Three UN rights committees have applauded Argentina’s decision earlier this month to derogate a decree* which allowed expedited expulsion of migrants without due process. The decree had been strongly criticised for violating the right to family unity, the principle of the best interests of the child and the principle of non-refoulement.
The Decree of Necessity and Urgency was adopted in January 2017. It introduced mandatory detention and a summary deportation procedure for migrants who had entered Argentina without complying with the migration procedures, and for migrants with criminal records of any offence including misdemeanours or with cases where the sentence was not yet final.
It also reduced the period for appealing a deportation decision to three working days, and granted very limited access to free legal aid for the person being deported to challenge the decision.
The UN Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Committee Against Torture (CAT) had expressed, in their most recent reports on Argentina, also known as concluding observations**, their deep concern over the promulgation and application of this decree and recommended it be repealed.
“The decree violated the principle of due process, the right to access to justice and the right to defence of migrants. It gave little or no consideration to family ties and the best interests of the child. There was also insufficient time for Argentina to examine the potential risk of torture facing the person being deported in the country to which they were being sent,” said experts from the three UN Committees.
According to the information received by the CMW’s rapporteur on Argentina, since the adoption of the decree in 2017, the number of deportations had doubled, and at least 125 expulsion cases were challenged because they may have violated the right to family unity.
The cases were mostly related to mothers or grandmothers who were separated from their young dependent children or were left in charge of their grandchildren. Thirty-two of the cases were single-mothers and many had been victims of domestic violence.
“We hope that Argentina will review the cases of people expelled in violation of the principle of family unity and revoke the expulsion orders and the orders prohibiting entry to allow reunification of the separated families,” the experts said. “The Argentinian government has acted correctly in repealing the decree, and we welcome their decision to do so. It is not just a way to prevent further damage being inflicted on migrants and their families, but also a way to realign the country’s migration policies with its human rights obligations,” the experts added.
The three UN committees remind States of the importance of compliance with the recommendations of international human rights bodies. The committees also encouraged Argentina, and all other State Parties to the three different international Conventions they monitor, to continue respecting, protecting and fulfilling the human rights of all migrants and their families, in accordance with their international obligations and standards.
* Decree 70/2017 was derogated and replaced by Decree 138/2021 on 4 March 2021. The new decree quotes the recommendations of the three UN rights committees as part of the grounds to repeal the previous conflicting decree.
**The recommendations of the UN Committee on Migrant Workers (2019) can be found here.
The recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2018) can be found here.
The recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture to Argentina (2017) can be found here.