Migration policies need to be “re-examined,” says UN's Arbour

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Migrants arriving on Italy's Lampedusa Island after crossing the Mediterranean on a dilapidated boat. Photo: UNHCR/F. Noy (file)

The lack of protection for migrants around the world and the failure to challenge popular misconceptions about them need to be addressed for everyone's benefit, a leading UN official said on Monday.

Louise Arbour, lead UN advocate on international migration, was speaking to Member States in Geneva, at the start of a meeting to promote the human rights of all migrants.

The inter-governmental conference follows the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants whose aim is to see the adoption of a global deal for safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018.

Here's Daniel Johnson with the details.

Over two days in Geneva, governments, civil society and the UN are putting their heads together to make migration safe – and to find alternatives to irregular migration.

UN Special Representative Louise Arbour told Member States that there are plenty of existing international laws to make a start at a global compact on migration – something the international community has pledged to agree in 2018.

These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international laws that oversee labour, crime and the world's oceans.

These are not enough, Ms Arbour, said:

"But despite the already existing wide and robust body of international law, and clear political commitments to address migration, there is undeniably an implementation gap in the protection of the human rights of migrants."

The absence of tangible rights for migrants is no "abstract notion", Louise Arbour said; it means that they have no access to healthcare, housing, education and justice.

On the issue of illegal migrants, the UN Special Representative said that they are even more vulnerable to prejudice.

And she called for Member States to re-examine their migration policies "closely", since some had the consequence of encouraging the use of irregular migration routes.

In 2015, the number of migrants worldwide – that's people outside their country of birth – was the highest ever recorded, at 244 million.

But as a share of the world population, migration has remained fairly constant in recent decades, at around three percent, according to UN data.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’32″

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