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Migrant workers; refugees and displaced persons; treatment of citizens of other participating States

Amnesty International’s research indicates that many Participating States are failing to implement fully their commitments to protect the rights of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.
Amnesty International continues to be concerned by the situation of migrants and asylum-seekers arriving in Spain, specifically along the southern border, in the north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla and in the Canary Islands. The unprecedented influx of migrants to the Canary Islands in recent months has increased concerns regarding conditions in detention centres, rights to adequate information, the provision of legal and interpretation assistance and access to fair procedures. Migration policies agreed with other states and the absence of adequate safeguards, particularly in expulsion procedures, undermine the principle of non-refoulement, as enshrined in international law.
Amnesty International draws particular attention to the growing number of unaccompanied minors being held in over-crowded facilities and wishes to remind the Spanish government of their special obligations towards this vulnerable group. Amnesty International also notes with concern that investigations into the deaths of a number of migrants in separate incidents at the fences in Ceuta and Melilla in September and October 2005 have still not produced a result.
Similarly in Italy Amnesty International is very concerned at the practice of routinely detaining minors, especially those seeking asylum and unaccompanied by a family member.
During the past five years, approximately 80,000 migrants and asylum-seekers have reached Italy by sea after a hazardous journey, often onboard small, unseaworthy boats. Among them have been hundreds of children, generally very young, including infants, and some of them unaccompanied. They have come from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Turkey and Iraq as well as from other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. In many cases, they have been detained upon arrival along with adults, though there is no domestic law that justifies this routine practice.
The right of detained minors to be kept separate from adults who are not members of the same family has in many cases not been respected. They, along with children, some less than five years old, have had to endure intense heat in summer and cold and humidity in winter living in mobile houses in detention centres.
Amnesty International has received more than 890 allegations and other information regarding the presence of minors in most detention centres in Italy in recent years. The organization has a detailed knowledge of 28 unaccompanied minors who have been detained at some point between January 2002 and August 2005. Almost all were asylum-seekers from sub-Saharan African countries in which the human rights situation is very precarious.
Amnesty International recognizes that states have a sovereign right to control the entry, residence and expulsion of non-nationals on their territory. That right must, however, be exercised in accordance with human rights law and standards and cannot exist at the expense of the fundamental human rights of migrants and asylum-seekers, regardless of their legal status and in particular when they are vulnerable.
Childhood implies a particular vulnerability deserving special protection and primary consideration in every context. Consideration of the best interest of the child, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, should guide the practices involving children directly and indirectly at all stages of movement.
In Greece Amnesty International has documented the failure of the Greek authorities to ensure that persons residing in Greece who are not members of the Greek majority group enjoy the human rights to which they are entitled, whether they be asylum-seekers, migrants or members of minorities. In particular the Greek state has failed to comply with human rights law and standards regarding access to the asylum process, the detention of migrants, and the protection from discrimination and ill-treatment.
According to official information, in the 1990s the population of non-citizens in Greece grew from 167,276 to 797,091. Migration from European countries increased seven-fold, while migration from Asian countries tripled. Large sections of the migrant population in Greece are nationals of neighbouring countries (Albania, Turkey, Cyprus). Greece's rapid transformation from a traditional emigration country to a pole of attraction of immigrants over the last two decades has brought to the surface the country's lack of an adequate legislative framework of migration policy. These gaps in the legislative framework lead to violations of the right to seek asylum under international refugee and human rights law. The framework fails to adhere to international human rights law and standards mainly in two respects: (i) at no stage of the process does it provide for an independent review of a rejected application on the substance of the claim; and (ii) it lacks provisions explicitly safeguarding against the risk of refoulement.
The Greek authorities are failing to offer irregular migrants access to the asylum process at the point of entry into the country. Officials stationed at border areas, and particularly in the area of the Greek-Turkish border, have been allegedly expelling migrants from the territory of Greece without providing those in need of international protection with the opportunity to seek asylum or providing all migrants with an opportunity to challenge their removal on other grounds, including human rights grounds.
