FYR Macedonia: A father carries his daughter to Gevgelija train station where they will register with the authorities before proceeding north towards Serbia. Like many others here, this family is from Syria.
Photo: Stephen Ryan/IFRC
A new report by the world’s largest humanitarian network is calling on governments to remove the barriers that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing basic services and humanitarian aid.
Speaking in New York during the final round of negotiations of the Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration, Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“All people, regardless of immigration status, should have access to basic services and humanitarian assistance.
“There is no need to mistreat people to have proper border control. Preventing access to adequate food, basic health care, and legal advice about their rights is completely unacceptable. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.”
IFRC’s report, New Walled Order: How barriers to basic services turn migration into a humanitarian crisis, identifies a number of factors that prevent vulnerable migrants from accessing the support they need. Such factors range from the overt – including the fear of harassment, arrest or deportation – to the less obvious, which can include prohibitive costs, cultural and linguistic barriers, and a lack of information about their rights.
In addition, in some parts of the world, governments are enacting laws that effectively criminalize humanitarian assistance, including search and rescue and emergency assistance for undocumented migrants.
“This criminalization of compassion is extremely worrying, and could undermine more than a century of humanitarian standards and norms,” said Mr Rocca.
“What’s more, the idea that the prospect of basic assistance or search and rescue somehow acts as a pull factor for migration is simply not true. People decide to move for reasons that are much more profound than this.”
This year, governments are negotiating a new “Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”. IFRC is advocating for governments to ensure that their domestic laws, policies, procedures and practices comply with existing obligations under international law, and address the protection and assistance needs of migrants. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are ready to support their authorities to carry out critical humanitarian actions.
Specifically, IFRC is calling on States to:
- Ensure that National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other humanitarian agencies can provide humanitarian services to migrants irrespective of status and without fear of arrest. Such services might include legal information and advice, information on rights, first aid, basic health care and shelter, and psychosocial support.
- Create “firewalls” between public services and immigration enforcement. This involves abolishing rules that require health care providers and aid agencies to report on the people they assist to enforcement authorities.
- Proactively identify and address factors that prevent migrants from accessing essential health services.
- Ensure that domestic laws, policies, procedures and practices comply with existing obligations under international law, and address the protection and assistance needs of migrants.
The full report can be read here.