Human Rights First Statement on International Migrants Day

New York, NY – Today as it marked International Migrants Day, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer issued the following statement: “International Migrants Day is an important reminder that States’ migration policies and practices must comply with their obligations under international human rights and refugee law. This reminder is particularly important as governments increasingly detain migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in jails or jail-like facilities, often without basic human rights protections, and as xenophobia and bias-motivated violence targeting migrants are on the rise all over the globe. We urge States to take steps to bring their policies and practices into compliance with those obligations.” Human Rights First made the following recommendations to States:

  • Revise policies and practices relating to migrants – including those relating to immigration detention – to comply with international human rights and refugee protection law and standards.
  • Acknowledge and condemn acts of bias-motivated violence whenever they occur by sending immediate, strong, public, and consistent messages that bias-motivated violence – including against migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers  –will be investigated thoroughly and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
  • Strengthen enforcement and prosecute offenders by ensuring that those responsible for acts of bias-motivated violence targeting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are held accountable under the law, that the prosecution of such acts against any individuals regardless of their legal status in the country is a priority for the criminal justice system.
  • Monitor and report on hate crimes – including those targeting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers – by maintaining official systems of monitoring and public reporting to provide accurate data for informed policy decisions to combat bias-motivated violence, including against migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
  • Reach out to community groups by conducting outreach and education efforts to communities and civil society groups – including those working with migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers – to reduce fear and assist victims, advance police-community relations, encourage improved reporting of acts of bias-motivated violence to the police, and improve the quality of data collection by law enforcement bodies.
  • Speak out against intolerance. Political leaders, government and other officials serving in public office pledge: to refrain from using rhetoric that incites violence or promotes acts that curtail the enjoyment of rights by migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers; to speak out publicly and consistently to condemn such speech when it occurs; to build political consensus—reaching out across political party lines—to encourage speaking out.

In addition to the recommendations above, Human Rights First also issued the following specific recommendations to the U.S. government:

  • Reform immigration detention and release standards to comply with international human rights and refugee protection law and standards, including by providing court hearings to review custody for detained migrants and asylum seekers, and by effectively implementing a nationwide program of alternatives to detention.
  • Stop detaining asylum seekers and other immigration detainees in prison-like facilities, and fulfill its public commitment to shift away from a reliance on prisons and facilities modeled on correctional facilities. Facilities that are used to detain asylum seekers and other immigration detainees (who cannot otherwise be released, including through an alternatives to detention program) should not be modeled on prisons and should ensure meaningful outdoor access, contact visitation with family members, freedom of movement within the facility and civilian clothing rather than prison uniforms.

Published on December 18, 2010


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