Issue Paper on Refugees and Migrants
Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group
on a Draft United Nations Declaration on the Right to Peace,
first session (18-21 February 2013)
February 20, 2013
Thank you Mr. Chairperson.
We would like to take this opportunity to offer some general views on the inclusion in the Advisory Committee’s draft Declaration of provisions related to refugees and migrants.
As we have said with respect to a number of other subjects in the Declaration, we do agree that refugee and migrant issues are extremely important, and we do think there is a human rights dimension to this issue. The United States strongly supports the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their immigration status.
However, refugee and migrant issues are both handled in other fora, namely the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee’s (UNHCR) Executive Committee, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, and the United Nations General Assembly. They are also handled at the Global Forum on Migration and Development and some fourteen “Regional Consultative Processes” in every part of the world. There are already international conventions on refugee issues. UNHCR also regularly adopts Executive Committee Conclusions on International Protection and other human rights related issues. These Conclusions constitute expressions of opinion which are broadly representative of the policy views of the international community.
In terms of Article 12’s paragraph two, the right to return to one’s country, as enshrined in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a right that belongs to all persons, not a right particular to refugees. Nonetheless, the international community should endeavor to find durable solutions for refugees, including where appropriate, voluntary return in safety and with dignity. We also have concerns with the proposed language, in paragraph 2, that special consideration be given to the situation of persons displaced by war and hunger. The status of “refugee” has a precise legal definition; whether or not they are legally “refugees,” people who have been displaced by war and who suffer from hunger are vulnerable, and thus still merit the international community’s concern. Nevertheless, these issues are separate from refugee issues and should be addressed differently.
In sum, we believe the Human Rights Council’s time is better spent urging states to respect all human rights so that situations leading to involuntary displacement can be avoided more often, and so that migrants can have their human rights respected no matter what their legal status might be. Respecting the rights of migrants and refugees would help in creating the right conditions for a more peaceful society.
Thank you Mr. Chairperson.