Discrimination against non-citizens : important decision by a UN body

The FIDH welcomes the recent adoption by the UN Committee on the elimination of racial discrimination (CERD), of a new general comment regarding discrimination against non-citizens .

“The adoption by the CERD of this new General Comment is of the utmost importance at a time where in many states, non-citizens are increasingly victims of discriminative policies and benefit from differentiated and more limited rights”, said Sidiki Kaba, President of the FIDH.

In March 2004, the FIDH presented a report to the CERD concerning the situation of non-citizens who have been victim of discriminatory treatments in different countries . In this document, the FIDH raised serious concern about several situations, such as the discriminatory practices towards migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, France, Israel or Costa Rica; the anti-terrorism measures affecting non-citizens in the USA or the United Kingdom; the practices affecting asylum seekers and refugees in Lebanon or the UK.

In that report, the FIDH pointed out that in situations of public emergency or exception, certain categories of non-citizens are the most vulnerable and susceptible of human rights violations. In certain countries, in the framework of the fight against terrorism, judicial and procedural rights of people of foreign descent are systematically violated under the pretext of national security. The FIDH report also highlighted that non-citizens are victims of discrimination in the sphere of economic and social rights, particularly regarding labor, education, housing and health.

The CERD notably recommends that states “ensure that any measures taken in the fight against terrorism do not discriminate, in purpose or effect, on the grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin and that non-citizens are not subjected to racial or ethnic profiling or stereotyping”...and “Ensure that non-citizens detained or arrested in the fight against terrorism are properly protected by domestic law that complies with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law”.

The CERD also asks states to “take action against racially motivated violence”, to “ensure that conditions in centres for refugees and asylum-seekers meet international standards,... that non-citizens are not subject to collective expulsion”... and that they “are not returned or removed to a country or territory where they are at risk of being subject to serious human rights abuses”.

The CERD eventually recommends states to “remove obstacles that prevent the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by non-citizens, notably in the areas of education, housing, employment and health”.

The FIDH calls upon States to comply with their obligations toward non-citizens as interpreted by the CERD in this new General Comment and recommends the Special procedures established by the UN Commission on Human Rights to take it into consideration when analyzing specific situations.

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