Context



It is estimated that 3.2% of the world’s population, are currently living outside their countries of birth or citizenship. This figure encompasses refugees who flee persecution or fear of persecution, environmentally displaced people, those who leave their country to find work as well as retired people from the North in search of sunshine. Although the percentage of migrants has remained roughly stable for years, the reasons for mobility, either forced or voluntary, have become more complex and destination countries more diverse. Attracted by emerging countries (Brazil, India, China) or oil-rich countries as in the Gulf and some countries in Africa, the majority of migrants move to the South (South-South or North-South) or from the North to the North.

Yet despite the diversification of migratory flows and the fact that human mobility is an unavoidable fact of our globalised world, countries in the North continue to be obsessed with the fear of “invasion” by poor migrants coming from the South.

The vulnerability of migrants is exacerbated by the security-based policies aimed at strengthening controls on migrants coming from the South. While the United States continues to protect itself by means of an illusory wall, Europe strengthens the control of its external borders with the help of Frontex, pushing migrants to take increasingly dangerous routes and transforming the Mediterranean sea into a gigantic cemetery. European countries put responsibility for controlling migration on countries of departure and transit, using economic incentives to push southern Mediterranean countries to sign “mobility partnerships”. Such agreements provide the possibility of increased access to EU visas for certain categories of citizens in exchange for strengthened controls on migration and readmission of migrants expelled from the EU. National policies on labour migration and bilateral agreements between states tend to focus on economic interests and security matters, neglecting migrants’ human rights. Migrant workers, especially those in an irregular situation, are victims of multiple human rights violations, in countries of transit as well as arrival, where they are abused by unscrupulous employers. In the Gulf countries, migrants find themselves trapped into sponsorship systems which ties them to their employers, and prevent them from leaving their job and even the country.

International bodies have so far failed to provide adequate responses to the need to increase protection of the rights of migrants.

FIDH promotes and protects migrants’ rights

  • FIDH’s structure, with presence in countries of departure, transit and arrival, enables it to document and monitor violations of migrants’ rights along the migratory journey. FIDH advocates for law and policy reforms to ensure the protection of the human rights of migrants.
  • FIDH takes action to increase accountability for violations of migrants’ human rights, including through the use of strategic litigation. For example, together with a coalition of migrants’ rights organisations, FIDH provided legal assistance before national and regional courts to survivors of the left-to-die boat, left to drift in the Mediterranean for 15 days. FIDH supported its Italian member, UFTDU, to bring the first case before the European Court of Human Rights condemning push-backs as a violation of the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition on collective expulsions (Hirsi v. Italy).
  • Since 2012, FIDH has been a partner in the campaign Frontexit. The campaign highlights Frontex’s role in the implementation of policies which result in violations of the human rights of migrants trying to reach the EU’s external borders. The very existence of this agency blurs the respective responsibilities of Frontex and EU Member States, diminishing accountability.

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