Falling through the cracks – strengthening the protection and assistance of migrants in vulnerable situations through the Global Compact on Migration

2017​

Alice Anderson-Gough, Regional Policy Specialist, Mixed Migration Platform, Amman, Jordan

The article explores how the Global Compact on Migration provides an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen cooperation among stakeholders at all levels working to protect and assist migrants in vulnerable situations. While advances have been made in drafting policy frameworks centred on protecting migrants who experience vulnerabilities, greater effort must be placed on ensuring coherence across these frameworks and, critically, making sure that they are applied at the national and regional levels. To address this issue, the Mixed Migration Platform (MMP) has recently commissioned a study aimed at improving our understanding of the complementarity, applicability and regional relevance of global frameworks centred on protecting the rights of migrants in vulnerable situations.

The Global Compact on Migration provides an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen cooperation among stakeholders at all levels working to protect and assist migrants in vulnerable situations. Together with work leading up to the Global Compact on Refugees, the processes to agree these two Compacts present a frame in which to improve our response to those on the move who are not eligible for refugee status but still have protection needs. While an increasing number of actors recognise that migrants are not inherently vulnerable[1], the attention of the international community must be further directed towards addressing the many structural factors that result in migrants experiencing vulnerabilities, including restrictive migration policies aimed at preventing and deterring migration.[2] Furthermore, while advances have been made in drafting policy frameworks centred on protecting migrants who experience vulnerabilities, greater effort must be placed on ensuring coherence across these frameworks and, critically, making sure that they are applied at the national and regional levels.[3]

While people moving in mixed migration flows may not share the same status and may not have left their homes for the same reasons, a significant number face the same risks and experience the same need for protection and assistance. The Mixed Migration Platform (MMP) has attempted to draw attention to these individuals by understanding and highlighting the gaps in policy frameworks that leave them unprotected and unassisted. One recent study sheds light on the asylum and protection system in Europe for those who are neither granted asylum nor returned to their place of origin.[4] What the research shows is that a growing number of people are "rejected but remaining" – finding themselves in vulnerable situations and in need of targeted assistance. Policy frameworks need to be adjusted to prevent people falling through such gaps.

In response to these findings, MMP has recently commissioned a study aimed at improving our understanding of the complementarity, applicability and regional relevance of global frameworks centred on protecting the rights of migrants in vulnerable situations. Little is known to date on the extent to which these global principles and guidelines are already reflected in national migration policy or bilateral and regional migration agreements, or, on the extent to which they are applicable and can be operationalised at a national and regional level. The study will seek to make a contribution to this gap in knowledge through a regional case study-based examination of two of the Global Migration Group's principles on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations.[5]

The first case study will look at principle 14 (on guaranteeing the right of migrants to work in just and favourable conditions) through an analysis of the human rights of migrant workers in Jordan and Lebanon. It will examine existing policies and the extent to which they are implemented, as well as the extent to which they adhere to international principles and conventions on labour rights. The second will address principle 6 (on ensuring that all returns are carried out in full respect for the human rights of migrants and in accordance with international law) through an examination of due process and the implementation of legal safeguards for migrant workers and refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

The second case study will also look at how current mixed migration trends in the region are shaping policies that affect migrants already residing and working in these two countries. Recent changes to work, residency and entry requirement policies for both migrants and refugees has had a knock-on effect for those seeking to remain in Jordan and Lebanon, resulting in instances of refoulement, family separation and other human rights violations.[6]

Prior to the finalisation of concrete recommendations from the study, we recommend that the Global Compact on Migration ensures policy coherence across the different global frameworks aimed at protecting migrants in vulnerable situations. This includes clarity on how the commitment in the New York Declaration to consider developing non-binding principles on migrants in vulnerable situations will build on or complement the Global Migration Group's principles and guidelines on the same subject matter.[7]

Furthermore, we encourage much closer dialogue between stakeholders engaged in the Global Compact on Migration and the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). As the New York Declaration includes a commitment to "address the special needs of 'all people in vulnerable situations travelling within large movements of refugees and migrants'"[8], this concerns both refugees and migrants and is therefore relevant for both Compact processes. To date, these two processes have been operating independently of each other, however, preventing any opportunity for meaningful dialogue on the risks and protection and assistance needs that are experienced by both refugees and migrants. One specific area where deeper cooperation could yield enhanced protection outcomes for both refugees and vulnerable migrants is the expansion of safe and legal mobility pathways (that meet the labour, educational, family reunification and humanitarian needs of people on the move).



[1] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/SRMigrants/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx, http://www.refworld.org/docid/596787174.html

[2] https://drc.dk/news/drc-anniversary-of-eu-turkey-deal-calls-for-hard-look-at-policies

[3] http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Migration/PrinciplesAndGuidelines.pdf, https://micicinitiative.iom.int/guidelines

[4] http://www.mixedmigrationplatform.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/MMP-Briefing-Paper-Rejected-asylum-seekers.pdf

[5] The Global Migration Group's principles, guidelines and practical guidance are a set of twenty principles derived from international human rights law and related standards aimed at assisting States and other stakeholders in strengthening the protection of migrants in precarious situations in large or mixed movements. Compiled by OHCHR, they are mentioned in the New York Declaration in paragraph 51.

[6] https://business-humanrights.org/en/access-to-work-in-jordan-and-lebanon-for-syrian-refugees-migrant-workers-and-host-populations, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/25/lebanon-migrant-domestic-workers-children-deported, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/14/lebanon-new-refugee-policy-step-forward, https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/01/12/i-just-wanted-be-treated-person/how-lebanons-residency-rules-facilitate-abuse 

[7] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/71/1

[8] http://www.refworld.org/docid/596787174.html