Photo: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed, Wikimedia Commons

The UN Human Rights Council should urgently respond to the global pattern of deaths, torture and other grave human rights violations at international borders

In International Advocacy Program, United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

Dear Excellencies,

The undersigned civil society organizations and groups write to express our deep concern about policies and practices of migration governance that lead to deaths, torture and other grave human rights violations at and around international borders and to call on the Human Rights Council to take appropriate action by establishing an independent international monitoring mechanism to investigate these violations including root causes of violations in the governance of international migration, and contribute to accountability and redress for victims and their families.

The Missing Migrants Project recorded 55,980 reported deaths of people in migration worldwide from 2014 to May 2023. This number is widely understood to be a significant underestimate. In some regions migrant deaths have reached record highs. These deaths are often not effectively investigated.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants has repeatedly raised serious concerns about abusive and violent border governance tactics, which include state of emergency measures, the legitimization of pushback and pullback practices through the introduction of legislation and government executive orders, inadequate State-led search and rescue operations and obstacles imposed on non-State search and rescue operators.

As further noted by the former UN Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, many of the migration policies that contribute to deaths and other grave violations of refugee and migrant rights disproportionately affect individuals from certain national origin, ethnic, racial and religious groups. In many cases these policies involve or are built on structural racism.

The widespread practices of externalization of migration controls by predominantly wealthy countries, who seek to pressure and partner with countries of origin and transit to prevent migrants and asylum seekers from leaving their territories and reaching their borders, also significantly contribute to deaths, torture and other serious violations, particularly against individuals/people of certain national origins, ethnicity, race or religion obstructing their right to leave and to seek asylum through safe routes and forcing people into dangerous journeys.

The report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants on the human rights impact of pushbacks of migrants on land and at sea (A/HRC/47/ 30) documents a deeply concerning global pattern of routine human rights violations at international borders concluding:

The practice of “pushbacks” is widespread and exists along most migration routes. Pushbacks manifest an entrenched prejudice against migrants and demonstrate a denial of States’ international obligations to protect the human rights of migrants at international borders.[1]

The depth of concern and worsening situation following this report led the Special Rapporteur to follow up with a report on human rights violations at international borders: trends, prevention and accountability (A/HRC/50/31), in which they concluded:

that pushbacks remain de facto general policy in many States and continue to seriously impede the enjoyment of the human rights of migrants who cross international borders. The full spectrum of such violations often remains hidden, due to State-led attempts to dismiss or cover up allegations of wrongdoing.[2]

Both reports echo the pattern of human rights violations at international borders that the previous High Commissioners repeatedly drew the Human Rights Council’s attention to. In September 2019 the then High Commissioner used the phrase “lethal disregard” to describe the use of policies and practices that systematically put people’s lives and wellbeing at risk, including children. The work of the Special Rapporteur, the High Commissioner and their Office, and many of the undersigned civil society organizations and groups show that this pattern of violations and abuses is not limited to one corridor or region.

The serious, systematic and widespread nature of human rights violations and abuses at and around international borders has been reported to the Human Rights Council on multiple occasions in the reports of the Special Rapporteur and has prompted several other Special Procedures to focus reports on migration, including the Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders (twice), the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the Working Group on the use of mercenaries. Despite this, grave human rights violations persist unabated and with impunity.

The Human Rights Council has acknowledged guidance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights including Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders and the Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights of Migrants in Vulnerable Situations. The Human Rights Council has adopted a Presidential Statement on protection at sea (2014) and resolutions on migrants in transit (2015), migrants and refugees in large movements (2016) and situations of vulnerability (2021). The Council also called upon States to “ensure accountability and reparations for human rights violations at borders and to adopt a racial justice approach, including by adopting policies to address structural racism in the management of international migration flows” (2022).

Despite this, grave human rights violations persist unabated and with impunity.

A new and stronger response drawing on and complementing the work of the Special Rapporteur is needed.

In light of the scale, severity, and global nature of this failure to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all regardless of migration status, we call on your governments to ensure an appropriate response from the Human Rights Council by establishing an independent international monitoring mechanism to undertake a global investigation into deaths, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights violations faced by people in transit across international borders including as a result of pushbacks and collective expulsions, and to contribute to accountability and redress for victims and their families.

