A United Nations rights watchdog has urged the Argentine government to repeal a 2017 decree that hardened immigration policy in the country, saying it "contravenes the principles" of a convention on migrant workers that the nation is a signatory to.
The group also criticised the "xenophobic and discriminatory statements made by authorities, leaders and the media" in Argentina.
The UN Committee on Migrant Workers, composed of 14 international specialists, called on the Mauricio Macri administration to "to take immediate measures to repeal" the decree, which tightened immigration policy by closing Argentina's doors to people with criminal records and expediting deportation proceedings.
The body said it had "raised concern about Decree No. 70/2017, which contravenes the principles of the [International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families] and therefore requests its urgent derogation."
The decree, introduced two years ago, was introduced by the Macri administration after the government claimed crime statistics were showing that a high percentage of immigrants had participated in criminal acts. The decree's validity is currently being studied by the Supreme Court, after a lower Argentine court declared it was unconstitutional.
Local human rights organisations, such as the Argentine Refugee Commission (CAREF) and the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) have repeatedly said that the decree is in violation of the UN Convention, which was ratified by Argentina in 2007.
In addition, the UN body said Argentina should review all cases of expulsions that have taken place since the enactment of the decree and those that are awaiting resolutions, in order to "guarantee family unity."
"The Committee urged the State party to review and prevent situations that affect the rights to family unity and due process in cases of expulsion of migrant workers and their families, in particular where children are affected and to treat them on an equal basis as Argentinian citizens," the UN watchdog said in a statement.
The UN committee's rapporteur for Argentina, María Landázuri, highlighted the case of Vanessa Gómez Cueva, a Peruvian migrant and mother of three Argentine children, who was deported for having a criminal record last February and separated from two of her children. After news of the case broke in the media, she was allowed back into the country on September 2. Gómez Cueva was convicted in 2011 for working as a 'mule' for drug-traffickers and served a four-year prison sentence.
In addition, the committee's members indicated they were concerned by "irregular immigration situation of inter alia Haitian and Senegalese migrant workers and members of their families," calling on the State "to take measures towards their full social inclusion, particularly for those that are self-employment migrants." They also expressed concern over the rights of "the LGBTIQ collective and textile industry workers."
Of the 44 million inhabitants of Argentina, only 4.5 percent are immigrants, according to UN figures.