10 April 2015 – Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Offices and Other International Organizations in Geneva, Ambassador Cecilia Rebong called on UN member states and other stakeholders to consider taking into account the recommended principles and guidelines on human rights at international borders.

Ambassador Rebong made this appeal at a panel discussion to launch the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders at the sidelines of the ongoing session in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Council.

The ambassador explained that “the recommended principles and guidelines were drafted with the view to assisting states to address human rights violations faced by migrants at international borders and the gaps in the effective enjoyment of their human rights.” 

She cited the report of the UN Secretary General that migrants crossing international borders are vulnerable to abuse and violation of their human rights. “They often endure ill-treatment at the hands of border officials, for example by the disproportionate use of force to prevent entry or when carrying out a forced return,” the ambassador stressed, quoting from the UN Secretary General’s report.

The recommended principles and guidelines are derived from the core international human rights conventions. These principles and guidelines are envisioned to support states in fulfilling their border governance obligations in accordance with international human rights law and other relevant human rights standards.

Ambassador Rebong noted that the Philippines is also involved in two  related initiatives to protect the rights of migrants crossing the borders: the Migrants in Crisis in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) and the Nansen Initiative. The MICIC initiative is co-chaired by the Philippines and the US, while the Philippines sits as part of the Nansen Initiative Steering Group. The Nansen initiative is being led by Norway and Switzerland.

The MICIC initiative aims at preparing a set of voluntary guidelines that may be used for states and other stakeholders in responding to the protection needs of migrants caught in countries experiencing a crisis due to security concerns or natural disasters. The MICIC Working Group is in the process of consulting states and other stakeholders. Recently, there was a regional consultation in Manila on this initiative.

The Nansen initiative, meanwhile, aims to produce a set of guidelines that may be used by States in responding to the needs of people who cross international borders due to natural calamities.  Regional consultations have also been conducted, the latest of which was held in Manila at about the same time last year when the OHCHR Recommended Principles and Guidelines was launched in New York.

The other speakers during the panel discussion were Ms. Jane Connors who discussed in detail the three principles and the 10 guidelines on human rights at international borders.  Ms. Connor is the Director for Research and Right to Development Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ms. Charmaine Hili talked about how the Principles and Guidelines are reflected in European Union (EU) law and practices and their practical application of EU legislation in the area of border governance. She is with the Migration and Protection Unit of the European Commission’s Directorate General on Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

Dr. Hafed Ben Miled, who is the Migration and Refugees Program Coordinator of the Tunisian Red Crescent Society, talked about the experience of the Tunisian Red Crescent when responding to the protection needs of migrants crossing the Tunisian borders.

He stressed the urgent need for change in the perception on migrants.  “They should not be labeled as “illegal”. Rather, they should be perceived as humans who lack documents and in need of protection”, he added. He suggested that the appropriate term to be used should be either “undocumented” or “irregular” migrant.

Ms. Catherine Tactaquin talked about her group’s work to expand the rights of migrants and refugees in the United States, with a particular focus on the human rights of migrants at the US-Mexico border. She is the Executive Director of the US-based NGO, the National Network of Immigrant and Refugees Rights.

Ms. Maria Giovanna Manieri, who is the Program Officer of the Platform for International Cooperation for Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), discussed PICUM’s experience in promoting migrants rights, particularly those of the irregular migrants. PICUM is a network of 158 organizations across 33 countries, primarily based in Europe, promoting respect for the human rights of undocumented migrants within Europe.

The last speaker was Mr. Paulo deTarso Lugo. He delivered remarks in behalf of the Centro de Estudius Legales y Sociales in Argentina and other partners in Central and South America. END