International Migrants Day: Rights of migrants under attack across the globe

The rights of migrants are being trampled across the globe, as some of the world’s most vulnerable people face economic exploitation, discrimination and racism in a range of countries, Amnesty International said on International Migrants Day. “Political decision-makers need to show leadership by ensuring the human rights of migrants are protected, instead of taking cheap shots through scaremongering tactics,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Refugee and Migrants Rights at Amnesty International. “Poor migrants are the perfect political scapegoats – they have no money, no influence and they can’t vote. So if you’re a government whose policies are letting people down, you can blame it all on immigration.” Economic exploitation Over the past years, Amnesty International has highlighted how many migrant workers – who leave their countries in the hope of earning better salaries – face appalling economic exploitation in many countries. In Qatar, authorities are lagging severely behind in their efforts to address the rampant abuse of migrant workers’ rights. Despite promises of reform to tackle exploitation ahead of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar has only made minimal progress. Practices such as delays in payments of migrants’ wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, poor living conditions, forced labour and physical and sexual violence against domestic workers continue unchecked In Hong Kong and Indonesia, there has been insufficient action by authorities to address systemic failures that foster the exploitation of migrant domestic workers. These failures allow unscrupulous agencies and employers to abuse migrant domestic workers, with Amnesty International documenting cases that amount to modern-day slavery. SOS Europe This year saw a sharp rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe, with the far right gaining traction in European Union (EU), national and local elections. It also saw the rise in people fleeing wars, instability and poverty, and embarking on dangerous journeys in an attempt to reach Europe. “As Fortress Europe builds ever higher walls with border security driving its response to migration people are increasingly taking dangerous routes in search of safety and dignity,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali. Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees pointed to a “record high” of almost 350,000 sea crossings by migrants worldwide this year. The Mediterranean was the “deadliest route of all”, with at least 3,419 people losing their lives since January 2014. “Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees make the dangerous sea journey to Europe each year. The fact that thousands of them die along the way should be a wake up call for EU member states that they need to prioritize saving lives over closing borders.”. Migrant detentions In many countries, people can be held in detention for months and sometimes years just for being irregular migrants. In the USA, Amnesty International has found that the dramatic increase in the use of detention as an immigration enforcement mechanism results in a number of human rights violations. More than 350,000 men, women and children are now detained by US immigration authorities each year. Migrants can be detained for months or years without any form of meaningful judicial review of their detention, in contravention of international human rights standards. The conditions under which migrants are held violate both US and international standards on the treatment of detainees. Amnesty International documented pervasive problems including inappropriate and excessive use of restraints and inadequate access to healthcare including mental health services. Many individuals have limited or no access to family and to legal or other assistance throughout their detention. Between October 2013 and July 2014, at least of 52,193 unaccompanied migrant children were apprehended in the USA, nearly twice as many as during the previous 12-month period. The US government estimated that the total number of apprehended unaccompanied children would could exceed 90,000 by the end of November 2014 in border states such as Texas, Arizona and California.