BOb hosts ‘Last Rights’ roundtable on the human rights of migrants in death

The Border Crossing Observatory hosted visitng UK colleagues, Catriona Jarvis and Syd Bolton from Last Rights in a roundtable with practitioners, advocates and academic researchers on enshrining and upholding the human rights of migrants who may be missing or have died during their migration journeys.

Last Rights is a charitable organisation that works to create a new framework of respect for the rights of missing and dead refugees and migrants and bereaved family members. They are currently advocating for the adoption of The Mytilini Declaration for the ‘Dignified Treatment of All Missing and Deceased Persons and Their Families as a Consequence of Migrant Journeys’, within international law.

BOb Director Associate Professor Leanne Weber facilitated the discussion where participants were encouraged to share their professional experiences of working with dead and missing migrants and their families, contributing to our understanding of these issues. This included the work being done by the Red Cross, working with families of migrants who may have died or are missing through their family tracing program. Refugee advocates from the Refugee Council of Australia and Refugee Legal shared insights into some of the advocacy work around protecting the human rights of migrants, including in death and deaths in immigration custody. Academic researchers from Monash, Deakin, the University of Melbourne and Western Sydney spoke of their research interests in this area and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine shared from their practitioner perspective of working with the deceased and their families and the difficulties they sometimes experience with identification and family tracing.

The Border Crossing Observatory continues to update the Australian Border Deaths Database, the only up-to-date public record of Australian Border Deaths, including identification of those deaths that have occurred in immigration custody. We’re planning to develop this work through the Last Rights roundtable network with a focus on advocacy and research on the issue of deaths in immigration custody. We began a campaign about this in 2013-14, urging the Australian Institute of Criminology to count these deaths in their annual National Deaths In Custody Program (NDICP) reporting.

Another outcome of the roundtable was to formalise the group participants into an Australian node of reporting on Australian border deaths and as an advocacy group to gain signatories to the Mytilini Declaration.