6 August 2010


An estimated 214 million people currently live outside their country of origin. While for some migration is a positive and empowering experience, far too many migrants have to endure human rights violations, discrimination and exploitation.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay recently urged all concerned "to implement a human rights approach to migration, and to recognise the positive contributions of migrants, protect their human rights in law and practice, and facilitate their integration into host societies”

The High Commissioner went on to note that an increasing global trend to frame migration policies solely within a security and border control framework. This is exacerbated by policies which criminalise irregular migrants, and subject them to administrative detention regimes which are punitive in nature and often lack adequate safeguards. Vulnerable migrants can be detained for months and even years in immigration detention.

"The protection of migrants is an urgent and growing human rights challenge. Governments have obligations to ensure that xenophobic violence, racism and related intolerance against migrants and their communities have no place in their societies" she said.

The statement is one of several recent calls for the protection of the Human Rights of migrants issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Although the comments were not directed towards any particular country, they seem particularly relevant to Australia at a time when in the lead-up to the federal election the major parties seem intent on demonstrating a ‘tough’ stance on ‘border protection’ against asylum seekers – a trend also criticised by the Australian Catholic Bishops

Whilst Australia can be proud of its record of accepting migrants (according to statistics published in 2006 almost 25% of the Australian population was born overseas), more recently its hysterical overreaction to the relatively tiny number of asylum seekers arriving by boat and the harsh treatment directed towards them, is a source of shame and bewilderment.

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