‘Adhere to Safeguards, Avoid Pushing Back Refugees’ – UNICEF, UN rights Experts Urge Europe

Human Wrongs Watch

As Europe Union leaders gathered on 3 February 2017 in Malta to discuss new measures on migration, including increased cooperation with Libya, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN rights experts underlined the need to ensure that children are protected and that migrants should not be pushed back to places where their safety is at risk.

A boy, who is an unaccompanied minor, looks across the beach in Trabia, Italy. Photo: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

Emphasizing the need to prevent exploitation and trafficking of children, UNICEF called on the European Union (EU) and its member States to “adhere fully to the principle of non-refoulement as sending children back into harm’s way or returning boats to Libya without a proper plan to protect them, would only add to their hardship.”

It also called for committing resources to strengthen child protection programmes in Libya and for investment in reception and care centres in the country.

“These centres should provide education and health services, and should never be used to detain children based on their migration status,” the agency added.

It also called for additional support to credible resettlement and family reunification programmes so that desperate refugees and migrants do not have to turn to smugglers and risk their lives.

According to the UN agency, a record number of refugee and migrant deaths in the Mediterranean have been reported over the past three months, including an estimated 190 children.

“The growing number of children lost at sea underscores the acute danger of the journey from North Africa to Italy, as well as the pressing need for governments on both sides of the Mediterranean to do more to keep them safe,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth.

“The decisions taken at the summit could literally mean the difference between life and death for thousands of children transiting or stranded in Libya. They need urgent action now.”

In a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), François Crépeau, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture; Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery; and Sètondji Roland Adjovi, Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, stressed that any engagement with third countries needs to be in line with international human rights standards.

“The EU member States cannot balk from their responsibility and are accountable for any human rights violation under such an agreement,” noted the release.

While the experts commended the EU for any action directed at saving lives, they, however, expressed concern that “by agreeing to a deal with Libya, whereby migrants trying to flee human rights violations are being pushed back to those same conditions, the principle of non-refoulement will be violated.”

They raised the concern that limiting departures from Libyan coasts meant “accepting and legitimizing” the human suffering prevailing there and pushing people back to conditions where migrants suffer arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment, unlawful killings, trafficking and enforced disappearance.

Migrants are also at a risk of labour exploitation and vulnerable to other forms of contemporary slavery, migrant women, in particular, remain at high risk of rape and other sexual violence.

The rights experts further noted measures must allow migrants to disembark immediately at the nearest port where their lives and freedoms would not be threatened, providing them with information, offering care and support, processing their asylum claims equitably.

“From what we know on the conditions in Libya, this country cannot be a port of disembarkation,” they stressed.

Independent experts and Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva based UN Human Rights Council – an inter-governmental body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world – to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation.

The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. (SOURCE: UN).


Read also:

Europe Urged to Address ‘Tragic’ Loss of Lives in Mediterranean

‘Refugees Fleeing Danger Are Not Dangerous Themselves’

The Trump Presidency: The First Week

‘Think of Those Fleeing Syria and Elsewhere Not With Fear But With Open Heart’

Trump to Pull Out of the UN, Expel It from the US?

The US War on Muslim Refugees

Managing National Borders ‘Cannot Be Based on Any Form of Discrimination’ – UN Chief

The Soft Coup – US Establishment Goes to War with President Trump

UN ‘Alarmed’ by Uncertainty Facing Refugees in Process of Being Resettled in US

Shocks for Developing Countries from President Trump’s First Days

UN Urges Trump to Backtrack on Banning Refugees

2017 Human Wrongs Watch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: