U.N. warns states on illegal immigrant rights

The United Nations said on Thursday governments must respect the rights of all migrants, in a statement apparently targeting measures including Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants and French expulsions of Roma.

The statement from the Global Migration Group -- combining 12 U.N. agencies, the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration -- said it was concerned about the rights of tens of millions of migrants in 'irregular' circumstances around the globe.

Such people can include illegal immigrants or migrants whose asylum requests are not considered legitimate.

"This is our response to the global trend to confine migration policies solely within the narrow context of security and border control," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told reporters.

"This is a reminder that while states are entitled to regulate movement across their borders they must do so in accordance with their obligations under international law including international human rights law."

The statement said irregular migrants were particularly vulnerable to abuse. Governments too often treated them purely in terms of national security, often driven by hostile domestic political pressures.

Pillay said Arizona's new immigration law, passed to expel nearly half a million illegal immigrants from the state and stem the flow of human and drug smugglers over the border from Mexico, was certain to be raised at an international conference on migration in Mexico on November 8-11.

The South African jurist said the Global Forum on Migration and Development, an annual U.N. initiative, would discuss the measure, which U.N. officials have already denounced as discriminatory because it allows police to stop and search individuals on the suspicion they are illegal immigrants.

The statement is also directed among others at European governments and the way they treat Roma.

France's expulsion of Roma migrants over the summer sparked a row at an EU summit this month between France and Germany and led one EU official to recall Nazi persecution of the group.

(Published by NY Times - September 30, 2010)

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