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NHRIs pledge support for refugees and migrants

Graphic: Community members in Australia rally to support refugees

With ongoing conflict driving the largest flow of refugees in decades, NHRIs have developed a set of principles to to support those seeking protection

With ongoing conflict driving the largest flow of refugees in decades, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have developed a clear set of principles and actions to better support those seeking protection.

Meeting in Belgrade in November 2015, 32 NHRIs and Ombudsmen signed the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Refugees and Migrants.

While acknowledging the sovereignty of States to determine their own migration policies, the NHRIs noted that States are also subject to compliance with international human rights obligations, "in particular in providing appropriate procedures for determining the right to seek and enjoy asylum, for determining the conditions under which migrants and refugees may remain, and the obligation to ensure that the principle of 'non-refoulement' is respected".

The Declaration sets out a number of principles to support governments to meet their obligations to refugees and migrants, including by:

  • Ensuring full access to the asylum procedure
  • Protecting rights through cross-border cooperation
  • Preventing inhuman and degrading treatment
  • Strengthening integration measures and family unity
  • Promoting and protecting economic and social rights
  • Providing safeguards for vulnerable groups.

Drawing by a child in immigration detention

On 4 February 2016, the Australian Human Rights Commission released a report that described the "alarming impact" of immigration detention on the mental and physical health of children, as part of its long-standing monitoring of immigration detention facilities in Australia.

NHRIs also reiterated their own commitment to promote and protect the human rights of migrants and refugees, "as well as to enhance the quality of their reception, in accordance with international and regional human rights standards and including a gender perspective".

They committed themselves to do this by undertaking monitoring activities to centres where migrants and refugees are received or accommodated; providing advice to government on relevant draft legislation or amendments to existing legislation; and supporting migrants and refugees to lodge or resolve complaints about their treatment.

NHRIs also had an important role to build community understanding about the rights of rights of refugees and migrants, "especially in the current context and growing xenophobia" and to "strongly oppose any public statements of state officials and politicians which constitute or encourage hate speech".

Information and presentations from the conference - "Ombudsman/National Human Rights Institutions: Human Rights Challenges in Refugee/Migrant Crisis" - is available on the website of the Serbian Protector of Citizens.

Date:12 February 2016

Image credits

  1. Community members in Australia rally to support refugees - John Englart, Flickr; http://bit.ly/1THubcA
  2. Drawing by a child in immigration detention - Australian Human Rights Commission