26 Mar 2020

ENNHRI launches new Guidance for stronger monitoring of migrants’ rights at borders

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and other human rights defenders operate in increasingly challenging contexts when monitoring, promoting and protecting the human rights of migrants at borders. To support this work, ENNHRI has launched a Guidance with four areas of focus and guiding questions, along with key principles.

By observing, gathering and verifying information, NHRIs use their unique mandate to identify and address violations of the human rights of migrants at European borders. With this practical Guidance, NHRIs and other actors engaged in monitoring at borders can: address common human rights concerns; compare information; exchange on their monitoring challenges and good practices; and propose joint advocacy actions.  

However, the recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) is likely to impact significantly on migrants and NHRIs’ work. Given this, the Guidance allows for flexible use and can be adapted for such exceptional circumstances.

The Guidance identifies four main areas of concern that human rights monitors at borders can focus on:

  • Return procedures and violence by state and non-state actors, with a focus on pushbacks and collective expulsions.  
  • Access to relevant procedures at borders, including asking for asylum.  
  • Living conditions in reception facilities and places of deprivation of liberty, particularly for vulnerable groups. 
  • Effective systems for human rights accountability at borders, such as independent monitoring, an enabling environment for human rights defenders, and adequate response from authorities when violations occur. 

The Guidance also outlines five principles for strengthening the work of NHRIs and other human rights defenders when conducting monitoring at borders: 

  • Build the monitoring around the specific mandates and functions. For instance, NHRIs could explore how their privileged access to information and to the executive can help fill gaps in information about what happens at the borders.
  • Cooperate with other human rights defenders to avoid duplication and amplify others’ voices and actions. Meaningful cooperation should take place before, during and after information is collected at the borders.
  • Gather information on issues being discussed or likely to be debated at the national and regional levels. This can help ensure relevance and the possibility of bringing positive change for migrants at borders.
  • Rely on audio-visual tools, such as pictures and videos, but base their use on informed consent and respect the privacy of people concerned.
  • Convey findings through hope-based messages and effective communication techniques

It is hoped that this resource will support NHRIs and other human rights defenders to strengthen and fine-tune their monitoring methodologies, as well as to contribute to stronger advocacy efforts. 

The launch of this Guidance comes as a part of ENNHRI’s project on monitoring migrants’ rights at borders. In 2020, European NHRIs will conduct border monitoring and submit reports and joint recommendation to national and regional authorities. 

Also, given the implications of the coronavirus outbreak, ENNHRI will consult with its members to provide tailored support under these exceptional circumstances. 

For more information, contact Gabriel Almeida from the ENNHRI Secretariat. 

» Download Guidance

» Download Complementary Guidance: Monitoring human rights of migrants at borders during the COVID-19 pandemic

» Download report “Protecting human rights of migrants at the borders: evidence and work of European NHRIs” 

» Learn more about ENNHRI’s work on asylum and migration

Photo credit: Steve Evans