Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivers a speech on the 'situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression', at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 3, 2022 | Photo: EPA/Martial Trezzini
Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivers a speech on the 'situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression', at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 3, 2022 | Photo: EPA/Martial Trezzini

UN human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet has praised the solidarity shown to refugees from Ukraine. But she also criticized that other migrants and refugees often face pushbacks and criminalization at the EU's borders and beyond.

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday (March 8) called the solidarity shown with those fleeing Ukraine "a bright light in a desperately sad situation."

She said that she felt encouraged by the reception shown by many governments and communities to those fleeing from Ukraine, including a decision by EU member states to activate temporary protection status for them as well as stay permits.

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council, Bachelet pointed out that migrants and refugees from other countries on Europe's borders and from other parts of the world had been experienced wholly different kinds of treatment.

Humane treatment for all refugees and migrants

She said that a "humane approach" should be the rule instead of the exception, stressing that it is "essential" that all states respect the human rights of migrants and refugees regardless of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their nationality, or their religion.

She also spoke out against pushbacks and policies limiting the access to asylum and other forms of protection, calling for more efforts to protect the lives of migrants and refugees. She added that "more than 2,000 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean last year -- bringing the total since 2017 to over 10,000."

Bachelet argued that "[t]his tragic loss is not inevitable. It could be addressed by coordinated action to search and rescue migrants at sea; ensuring disembarkation in places of safety; and expanding pathways for safe and regular migration so that migrants are not compelled make more precarious journeys."

In this context, she also called on countries worldwide "to cease actions which criminalize or obstruct the work of humanitarian organisations providing assistance to migrants."

Ukrainian refugees welcomed in EU countries

More than two million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in late February. Most have fled westward to neighboring countries like Poland and Hungary.

The two countries, however, had repeatedly made headlines in recent years with their staunchly anti-migrant and -refugee policies and for their de facto barring of people from non-neighboring countries from seeking asylum.

However, Poland and Hungary two countries have also welcomed hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians in recent weeks in stark contrast to their previous actions.

In several migrant hotspots throughout Europe, NGOs have decried what they perceived to be a double standard in the treatment of Ukrainian refugees compared to refugees and migrants from other regions of the globe.

 

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