This independent monitoring mechanism would contribute to prevention and accountability by reporting on its findings and providing recommendations on robust follow up action at national, regional and international levels including addressing root causes of violations and the role of racial discrimination in the management of international migration, to ensure remedy for victims and to end these practices and the climate of impunity surrounding grave human rights violations at borders and in transit.


  1. #MeRepresenta
  2. ACCSS
  3. aditus foundation
  4. African Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders
  5. AfroDiccionario
  6. Albergue Decanal Guadalupano
  7. Àltera
  8. AMMPO
  9. Amnesty International
  10. AMUMRA Asociacion Civil de Derechos Humanos Mujeres Unidas Migrantes y Refugiadas en Argentina
  11. Apna Haq
  12. Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance
  13. Asamblea Abierta de Migrantes y Promigrantes de TARAPACA
  14. Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
  15. Asociación de Familiares de Migrantes Desaparecidos de Guatemala
  16. Asociación Pop No´j
  17. Association of Domestic workers (ADW)
  18. Asylum Access México (AAMX) A.C.
  19. BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
  20. BORDE
  21. Border Violence Monitoring Network
  22. Borderline Europe
  23. Bridge EU
  24. Buscando Desaparecidos México BUSCAME
  25. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  26. Care4Calais
  27. CAREF – Comision Argentina para refugiados y migrantes
  28. Casa de Atención a Desamparados, AC
  29. CCAMYN Centro Comunitario de Atención al Migrante y Necesitado
  30. Center for Conflict Management, Almaty
  31. Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA)
  32. Center for legal aid – Voice in Bulgaria
  33. Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)
  34. Centre for Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa
  35. Centro de Atención a la Familia Migrante Indígena (CAFAMI)
  36. Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte
  37. Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos “Segundo Montes Mozo SJ” (CSMM)
  38. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
  39. Centro de Justicia para la Paz y el Desarrollo A.C (CEPAD)
  40. Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social A.C
  41. Child Circle
  42. Churches´ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME)
  43. Civil Society Action Committee
  44. Climate Refugees
  45. Coalición de Derechos Humanos
  46. Colectivo Buscadoras Guanajuato
  47. Colectivo Contra la Tortura y la Impunidad
  48. Comision de Accion Social Menonita CASM
  49. Comisión Internacional Coordinadora Nacional Inmigrantes Chile
  50. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos A.C. (CMDPDH)
  51. Comité de Derechos Humanos de Nuevo Laredo AC
  52. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  53. CompassCollective (Grenzenlos – People in Motion e.V.)
  54. Con Amor y Esperanza Hasta Encontrarles Puebla
  55. Conectas Direitos Humanos
  56. Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES)
  57. CONVIVE – Fundación Cepaim
  58. Corporación Colectivo sin Fronteras – Chile
  59. Corporación mujeres Afrodiaspóricas
  61. Defence for Children International Greece
  62. Dejusticia
  63. Denise Nuño Lara
  64. Domestic Caretakers Union in Taiwan
  65. Educación contra el racismo A.C.
  66. Emergency ONG Onlus
  67. End Streamline Coalition
  68. Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial (ECAP)
  69. Equipo del Decenio Afrodescendiente – España
  70. EuroMed Rights
  71. European Network Against Racism
  72. European Sex Workers Rights Alliance (ESWA)
  73. Familias de Acapulco en busca de sus desaparecidos A.C
  74. Fe y Alegría Venezuela
  75. Forced To Flee
  76. Franciscan Network for Migrants – USA
  77. Franciscans International
  78. Frente Nacional de Inmigrantes
  79. Frontera con Justicia AC [Casa del Migrante Saltillo]
  80. Fundación Construir
  81. Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho (FJEDD)
  82. Global Alliance against Traffic in Women
  83. Global Migrant Workers Network
  84. Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
  85. Groundation
  86. Hawai’I Institute for Human Rights
  87. Hermanas de San José de Lyon
  88. HIAS
  89. Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions
  90. Huellas Ancestrales
  91. Human Rights Watch
  92. I Have Rights.
  93. İHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation.
  95. Instituto de Asuntos Culturales, España (IACE)
  96. Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas
  97. Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, AC.
  98. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  99. International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC)
