International Migrants Day

16/12/2011 - Sunday is International Migrants Day. This year, the UN has drawn attention to the rights of irregular migrants. In Australia, unaccompanied child asylum seekers continue to be a much debated topic.
If refugees and asylum seekers are among the world’s most vulnerable classes of people, then unaccompanied minors are in an even more precarious state in need of protection.
On the occasion of International Migrant’s Day (this Sunday), two United Nations (UN) experts have warned against the criminalization of irregular migration, which, they say, “not only runs contrary to humankind’s historical need and wish to seek and learn from new opportunities, but puts at risk fundamental human rights of people in search for a better life.”
Earlier this month, preceding a major conference on refugees and stateless people, UN General Assembly President, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, warned that, “the fear of the ‘other’ has become more acute since the onset of the other world financial and economic crisis. Migrants have increasingly become the targets of racist and intolerant attitudes and practices.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s immigration policies are being debated again, as several teenaged asylum seekers have been moved into adult detention centres. Their community housing privileges were revoked as a tougher line on behaviour in the community housing has been pursued.
A group called Children Out of Immigration Detention has written to the country’s Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, after one of the teens attempted suicide and was hospitalized.
Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said that one of the boys had been affected by the self-harm of his housemate, so he stayed at a friend’s with the permission of his caregiver. Another two had been detained after a verbal argument. In total, eight teens have been moved into adult detention, while one teen is missing after running away.
'We make no apology for revoking community detention placement where a person breaches these conditions, including where they behave in an aggressive, threatening or otherwise inappropriate manner,” said a spokesperson for the Minister.
Last month, teenage asylum seekers staged a televised protest on the roof of one of the community houses.
Earlier this week, the Australian High Court ruled that a young Afghan refugee was wrongfully denied reunification with his mother because he turned 18 after arriving in Australia. Defended by Victorian Legal Aid, the boy arrived from Afghanistan in May 2009, but came of age before his application was rejected in September 2010.
An immigration spokesperson commented on the case, saying, “We are committed to delivering a fair and orderly humanitarian program, reuniting as many refugee families as possible under the numbers allocated to this special humanitarian program.”
A report released on Tuesday by the UN found that social and economic upheaval since the dissolution of the Soviet Union have caused widespread migration in Tajikistan. The consequences demonstrate the flipside of the experiences of unaccompanied children, who leave their countries of origin.
Children left behind by migrant parents seeking work abroad report symptoms of depression, withdrawal or increased aggression and rebellion. Without the protection of their parents, they are also more likely to be exposed to bullying, teased by their peers as “forgotten” children.
Despite the opposition—and sometimes downright hostility—to illegal migration and undocumented migrant workers, UN Secretary-General Ban K-Moon affirmed today that, “all persons, without discrimination and regardless of nationality or legal status, are entitled to enjoy fundamental rights.”
While sovereign states have the right to control their borders, they also have the responsibility to respect international human rights.
There are an estimated 214 million international migrants worldwide. Only a fraction of the world’s countries (45) have ratified the International Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
The Experts, Francois Crépeau (Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants) and Abdelhamid El Jamri (Chairperson of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families), advocate that dignity is not confined to any nationality and that more political will is needed to ratify and enforce the Convention.