Amnesty International has recorded human rights violations arising from the conditions under which irregular migrants are detained, the treatment of particularly vulnerable detainees such as women and minors, alleged ill-treatment of migrants by police outside detention centres, and the lack of adequate access to justice available to migrants who have suffered such ill-treatment. The organization is concerned about the authorities' failure to effectively address human rights violations perpetrated by police officers, by instituting prompt, effective and impartial investigations into allegations of such violations and bringing perpetrators to justice.
Amnesty International has drawn attention to its concerns in relation to violations of the principle of non-refoulement, which are of obvious relevance to these discussions, in its statement to Working Session 8 of this HDIM, on the rule of law – protection of human rights and fighting terrorism.
Governments obligations not to violate the principle of non-refoulement apply equally when considering warrants for extradition. Amnesty International has been concerned, however, about the plight of Uzbekistani refugees who fled Uzbekistan after the events in Andizhan in May 2005. The Uzbekistani authorities have actively – and often successfully – sought the extradition in the name of national security and the “war on terror” of members or suspected members of banned Islamic parties or movements, such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Akramia, whom they accused of participation in the Andizhan events or earlier alleged terrorist acts, from neighbouring countries.
Several governments, particularly Russia, Kazakstan, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan have been cooperating with Uzbekistan in these requests, and thus denying refugees their rights to international protection by facilitating their forcible return. Such practice is a grave violation of countries’ obligations under international law which prohibits the return of anyone to a country or territory where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations, including torture. These countries have forcibly returned (or facilitated the return of) refugees despite well-founded fears of them being subjected to human rights violations.
Most of those who have been forcibly returned to Uzbekistan continued to be held in incommunicado detention for long periods of time, thus increasing their risk of being tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Independent Imam Rukhiddin Fakhruddinov for example, who was forcibly returned from Kazakstan in November 2005 with eight others, was sentenced to 17 years in prison in September 2006 in a closed trial. He had reportedly been held incommunicado for two months during which time he told his lawyer he was tortured. On 9 August 2006 the Kyrgyzstani authorities forcibly returned four Uzbekistani refugees and one asylum-seeker to Uzbekistan in contravention of their international obligations and despite the fact that the UNHCR had found permanent resettlement places for the four refugees. The Ukrainian authorities failed to observe the principle of non-refoulement, and to provide full and fair refugee status determination procedures, when they forcibly returned 10 asylum-seekers to Uzbekistan in February 2006. The fate of these deported asylum-seekers remains unknown. The Ukrainian security services and the President’s administration both defended the action on the grounds that the Uzbek asylum-seekers had been members of a terrorist organization.
Amnesty International is also concerned that asylum-seekers from Uzbekistan have not had adequate access to fair and satisfactory asylum procedures, and have often not been provided with a durable solution to their plight, including re-settlement to a third country.
Amnesty International has particular concerns in relation to the failure of states to ensure access to employment without discrimination for returning refugees and displaced persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Throughout the post-war period, the international community has made efforts to encourage the return of those who fled or were driven from their homes, to reduce ethnic discrimination and to ensure that all parts of the country function as multiethnic communities. Despite these efforts, ethnic discrimination in employment continues to be one of the most serious obstacles to the sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Workers from ethnic minorities continue to be discriminated in access to work and are denied full reparation for discriminatory dismissals suffered in the past. Approximately one million people remain displaced more than ten years after the end of the conflict.

The Greek government is currently in the process of revising its migration policy. Such revision could have a profound impact not only on migrants' rights in general, but also refugee rights in particular. Amnesty International recommends that this revision also includes a review of the government's legislation regarding refugee protection. Legislation should be applied in a way that ensures that the protection of the human rights of refugees is upheld, including providing access to an independent review of asylum applications in the event of negative decisions and maintaining respect for the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. Amnesty International urges the authorities to review their policies of detaining migrants. The organization strongly recommends that violations suffered by minority individuals as a result of discriminatory legislation is addressed. The organization also calls on the authorities to review the policies relating to the recognition of minorities with a view to stopping the practice of listing recognized minorities.

Covers: Azerbaijan, Italy, Greece, Spain, C. Asia
Reports / public statements
Azerbaijan: ?
Italy: report, Invisible children - The human rights of migrant and asylum-seeking minors detained upon arrival at the maritime border in Italy, EUR 30/001/2006
Greece: report, Out of the Spotlight: The rights of foreigners and minorities are still a grey area, EUR 25/022/2005
Spain: public statement, Spain/Morocco: No impunity for killing, EUR 41/005/2006
C. Asia (refoulement to Uzbekistan): various recent UAs (see disaggregated w/bs) – or covered under session 8 – Rule of Law?