  100. International Commission of Jurists
  101. International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA)
  102. International Domestic Workers Federation
  103. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  104. International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA)
  105. International Fellowship of Reconciliation
  106. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  108. Irídia – Center for the defense of Human Rights
  109. Ivorian Community of Greece
  110. Jesuit Refugee Service
  111. JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) Belgium
  112. JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) Portugal
  113. Junax Ko’tantik
  114. Justicia y dignidad Cordoba-Orizaba
  115. Justicia y dignidad Veracruz
  116. Kanlungan Filipino Consortium
  117. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
  118. KISA – Equality, Support, Antiracism
  119. Latinas en Poder
  120. Legal Center Lesvos
  121. Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l’homme
  122. Louise Michel
  123. Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
  124. Magistrada Ya
  125. Mesa Nacional para las Migraciones en Guatemala (MENAMIG)
  126. Mexiro A.C.
  127. Migrant Voice
  128. Migrant Women Association Malta
  129. Migrants’ Rights Network
  130. Migration Youth & Children Platform
  131. Minority Rights Group International (MRG)
  132. MIREDES Internacional
  133. Mixed Migration Centre
  134. Mobile Info Team
  135. Modeteab
  136. Move Coalition
  137. Movimiento Socio Cultural de trabajadores haitianos’ (MOSCTHA)
  138. National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
  139. National Domestic Women’s Workers Union
  140. National Federation of Technical and Industrial Workers (Bangladesh)
  141. National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  142. Observatorio Ciudadano
  143. Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano de Seguridad, Justicia y Legalidad (ONC)
  144. OCDIH
  145. ONG Jeunesse-Enfance-Migration-Developpement (JMED)
  146. ONG Marq’ay
  147. Oxfam México
  148. PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants)
  149. Politics4Her
  150. Poverty Elimination and Community Education (PEACE) Foundation
  151. PROTECT Union
  152. Public Services International
  153. Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network – QARN
  154. Quaker Council for European Affairs
  155. Quaker United Nations Office
  156. Quakers in Britain
  157. r42-SailAndRescue
  158. Rastreadoras por La Paz de Sinaloa
  159. Red Franciscana para Migrantes
  160. Red Franciscana para Migrantes, Colombia
  161. Red Jesuíta con Migrantes – Latinoamérica y el Caribe (RJM-LAC)
  162. Rede de Mulheres Negras de Pernambuco
  163. Refugee Legal Support
  164. Refugee Social Services
  165. Refugee Welfare Association of Cameroon (REWAC)
  166. Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table (R-SEAT)
  167. Reseau Migration Développement Droits Humains (REMIDDH)
  168. ResqShip
  169. Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMN)
  170. Sdružení pro integraci a migraci / Association for Integracion and Migration
  171. Sea-Watch
  172. Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes, Argentina-Uruguay
  173. Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados (JRS) México
  174. Sexual Rights Initiative
  175. Sin Fronteras IAP
  176. Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon – Maine
  177. Soy Mireya Peart. De scuetdo con la propuesta
  178. SplitSeed Productions
  179. Stolen Dreams
  180. Terre des Hommes International Federation
  181. The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem
  182. The Inter African Committee in Norway (IAC Norway)
  183. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
  184. The Legal Resources Centre
  185. Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University
  186. Uniendo Cristales A.C.
  187. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
  188. United Domestic Workers of the Philippines (UNITED)
  189. Universidad de la Tierra en Puebla, AC
  190. Voces Mesoamericanas, Acción con Pueblos Migrantes A.C.
  191. Volunteers for Prison Inmates (VPI) Cameroon
  192. Women in Migration Network (WIMN)
  193. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
  194. World Uyghur Congress

[1] Report on means to address the human rights impact of pushbacks of migrants on land and at sea – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, A/HRC/47/30, Summary
[2]  Human rights violations at international borders: trends, prevention and accountability – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants A/HRC/50/31, para. 70

Share this Post