22 April 2013
The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families today held a Day of General Discussion on the role of migration statistics for treaty reporting and migration policies, with contributions from a panel of experts on the subject, followed by a dialogue.
Abdelhamid El Jamri, Committee Chairperson, said in its work the Committee saw the limitations of existing statistical data on migration and systematically encouraged States parties to better understand the situation of migrants in their country through the collection and analysis of statistical data, which they should use to develop public policies and programmes to better help migrants enjoy their human rights. However, in most cases the absence of data meant that public policies failed to meet the needs of beneficiaries. He reminded the meeting of the risk of forgetting the people behind the statistics, and said he hoped the discussion would centre upon the dignity and the rights of migrant workers.
The moderator of today’s panel discussion, Craig Mokhiber, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Brand, Research and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said migration was a complex phenomenon and data on migration and on the situation of migrants tended universally to be limited and inadequate. The field of migration was often characterized as one in which “the most amount of policy was made on the least amount of data”.
Ten experts from Governments, academia, civil society and United Nations and international organizations addressed the Committee on three topics: how migration statistics related to government policy and challenges associated with the development of migration statistics; inter-state cooperation and collaboration with non-governmental actors on migration statistics; and how to compile statistics for ‘hidden’ or ‘hard-to-reach’ populations of irregular migrants, and issues of data protection and confidentiality.
In concluding remarks Azad Taghizade, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, said it was unfortunate that, although it had been in force for some time, only a small number of countries had signed the Convention. Politics sometimes did not want to call things by their names, and information was not appropriately reflected in the media. Unfortunately Governments did not take into account the consequences of today’s migration flows when making policy. He thanked the contributors for their valuable contributions that really could be a call to action and give the Committee impetus for its future work.
Statements made at today’s discussion can be found on the Committee’s webpage http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cmw/dgd22042013.htm
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Friday, 26 April 2013 when it will adopt its concluding observations on the three country reports – Colombia, Bolivia and Azerbaijan – reviewed, and close the session.
Statement by the Chairperson of the Committee
ABDELHAMID EL JAMRI, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee decided to organize a Day of General Debate on the role of timely and quality statistical information because throughout its work the Committee saw the limitations of existing statistical data on migration. The Committee systematically encouraged States parties to better understand the situation of migrants in their country through the collection and analysis of statistical data, which they should use to develop public policies and programmes to better help migrants enjoy their human rights. However, in most cases the absence of data meant that public policies failed to meet the needs of beneficiaries.
The data was also essential for the Committee to appreciate how successfully a State party was implementing the Convention. The Committee often addressed the following recommendations to States parties: that they establish a harmonized system of data-collection on migration which included disaggregated data; that inter-State bodies, authorities and research centres cooperate with the sharing of data; and that States adopt mechanisms to collect statistics on migrants in irregular situations or at least develop estimates. The Chairperson concluded by reminding the meeting of the risk of concentrating on figures and trends and forgetting the people behind the statistics. He hoped that in the spirit of the Committee the discussion would centre upon the dignity and the rights of migrant workers.
Opening Statement by the Moderator
CRAIG MOKHIBER, Chief of the Development and Economic and Social Issues Brand, Research and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said migration was a complex phenomenon and data on migration and on the situation of migrants tended universally to be limited and inadequate. The field of migration was often characterized as one in which “the most amount of policy was made on the least amount of data”. Migration policy could be made in a glaring absence of data, often in direct reaction to hostile or even xenophobic public discourse. In the context of the global financial crisis, Governments sought to promote austerity measures which dramatically restricted the access of migrants to social security systems under the assumption that migrants were drawn to countries of destination by a “welfare magnet”. However recent research showed that the causal effect between social welfare spending and migration was statistically insignificant. Other research showed the many contributions that migrants made to the societies and economies in which they lived and worked.
In response to growing requests from States and human rights mechanisms on using indicators to promote human rights, OHCHR had published ‘Human Rights Indicators: A Guide to Measurement and Implementation’ to help States and other stakeholders in building national capacities for human rights implantation. Using human rights indicators to understand migration reminded all that they were not talking merely of an economic or political phenomenon. Migration was centred on the increasingly complex, and precarious, movement of more than 214 million people. At its heart, migration was about human beings. Looking forward towards the second High-Level Dialogue of the General Assembly on International Migration and Development, to take place in October this year, OHCHR’s key message was that migration would only be able to fulfil its potential as an inclusive, equitable and sustainable process when human beings became the central concern of migration policy-making.
Government Policy and Migration Studies
MIRIAM CHAVES, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that in the past Argentina was historically a country of destination but more recently immigration was due to migrants from neighbouring countries which meant that a significant amount of the population born in the Southern Cone now lived in Argentina. Policy on migrants was based on international law and normative rules, including the Convention on Migrants, respect for the rights of migrants as well as their integration into society. The same rights were granted to all migrants and Argentineans. A new Mercosur Agreement sought to regularize migration, resolve problems, combat trafficking and establish a regulatory framework. Previously irregular migrants were pushed towards being irregular, because the regularization presented too many obstacles to them. However, in 2004 the laws on regularization underwent an ongoing reform process, with input from the Government, civil society, the International Organization for Migration and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights now known as the Patria Grande programme. Since then increasing numbers of migrants were seeking to be regularized, and between 2004 and 2011 over one million residencies were granted under the broad and generous policy. During that period unemployment fell from 20 to 7.8 per cent, poverty and disease fell from 54 to 13.2 per cent and poverty levels decreased from 27 to 3.5 per cent. Furthermore in 2003 criminal judgments handed down against foreigners accounted for 28.03 per cent of the total, while in the year 2009 the figure was 28.5 per cent. Those statistics showed that widespread regularization did not increase criminality but actually benefitted the country. Ms. Chaves concluded that a good statistical database – enabled through political will as well as solid migration policies – would not only improve knowledge of different migrant groups coming to Argentina, but also provide the Government with broad and concrete data on which to formulate policy.
