On 4 May 2020, the Expert Council on NGO Law published updated guidelines to ensure that laws, policies and practices in relation to human trafficking and the treatment of refugees do not encroach on the legitimate activities of NGOs.
The updated guidelines follow the Expert Council’s study ‘Using criminal law to restrict the work of NGOs supporting refugees and other migrants in council of Europe member states’. The guidelines state that laws, policies, and practices should not prohibit or prevent NGOs from helping refugees or other migrants in distress at sea or on land; monitoring the treatment of refugees at border crossings or reception centres; providing food, shelter, medical treatment or legal advice to those in need. Moreover, NGOs should not be prevented from submitting or initiating proceedings under national or international mechanisms with respect to the rights and treatment of refugees.
The guidelines also outlined good practice, suggesting that policies should allow for NGOs to monitor the treatment of refugees, including cases where individuals are deprived of their liberty; facilitate NGOs to provide legal advice and assistance to refugees; and ensure NGO staff and members are protected from harassment, intimidation, and threats of prosecution as a result of assistance that they may have provided.
Photo: Council of Europe