The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) concluded its 139th session on Friday after reviewing reports from Iran, Kuwait, Republic of Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, the US and Venezuela. It said there were positive developments in all countries, but identified concerns and proposed recommendations. Notably, the UNHRC criticized the Biden Administration’s approach to US immigration policy, saying the US may be at risk of violating treaty obligations by failing to protect the rights and safety of individuals, including children.
The UNHRC said it is “gravely” concerned with the administration’s rule of the “circumvention of lawful pathways,” which aims to “incentivise” the use of lawful pathways and discourage irregular migration. The US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) mobile app also concerned the UNHRC because of data protection and privacy issues. The UNHRC pointed to Biden’s “enhanced expedited removal” program, which requires asylum seekers to pass an initial screening administered by border control officers before they can speak to an immigration judge, as another source of concern.
The UNHRC said that these policies restrict effective rights protection for asylum seekers and increases the risk of the non-refoulement principle being breached. Furthermore, the conditions of detention centers in migrant camps are poor: individuals, including children, are subject to violence and inadequate access to food and legal counsel is hard to access. The proposals made by UNHRC seek to prevent deaths in the camps, ensure translators and legal aid are available, and bring living conditions in migrant camps in line with international standards.
In Trinidad and Tobago’s report, the UNHRC was not convinced that the country’s Office of the Ombudsperson and Equal Opportunities Commission was fully compliant with the Paris Principles, which relate to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. The report calls for the establishment of an independent rights institute that incorporates the Paris Principles. Other states such as Korea and Venezuela were asked to implement measures to increase political transparency and uphold stronger anti-corruption measures to enhance human rights. In Iran and Kuwait, gender equality and discrimination policies were to be reviewed as the next step in enhancing human rights.
The Committee will hold its 140th session from 4 to 28 March 2024 where they are scheduled to review the periodic reports of Chile, Guyana, Indonesia, Namibia, Serbia, Somalia and the United Kingdom.