Smuggled migrants - assistance based on needs

Published: 20 October 2010

Statement by Dr. Yulia Gusynina, Head a.i. of Humanitarian Affairs and Partnerships Department, in the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols, in Vienna

Mr. Chairman,

We would like to share with you our perspective that is a needs-based approach to addressing the vulnerability of migrants informed by their rights and bound by Principles of Humanity, Neutrality and Impartiality. To us, in practice, that translates into the necessity to address the humanitarian needs of all persons negatively affected by migration regardless of what the legal entitlements of these persons are, if any.

The 30th International Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent held in Geneva in November 2007, where all 186 of our member National Societies participated together with 194 States Party to Geneva Conventions, adopted the Declaration “Together for Humanity” whereby they recognized “the role of National Societies, based on the principles of Humanity and Impartiality, and in consultation with public authorities, to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable migrants, irrespective of their legal status.”

Mr. Chairman, a number of our Member National Societies of the Red Cross or Red Crescent carry out activities addressing the vulnerabilities of migrants:

  • Humanitarian assistance: e.g. providing food, shelter, clothing, health care, first aid, psychosocial support, etc.
  • Protection: e.g., restoring family links, legal and administrative advice, acting against exploitation and deception, providing information on the risks of irregular migration, visiting migrants in detention with a view to helping improve their detention conditions and their treatment when necessary.
  • Advocacy: providing the humanitarian perspective to policy decisions, combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, promoting international norms in that respect.
  • Integration and reintegration: reception cervices, fostering social participation and solidarity (e.g. Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers).
  • Promoting respect for human dignity.
We have evidence that vulnerable groups, especially irregular migrants and victims of human trafficking prefer to seek assistance and support of local Red Cross and Red Crescent branches rather than approach public authorities. Do they have more certainty that their needs will be met before their rights are protected? I shall leave this question open for us to address in subsequent deliberations.

As locally based organizations with global outreach, our National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are well placed to inform potential migrants of the risks of irregular migration before they choose to undertake their journeys and to support them in countries of destination without regard to whether they are regular or irregular migrants or have been trafficked. It is their current condition and that or their families that counts, it is their needs that matter to us and impose action as our Mission and the Fundamental Principle of Humanity dictate.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to recall a recently adopted Declaration of the Twelfth UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Salvador, Brazil, 12-19 April 2010) where the humanitarian dimension of crime prevention is very visible. Namely, the States affirmed their determination to eliminate violence against migrants, migrant workers and their families and called on Member States to adopt measures for preventing and addressing effectively cases of such violence and to ensure that those individuals receive humane and respectful treatment from States, regardless of their status. This is a very promising commitment on the part of the States, Mr. Chairman.

This document also contains a call to States to take measures to prevent, prosecute and punish the smuggling of migrants and to ensure the rights of those smuggled. We take note of that call and urge States to consider those measures in full awareness of the fact that sometimes turning to smugglers is the only de facto available way for people to exercise their right to seek asylum or the last, desperate, and, sadly, “voluntary” resort of people in need in order to escape the situations of imminent threat to their survival; situations, where their very human right to life is not fully assured.

Mr. Chairman,

We believe, that addressing the humanitarian needs of all migrants, including those in irregular situation, as well as protecting their corresponding rights leads to their empowerment and, ultimately, brings developmental benefits to host societies. We are honoured to be part of this effort and open to enhanced dialogue with all who share this approach.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.