The world is following the developments and challenges caused by the current large flows of migration. Some regions, especially due to physical proximity to the countries of origin, are facing severer consequences. Truth is that, directly or indirectly, the forced movement of people is affecting everyone, but it certainly affects particularly those who, against their own will, are suddenly forced to leave their homes, their jobs, their friends and their routines, to risk their lives on a boat, in a refugee camp, or in an unfamiliar country. Nevertheless, even in face of this hard reality currently experienced by over 65 million people, some countries and individuals around the world continue to proclaim that the lives of others are not their businesses. Enough.
The president of the UN General Assembly, acknowledging civil society’s knowledge and practical experience in the field, has established an informal hearing at the UN headquarters in New York to hear the group’s contributions on relevant matters for the advancement of institutional policy at national and international levels regarding the large movements of refugees and migration. Dianova was present at the meeting, adding to the presence of dozens of other representatives of civil society.
Dianova is proud to be active in the field of migration, having succeeded in quickly adapt its field of action and intervention in Spain with the creation of two comprehensive programs to host and protect refugees and migrants. Dianova’s Humanitarian Reception Center and International Protection Center are examples of inclusive interventions, of concrete promotion of human rights and solidarity, and an effort for the development of personal self-reliance.
The Voice of Civil Society
The current movements of migration have posed joint challenges to states and have pressed them to brainstorm together for means to address the situation. In the UN platform or in any other, we urge states to truly consider the main points of the important report on refugees and migrants delivered by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki- moon, in their migration policies. It means: 1. That states commit to address the root causes of forced migration flows; 2. That they acknowledge a shared responsibility ground for states, promoting multidimensional and significant support to countries of destination; And finally, 3. That they place the protection of human rights of migrants and refugees (M & R) in the center of all policies.
Beyond the UN Secretary General’s diagnosis and recommendations, civil society has played an indispensable role in alleviating the vulnerability of people in the current migration flows worldwide. The recent informal hearing at the UN only made it more evident that not only can’t governments continue to exclude civil society from the policy-making table, but also that we have much to contribute to the discussions and practices in this field.
Thus, we would like to register the imprint that civil society is leaving in this historical moment, for the defense of the human rights of M & R in this current context of widespread vulnerability. In the following, we present a non-exhaustive thematic compilation of relevant observations and recommendations on the matter, addressed by this group in the recent hearings.
- The widespread xenophobia in public discourse of political leaders, in the media, and among part of the population of countries of destination, has threatening the orderly coordination of the large movements of M & R. To address that, awareness policies are urgent (Possible actions: 1. Explore real facts to reverse this narrative – for example, Amnesty International global survey has shown that, in aggregate data, 80% of people would welcome with open arms refugees fleeing conflicts and wars zones; 2. Build empathy – encourage physical interaction – especially with children; tell their stories (why they left their home countries, how did they use to live there, who are they and their families); involve the community leaders, etc.; 3. Change the official narrative for a positive grasp of the reality – the large migration flow is not just problems and challenges for states, it is also opportunity for M & R to contribute with states’ and communities’ development.
- For a comprehensive protection of rights, countries of destination must implement the international conventions in an articulated manner and bearing in mind the universality of human rights. In general, we are not asking for new rights, but merely for the implementation of obligations voluntarily assumed by states in the past. In this subject, it is also important to ensure that the standards of existing rights of children, women, migrant, and other vulnerable groups are maintained or strengthened in the new commitments created in the present context. There shall be no regression in relation to existing international or national mechanisms.
- Women should be included in the needs-assessment activities in refugee camps and other lodging facilities, to ensure their rights are properly observed. In many occasions sexual and reproductive rights and care and the due attention to gender-based violence are being ignored or neglected in these contexts. For example, it is necessary to ensure access to protective measures, medical care, contraceptive methods of their choice, and safe abortion, especially (but not limited to) in case of pregnancy resulting from sexual violence
- The lack of investment in public services for M & R only emphasizes the negative consequences of the current migration flows in the countries of destination. Thus, whenever possible, it is crucial to make a distinction between the possibility to access public services and the migratory status of individuals, specially in regard to basic health, justice, housing, education services, etc.
- Integration is key. Countries of destination should develop the ability to quickly integrate and include M & R economically, socially and politically. Beyond offering language courses – which is a basic need – it is critical to also instruct those who arrive in the customs and local laws and it is important of find a healthy balance in potential cultural conflicts. The right to work and access to professional trainings, universal education and housing, are also basic steps in integration efforts. Technological inclusion is also an important instrument. There are different ways to promote the self-reliance and independence of M & R. And the results benefits everyone.
- Children and early childhood education are a priority and urgency in migration policies to protect the personal development and empowerment of children and to secure the future of our society. In addition, it is needed to establish systematic support for unaccompanied minors.
- It is essential to ensure the right to work for M & R in countries of destination, while maintaining the commitment to promote decent working conditions also in the countries of origin – so that to migrate becomes a choice, not a necessity.
- M & R are not a monolithic group of people – their needs may differ depending of where they come from, and so should do the responses. It is prudent to promote greater coordination between governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector with individuals and organizations in the field, to develop appropriate and targeted responses for different groups. At the same time, it is important to build bilateral and multilateral cooperation agreements, in which states see each other as interdependent partners of the equation.
- It is of ultimate importance to invest in the social development of the affected countries, focusing on inclusive policies and education for young people, so they do not become easy targets for unlawful groups. On this, it is also important to clarify the responsibility – and call for greater contribution – of countries which, through their external policies and negligent interventions, contributed to the crises that are generating the current large forced movements of people. It is also essential to put an end to the institutional finance of conflicts, and that achieving peace becomes a priority.
- More than listening to civil society, governments must take us real partners, ensuring effective participation through inclusion in the planning, implementation and evaluation of policies addressed to M & R. It is collaboration rather than mere consultation
- It is imperative to abolish arbitrary detention of M & R. Access to justice and to the due process is a fundamental and universal right.
- Cash donation, instead of products, when appropriate and well designed, should be encouraged to promote local economic development.
- The different UN agencies must work together in a coordinated manner, in order to utilize their specialized resources and address problems with targeted solutions that are at the same time integrated and individualized (children, women, development, food and agriculture, labor, etc.
- The lack of legal framework for the secondary movement of migration is generating a great and inevitable chain of irregular flows. It is urgent that governments strengthen cooperation to regulate, enable and facilitate legal secondary movements.
- In this context of large movements of people, thousands of M & R have lost their lives in the different stages of their trajectory. In many occasions, due to a lack of documents at the moment of death, they remain missing indefinitely for their families. Governments need to take a close look at this situation and come up with a systemic way to address the death of M & R in the move.
- It is wise to explore the best practices in the use of humanitarian visa and aim to make use of this initiative whenever appropriate. Furthermore, it is essential to ensure the necessary support and services to asylum seekers during the determination period. Finally, in every circumstance the use of medical examinations as an instrument of immigration control must be abolishe
The list could go on indefinitely as the challenges are enormous to secure a decent life for M & R in this large flow we are currently experiencing. Civil society all around has done a great job in standing up fortheir rights and in defending the universal application of the international standards that many countries are resisting to accept that should apply for everyone, everywhere. Let’s stay tuned for the next developments and let’s keep pushing governments to move in the rights direction.
 Phenomenon of migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers who, for whatever reasons, leave the country in which they arrived to resettle, or seek protection and asylum, elsewhere