writes:

“It is paradoxical that, in the name of securing borders, European States have actually lost control over their borders, as flexible and opportunistic smuggling rings will generally be ahead of the game. Prohibitions and repressive policies, without regular migration channels for asylum seekers and much needed low-wage migrants, only entrench smuggling operations and underground labour markets where unscrupulous recruiters and employers exploit undocumented migrants, and increase the precariousness of the migrants’ situation, resulting in more deaths at sea and more human rights violations…. The EU cannot expect Syrians to live in camps or cities in Lebanon or Turkey indefinitely, with many having no prospects for a better life for themselves or their families, while the EU stalls in making a commitment to a meaningful refugee resettlement programme. If nothing else is available to them, they will take their chances with smugglers in order to provide a future for themselves and their children, as many of us would do in similar circumstances.”

Another UN report states :

“Any approach that omits to fully integrate human rights and legal guarantees can be termed repressive… , such an approach will only serve to fuel xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization of migrants, which may have the effect of enabling a culture of impunity around the violation of migrants’ rights, and cement an anti-migration attitude, as well as contributing towards the rise of verbal and physical violence against migrants… Furthermore, any failure to address the pull factors for irregular migrants, and in particular Europe’s demand for a seasonal, easily exploitable workforce, must be addressed. Combating irregular migration will be much more targeted and effective when a genuine effort is made to treat migrants with dignity and offer them processes that include robust legal guarantees and economic and social support. Migration policies based on deterrence are fundamentally at odds with human rights obligations…”

Crepeau himself trying to dispel some of the prevalent myths on video

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