UN rights chief decries European 'race to repel' migrants

The U.N. human rights chief on Thursday denounced a growing "race to repel" migrants and refugees by some European governments, and says he plans to raise his concerns in Brussels before a European Union summit next week.

In an annual report to the Human Rights Council, Zeid Raad al-Hussein said a draft EU-Turkey agreement on handling the migration crisis announced this week raises serious concerns, including "the potential for collective and arbitrary expulsions" from the bloc. Zeid said he hadn't received full details of the draft, but urged the EU "to adopt a much more rights-compliant and humane set of measures on migration at next week's summit."

Zeid said he had concerns about the building of fences on European borders, the seizure of personal goods from migrants and refugees, and the arbitrary detention of people based on their nationalities.

"Today, in violation of the fundamental principles of solidarity, human dignity, and human rights, the race to repel these people is picking up momentum," he said.

The broad-ranging speech offered the High Commissioner for Human Rights a chance to chronicle an array of concerns, while acknowledging that the United Nations is not a sovereign body and cannot exercise criminal jurisdiction.

Zeid pointed to issues including some 300 reported police killings of African-Americans in the U.S. last year; "signals" that Russia wants to close the U.N. human rights office there; ongoing violence in Burundi, Syria, Libya, Yemen and South Sudan; and arrests of lawyers and activists in China. He expressed concerns about Turkey's recent actions against the media, including against the Zaman newspaper.

He said recent attacks against Israeli civilians were "inexcusable" but said the "root causes of this violence also cannot be ignored" — the "frustration and despair of Palestinians arises from the prolonged occupation" as well as Israeli settlement expansion and settler violence in Palestinian areas and the blockade of Gaza.

The rights chief also pointed to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, especially in the Central African Republic, and noted an "urgent need to stop this appalling abuse by U.N. and other personnel of victims, some of whom are very young."

However, "only member states can conduct criminal investigations, and prosecute," he said.