Humanitarian approach needed to harness potential of human mobility, says OSCE PA’s Vigenin marking International Migrants Day

171221 vigeninKristian VigeninCOPENHAGEN, 17 December 2021 – Today, ahead of International Migrants Day, the Chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, Vice-President Kristian Vigenin (MP, Bulgaria), called for improved international co-operation on migration, in particular in the area of collection and analysis of data to support the development and implementation of evidence-based, effective and humane migration policies.

Noting the heightened difficulties of collecting reliable data during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vigenin emphasized the responsibility of parliamentarians to counter rising anti-migrant rhetoric. He also called for tackling disinformation aimed at migrants themselves by smugglers, traffickers, and others seeking to profit from irregular migration.

“A health crisis should not be exploited to pursue a xenophobic agenda,” Vigenin said. “Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have seen a rise in racist scapegoating and anti-migrant rhetoric. We all need to do our part to counter this disinformation wherever we see it.”

Vigenin also called for a balance to be struck between the sovereign right of states to protect their national borders and respect for human life.

“In many areas in the OSCE region, children, women and men are being pushed back and forth across borders, with complete disrespect for their fundamental human rights,” Vigenin said. “While their reasons for migrating are relevant for the determination of a claim to asylum, the means by which they have arrived should not decide whether they get to live or die.”

Earlier this week, the committee held an online meeting focused on the situation at the EU’s external borders with Belarus which included contributions by Laurynas Kasciunas (MP, Lithuania) as well as representatives of the International Organization for Migration, and non-governmental organizations Doctors Without Borders and the Vilnius-based Human Rights Monitoring Institute.

Committee members were briefed on measures implemented by EU Member States on the border with Belarus in response to the influx of irregular arrivals. The good co-operation enjoyed by IOM and UNHCR with Belarusian authorities, who have provided access to the migrants sheltered at a logistics centre near the Polish border, was noted.

Some contributors, however, raised alarms about lack of access to migrants including young children and other vulnerable persons surviving in very precarious conditions in the woods near the borders. They emphasized the duty to protect all lives, regardless of legal status, calling for unrestricted access to migrants by humanitarian organizations and access to asylum procedures.

A number of participants also condemned what they claimed are systematic, collective and at times violent pushbacks of migrants, and expressed concern about proposals by the European Commission for a temporary asylum regime at the EU’s external border with Belarus. Aiming to assist Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, the emergency measures which have yet to be adopted by the European Council, could result in the de facto detention of migrants, including vulnerable persons, for up to 16 weeks. While Committee members referred to the mixed nature of the irregular arrivals and the need to differentiate between refugees and migrants, they also condemned the instrumentalization of refugees and migrants for political purposes, and stressed the need to respect and protect the human rights of both groups.

“We should remember that, at the end of the day, these people are neither ‘weapons’ nor ‘instruments,’ but human beings,” Chair Vigenin emphasized. “As parliamentarians we are acutely aware of the political context of the OSCE region’s migration challenges. However, political battles should not be transferred to border officials and migrants on the ground.”

Also on the agenda of this week’s meeting was the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and refugee flows, implications for the OSCE region and how the OSCE and the OSCE PA could respond.

The OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration plans to resume field missions in 2022 to a number of areas which it has been monitoring.

For more on the OSCE PA’s migration-related work, please click here.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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