UN rights chief demands 'principled' migration rules worldwide

Geneva (AFP) - The United Nations rights chief on Monday called for Europe and countries across the globe to establish "effective and principled migration governance" to address a multitude of migrant and refugee crises rocking the world.

"I implore decision-makers in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, as well as Europe, to take swift action to establish effective and principled migration governance," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said, opening the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

His comments came as Europe scrambles to respond to the biggest movement of people since World War II.

More than 430,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year -- a majority of them fleeing war and repression in places like Syria.

Zeid hailed the demonstrations of support for the migrants by regular people in many European countries, especially since international public opinion was jolted by the publication of a photograph of a a Syrian toddler, Aylan, lying face down on a Turkish beach after he, his brother and mother drowned trying to get to Greece.

He said he too had "been moved to profound sorrow by the plight of the little boy on the beach, who represents in his life and death the injustices suffered by so many others".

He meanwhile slammed as "utterly shameful" the international community's lack of action to halt Syria's brutal civil war, which has killed some 240,000 people since the violence erupted in March 2011, and has seen millions fleeing the conflict.

Zeid hailed the "humanity and leadership" of refugee host countries in the region, as well as of Germany and Sweden, which have taken in most of the asylum seekers in Europe.

Zeid urged "European States to build on this surge of human feeling by putting in place an architecture of migration governance that is far more comprehensive, thoughtful, principled and effective."

"We need expanded channels of regular migration and resettlement; two measures which would prevent deaths and cut smuggling," he told the UN's top rights body, insisting that "detention, particularly of children, and all forms of ill-treatment should cease, at borders and elsewhere."

EU interior ministers were due to meet Monday afternoon in Brussels over the distribution of 160,000 refugees within the 28-member bloc, after Germany reintroduced border controls late Sunday, saying it has been overwhelmed by the pressure of taking in tens of thousands of asylum seekers.

Zeid said that "states have a sovereign right to secure their borders, and to determine conditions of entry and stay in their territories".

But "they also have an obligation to respect international human rights law, refugee law and humanitarian law".

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