MOBILITY AND (DIS)ABILITY TO MOVE
“How our societies treat migrants will determine whether we succeed in building societies based on justice, democracy, dignity and human security for all.”
[Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2008–2014]
A GENERAL CONCEPT OF MOBILITY
From the language perspective, mobility means an ability to move, depends for what reason. It could be seeking for better opportunities, security and safety issues, health, education or demand to have better living standards. This might affect everyone (children, adults, men, women, workers, students, job-seekers), everywhere (East, West, North, South), every-time (from the early human migration through industrialisation and rise of nationalisation, including world wars and their aftermaths until today, case with migrants from Syria).
Further, mobility can be internal (within the borders) or external (across the borders) which is compelled by either political (usually known as forced migration) or economic factors (usually known as voluntary migration). When it comes to the causes of movements, they derive from both 1) human factor, such as: human trafficking, fleeing prosecution, war and religious conflicts; poverty, low living standards, human rights abuses etc. and 2) natural factor, such as: tornadoes, extreme temperatures, avalanches, droughts, wildfires, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and earthquakes. This means that sometimes people are not in a position to choose whether they want to move or not. They simply move because they are forced to do so. Though, there are reasons why people leave places (push factor) and why people are attracted to move to new places (pull factor). For example, push factor might refer to war, famine, lack of jobs, natural disasters, etc., while pull factor refer to education, job opportunities, health care, safety etc. It is worth mentioning that about 3.2% of world population are international migrants, compared with 2.8% in 2000. This shows that number of international migrants has tended to increase over time, so that currently is 0.6% higher than 16 years ago. (United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), International Migration, 2013).
So, nowadays, the human mobility seems to be a fact of life which continues to bring particular attention due to the scale and complexity of movements affecting almost all countries across the world. Thus, as long as we speak about global concept of mobility, single national attempts to address migration issues are not an option any longer. In order to address international migration issues properly, a multi-level approach would make significant solution, such as: creation of a broad infrastructure of state and non-state institution, laws, policies, practices and partnerships at the national, regional and international level.
MOBILITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Mobility as elaborated above might be either voluntary or forced. Both forms might follow human rights violation. However, when we extend the meaning of mobility to freedom of movement, the form of forced mobility or migration is not a freedom any longer, it is just a movement.
A movement which provokes human rights concerns. As it is known, generally, there are circumstances when human factor cannot have control over natural factor, meaning that relevant authorities face with consequences directly, i.e. results of migration due to natural disasters. However, regardless of causes of migration, particular focus should be paid to the protection of human rights, in particular of vulnerable people such as women and children who are more prone to fall prey to sexual exploitation. On this ground, the right to mobility is a universal right with partial application. While, formally, the state authorities are obliged not only to respect human rights (not to take actions that directly violate a particular right), but also to fulfil (State’s duties to enable, afford or promote access to human rights) and protect them (State, over legislation, policy and practice, to guarantee the protection of rights, including by taking steps to prevent third parties from violating rights). Regarding this, international organisations have issued a number of legal acts which aim to guarantee and protect the rights of individuals in national, regional, continental and universal level.
When it comes to categorisation of international human rights, there are universal human rights treaties supplemented by regional human rights instruments and other specific human rights treaties which further elaborate respect, protection, promotion and fulfilment of human rights of specific categories of people or address specific human rights, many of which are migration related. This also relates to establishment of international legal remedies and their use, including judicial and non-judicial mechanisms available for migrants seeking remedies for violation of their rights.
Essentially, when it comes to application of human rights, all human beings should be treated equally. Based on this, all people across the world should have access on the right to mobility. Today, the right to mobility is a privilege that is unequally distributed among human beings. For example, citizens coming from developed countries may easily travel and land almost anywhere in the world, while those coming from less-developed countries face different obstacles to have such privilege, i.e. visa requirements, residents permits etc. On this ground, the right to mobility is a universal right with partial application. Finally, the mobility nowadays seems to be a complex global issue which requires from all stake-holders involved taking concrete joint actions in order to properly address concerns and to provide long-term solutions, so the selective application of human rights and inappropriate treatment of migrants will not remain a permanent virus which prevents further developments across the world towards providing justice, democracy, dignity and human security for all.
Burim J. Blakaj
Burim J. Blakaj is an experienced lawyer in the field of human rights and judiciary. He has worked for more than 8 years in different local and international organisations in Kosovo dealing mostly with human rights and legal matters. He holds a master’s degree in European law from Hamburg University, Germany.