GENEVA (Reuters) - The top United Nations human rights official urged Europe on Monday to build on a surge of sympathy for refugees by setting up comprehensive policies to expand migration channels.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, in a speech opening the U.N. Human Rights Council, called for a halt to detention and “ill-treatment” of asylum seekers, especially children, who are fleeing war and persecution in countries including Syria.
“We need expanded channels of regular migration and resettlement - two measures which would prevent deaths and cut smuggling,” Zeid told the 47-member state forum in Geneva.
European states should “build on this surge of human feeling” caused by the photograph of the dead Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a shore in Turkey 10 days ago as the family tried to reach Greece, he said.
Germany re-imposed border controls on Sunday after Europe’s most powerful nation acknowledged it could scarcely cope with thousands of asylum seekers arriving every day.
Divided European Union justice and home affairs ministers were due to meet on Monday to discuss the migrant crisis.
Zeid, in a rare criticism of world powers, voiced concern at efforts by governments including China and Russia to silence critics. He criticized China’s detention and interrogation of more than 100 lawyers in recent months and the “stigmatization” of foreign-funded activist groups under a new Russian law.
He welcome Iran’s deal with major powers to curb its nuclear program, adding: “I urge Iran to make commensurate progress in human rights.”
“Accelerated use of the death penalty, concerns about the right to a fair trial, and the continued detention of journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders remain a major cause for concern,” Zeid said.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens