Panel #1: Human rights of all migrants

Statement held at Palais des Nations, Geneva, 8-9 May 2017.

We thank the organizer for having prepared Issue brief # 1. We find it both stimulating and thought provoking, and a good guide to have at hand in these complex matters.

The universal rights of the individual follow migrants on their entire journey, at the border crossing, in the origin, transit and destination state, regardless of their status.

Norway will therefore continue to have human rights at the very center of all polices addressing situations for migrants.

In accordance with the 2030 Agenda, and the joint commitment of “leaving no one behind”, we must also pay special attention to the specific needs of migrants in vulnerable situations, particularly victims of trafficking, women and children.

We will continue to help migrants affected by crises and emergencies by providing humanitarian aid, on a needs basis, according to humanitarian principles.

While we agree that all migrants, irrespective of their migratory status, must be ensured fundamental human rights, the Issue brief should recognize that host governments may accord preferential rights to migrants who meet their legal requirements for entry and stay.

While human rights and international law must be observed, we need to respect host countries’ right to grant or withdraw protection and rights on the territory. Migrants who do not meet the criteria of legal stay will in many cases not be eligible for the same services in health, shelter and education as legal migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

At the same time, we underline the need for effective national policies to ensure the integration and inclusion of those who are granted permits to stay, allowing them access to health care, education and the labour market.

Unaccompanied minor migrants is particularly worrying and challenging. The numbers are staggering. The causes for their movements are often found in conflict, poverty and lack of opportunities in the home country. While we seek to mitigate the causes for such migration, we need also to address their specific needs and the best interest of the child, including prevention of dangerous journeys and reunification with the family.

Norway does not practice detention of families with minors in the arrival phase and the status determination process. In the best interests of the child, we practice that minors should not be detained unless this is absolutely necessary, in extraordinary situations.

Norway provides generous support programmes for voluntary and assisted returns. Families with children are only apprehended for forced return where this is absolutely necessary to avoid absconding.

Establishing adequate ways of return in safety and dignity should be part of our efforts, and forced returns should be a last resort.

In order to have well-functioning asylum and migration systems, we also need well-functioning systems for return of those who do not meet the criteria for legal stay. Countries of origin must accept the international obligation to readmit their citizens who do not meet these criteria.

Finally, we would like to underline that Norway will continue to fight against human rights violations and abuse of migrants and do our outmost to ensure that all migrants have effective access to justice and effective remedies.

Thank you.