States must protect human rights defenders assisting people on the move

States must protect human rights defenders assisting people on the move

States have an obligation to protect human rights defenders who often put their own lives on the line to assist the hundreds of thousands of people on the move1 each year, a United Nations expert has told the Human Rights Council.

Introducing his latest report* in Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, said defenders of people on the move are currently facing unprecedented threats and restrictions to their work, as well as pervasive disqualification and criminalization. He said States are failing to address these concerns.

“It has been two years and a half since the sordid image of the body of Alan Kurdi, a three-year old boy fleeing war in Syria and found lying lifeless in a Turkish beach, galvanized popular opinion around the world. Today, such images continue to emerge, deeply shocking our conscience. As many regions are facing devastating humanitarian crisis, human rights defenders help prevent similar tragedies and protect the rights of some of the most disenfranchised groups of our societies,” Forst said.

According to the study, defenders face obstacles to their work mainly stemming from restrictions to access people on the move, criminalization and stigmatization, and threats by non-State actors, such as organized crime or State-outsourced entities providing services to people on the move.

“The main aim of my report is to underline the importance of incorporating the issue of defenders in the current discussions on policies about people on the move,” Forst said. “This includes notably the negotiation of the two global compacts on refugees and on safe, orderly and regular migration.”

Original source:  UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Published on 1 March 2018