In a statement released on Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein [official profile] expressed concern [press release] over Bulgaria’s criminalization of migrants leaving and entering the country. Zeid stated Bulgaria’s practice of arresting migrants for both entering and leaving Bulgaria irregularly “places many of them in an invidious Catch-22 situation” and calls into question the country’s compliance with international law. While Zeid stated he and his team were pleased with the positive steps the country has taken in integrating international asylum standards, he is upset with the country’s practice of arresting migrants who do not fall within the category of refugee, despite having “legitimate reasons for being unable to return to their home country.” The high commissioner was particularly displeased with the “disregard for due process and fair trial guarantees.” Finally, Zeid stated that he was worried the current detention regime will continue to expand, and called for leadership to create a pro-human rights environment for these migrants and put an end to intolerance.
The rights of migrant populations has emerged as one of the most significant humanitarian issues around the world, as millions seek asylum from conflict nations. Last week the ECJ ruled that non-EU immigrants who illegally enter the Schengen area across an internal border should not be jailed [JURIST report] solely on that basis. In March the ECJ ruled that Germany may place “residence conditions” [JURIST report] on refugees. In February the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that new measures put in place by many European countries are too restrictive and place undue hardships [JURIST report] on refugees and asylum-seekers. Also in February Amnesty International warned Austria that they are violating human rights through their daily cap on asylum applications [JURIST report]. In January Danish lawmakers approved a controversial bill that will allow Danish authorities to seize assets [JURIST report] from immigrants seeking asylum in order to cover their expenses.