The Right to Information is Essential for Migrants During their Journeys and Upon Arrival

A group of Venezuelan migrants in Brazil collaborates on a participatory video. © IOM 2018/Amanda Nero

September 26 is the International Day for Universal Access to Information; in celebration of this day IOM, the UN Migration Agency, would like to draw attention to the important challenges that migrants encounter as regards to their right to information.

Access to information is essential for migrants to make informed decisions about their departure, migration routes, means of travel and to better ensure their safety. In the context of migration, timely access to information can save lives as well as encourage migration through regular means. Moreover, through internet access and digital communication tools, migrants can stay in contact with their families and friends as well as staying informed of the rights they enjoy in host countries.

The right to access to information is one component of the human right to freedom of expression granted in several human rights treaties.[1] This right includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and, as a right of general application, it applies to everybody — including non-nationals.

At the same time, States’ obligation to fulfil the right to information can never be achieved at the cost of any migrant’s right to privacy. States should not “track, collect, store or share data on migrants’ journeys, their location, their digital communications, or those who assist them, with the objective of limiting migrants’ human rights.”[2] For example, migrants’ cellphones should not be confiscated for the purpose of establishing the identity of the migrant, the country of origin and their intended travel route.

Some of the best practices associated with the right to information include providing material to migrants in different languages about job opportunities, conditions for employment as well as their rights in a country. This can be done through pamphlets or websites providing migrants with basic information on the country, registration procedures and available services, as well as information on accommodation, care and health services as well as the names of the organizations providing these services.

The right to information is also instrumental in developing adequate migration laws and policies. Today’s public debate on migration needs to be based on evidence and not on appeals to unjustified fears. More can be done to include the stories and the voices of migrants in this debate and this calls for further work with migrant-led associations, journalists and associations working for and with migrants.

[1] See art. 19 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 13 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

[2] A/HRC/37/34/Add.1, Prin. 16 Nr. 4.