TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Aug18/03)
14 August 2018
Third World Network

Rights: Indigenous peoples need protection during migration
Published in SUNS #8740 dated 10 August 2018

Geneva, 9 Aug (Kanaga Raja) - A group of United Nations human rights experts has said that it is crucial that the rights of indigenous peoples are realised when they migrate or are displaced from their lands.

In a joint statement marking the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, the experts reminded States that all indigenous peoples, whether they migrate or remain, have rights under international instruments, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The group of experts comprised the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, currently chaired by Ms Erika Yamada; the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, currently chaired by Ms Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine; the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz; and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, whose Board of Trustees is currently chaired by Mr. Binota Dhamai.

In their joint statement, the rights experts said that in many parts of the world, indigenous peoples have become migrants because they are fleeing economic deprivation, forced displacement, environmental disasters including climate change impacts, social and political unrest, and militarisation.

"Indigenous peoples have shown remarkable resilience and determination in these extreme situations."

While States have the sovereign prerogative to manage their borders, they must also recognise international human rights standards and ensure that migrants are not subjected to violence, discrimination, or other treatment that would violate their rights.

"In addition, States must recognise indigenous peoples' rights to self-determination; lands, territories and resources; to a nationality, as well as rights of family, education, health, culture and language."

The experts pointed out that the Declaration specifically provides that States must ensure indigenous peoples' rights across international borders that may currently divide their traditional territories.

"Within countries, government and industry initiatives, including national development, infrastructure, agro-business, natural resource extraction and climate change mitigation, or other matters that affect indigenous peoples, must be undertaken with the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples, such that they are not made to relocate against their will."

The rights experts underlined that States must recognise that relocation of indigenous peoples similarly triggers requirements including free, prior and informed consent, as well as restitution and compensation under the Declaration.

"We are concerned about human rights violations in the detention, prosecution and deportation practices of States. There is also a dearth of appropriate data on indigenous peoples who are migrants."

As a result of this invisibility, those detained at international borders are often denied access to due process, including interpretation and other services that are essential for fair representation in legal processes.

The UN experts called on States immediately to reunite children, parents and caregivers who may have been separated in border detentions or deportations.

In addition, States must ensure that indigenous peoples migrating from their territories, including from rural to urban areas within their countries, are guaranteed rights to their identity and adequate living standards, as well as necessary and culturally appropriate social services.

"States must also ensure that differences among provincial or municipal jurisdictions do not create conditions of inequality, deprivation and discrimination among indigenous peoples."

The experts expressed particular concern about indigenous women and children who are exposed to human and drug trafficking, and sexual violence, and indigenous persons with disabilities who are denied accessibility services.

"We look forward to engagement in the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration regarding indigenous peoples' issues," they said.

"On this International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, we urge States, UN agencies, and others, in the strongest terms possible, to ensure indigenous peoples' rights under the Declaration and other instruments, and to recognise these rights especially in the context of migration, including displacement and other trans-border issues."

Meanwhile, in a video message on 8 August ahead of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jose Graziano da Silva, urged countries to unite behind a campaign to promote indigenous women's rights and encourage their participation in policy discussions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger.

"We call on countries to stand up and guarantee a place at the table for indigenous women in policy-making processes. Without them, we cannot achieve the Zero Hunger goal and we will not achieve Sustainable Development," he said, in a FAO news release.

"Indigenous peoples are the custodians of the world's biodiversity. They are the defenders of lands and territories which they care for, for future generations," Graziano da Silva said.

"However, too often indigenous peoples have not seen respected their collective rights to their ancestral lands, territories and resources," he added.