UN rights experts warned [press release] the EU on Monday that repression of irregular migration cannot be the only solution to the recurrent grave problem of masses of people drowning at sea. The experts said they were encouraged by the decision to hold an EU summit on the issue and urged states to use the summit to tackle the issues in a way that would comply with their international human rights obligations. Monday’s statement comes in response to the more than 1,000 deaths of irregular migrants that have occurred at sea in the past week. UN experts stated that front-line states, like Italy, should not be left with the sole responsibility of saving lives and that Europe needs to create innovative mobility avenues that will incentivize migrants to avoid having to resort to smugglers to get them into the country or other perilous routes. UN experts recommended that Europe create safe legal channels for migration so migrants can be registered, provided with information on labor markets, and be warned of the risks of irregular migration. The UN hopes that this will lead to more migrants finding legal ways to enter Europe and will reduce the number of illegal border crossings through criminal smuggling rings.
Immigration reform has been an area of major political concern in a number of countries across the globe. In February Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] the EU’s failure to prevent migrant casualties at sea. Also in February a UN rights expert advised the EU to bank on the continued mobility of migrants [JURIST report]. In November UK Prime Minister David Cameron raised the possibility of the UK leaving the EU [JURIST report] if other member state leaders block plans to restrict access to welfare payments for migrants. Cameron outlined proposed welfare reform that would block European migrants to the UK from receiving welfare payments or state housing until they have been UK residents for four years. Also in November US President Barack Obama announced executive action [JURIST report] on immigration that would allow 4.7 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the US. In October a UN expert urged [JURIST report] British authorities to reconsider their decision not to support search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. In September the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered [JURIST report] a detention center used to detain African migrants who had crossed illegally and were captured in the Negev Desert to close.