NICOLAS FASEL, Human Rights Officer, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), began by stating that statistics mattered for human rights and that human rights mattered for statistical work. The right to have a name, the right to be registered and the right to data protection stated in international human rights law were key provisions for the compilation of robust population statistics. Statistics were also key accountability tools. At the last session of the Human Rights Council, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay launched The Guide to Human Rights Indicators which described a conceptual and methodological framework about statistics for human rights that was endorsed by all treaty bodies. It adopted a common approach on statistical indicators for all economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights. The Guide recommended the use of data from various sources including censuses, population surveys, administrative records and data collected by national human rights institutions and civil society organizations. With its limited resources OHCHR provided technical assistance on human rights indicators, but so far no country had applied it yet to measuring the implementation of migrant workers’ rights. Challenges associated with the development of migration statistics included going beyond the measurement of the total number of inflows, outflows and stock of migrant populations to measure the access to their rights by proportions of different migrants – including the most deprived and members of their families. Data confidentiality was another issue, for example data held by education and health institutions must be protected from immigration authorities.
KHEDIDJA LADJEL, Member of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All
Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, underlined the huge importance of the issue and the Convention held that statistics were crucial for development policies. Data must be of high quality and precise. The issue of development implied that workers and people in general could access to healthcare, education, work, be able to have a family and access family ‘regroupment’ and enjoy their freedom. The main source of data for the Committee were censuses, surveys among workers, demographic surveys, and data produced by border police when looking at migratory flows and who was registered as they crossed borders between different countries. Specific indicators would enable the Committee to understand States policies on migration. The Committee needed to be able to comment on the availability of data and to compare data, in order to check whether it had the same approaches to data analysis and working methods, to evaluate the effectiveness of some administrative bodies. States must better cooperate on statistical gathering, while the Committee must promote better inter-State dialogue as well. It was up to the Committee to examine the ways and means of immigration in order to have a comparative process. It was involved in large-scale work and must look at the impact of development on human rights.
Inter-State Cooperation and Collaboration with non-governmental Actors on Migration Statistics
MARTIN RUHS, University Lecturer in Political Economy of the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education and Senior Research Fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford University, said he would use his address to make the case for the creation of a Global Migrant Rights Index which would lead to a step-change in international monitoring and debates of migrant rights. He said in many countries a basic question still being asked was: who is a migrant? Who did the public have in mind when answering it? In the United Kingdom, for example, almost three quarters of the population wanted fewer migrants and said that immigration was a problem. However, interestingly, when asked to describe who they thought was a migrant, the vast majority of people described asylum seekers. Very few realised that asylum seekers made up only four per cent of immigrants coming into the United Kingdom. People did not think of students, who by large made up the greatest category of migrants into the United Kingdom. A reason behind this misinformation was ill-informed media reporting on migration, which was vastly related to the politics of immigration. There was a paradox of hostility to migrants at the national level yet at a local level people reported that they lived happily side by side with migrants; that paradox was caused by media coverage.
Professor Ruhs said that the lack of readily available and international comparative indicators of the protection of migrant rights in different countries was a major obstacle to comprehensive monitoring of migrant rights at the international level. There was currently no global index of migrant rights in the world. There was an index on human rights, created by Freedom House, but nothing in the area of migrant rights. Professor Ruhs proposed creating a set of indicators that measured the extent to which different countries granted or restricted the rights of different types of migrant workers. He said that his own research looked at migrant rights in 46 countries, but was restricted by only looking at rights on paper: rights in law. A more comprehensive system would look at migrant rights in practice, which could amount to less than their rights in law. The rights of migrants varied by their immigration status, for example highly-skilled migrants were often granted different rights to low-skilled or irregular workers, to students, to asylum seekers and so on.
A Global Migrant Rights Index would allow analysis of a number of important questions, such as current trends, for example asking which rights were most commonly restricted; determinants such as how were rights restrictions related to labour markets, welfare states and admission policies; and impacts, such as what the consequences of restricting rights to migrants themselves, receiving countries and sending countries. The results of a Global Migrant Rights Index could be presented on a dedicated website where people could interact with the data to create their own indices; it would provide new and transparent data, it would enable policy-markets to critically assess their policies, it would empower stakeholders and advocacy groups to more effectively campaign on migration, and it would enable social science researchers to conduct innovating analysis about the effects of migrant rights over time.
PATRICK TARAN, President of Global Migration Policy Associates, posed the hypothetical question: what do we mean by migration statistics? Migration statistics, Mr. Taran said, generally measured migratory movement. That meant flows and stocks, entries, departures, status, lengths of stay, change of status, origin, gender, age and more. However, in many places that data was notoriously inadequate and often inaccurate, while gender and youth questions were often poorly disaggregated. Current migration data generally had little information on conditions facing migrants, motivating migrants, the labour market, social inclusion and the role, contributions and costs of migration. There was very little credible data on the treatment of migrants in relation to rights protections, and on the experiences of racism and xenophobia that they probably faced in most countries. Treaty bodies faced an enormous task of reviewing and measuring situations in reporting countries, never mind in non-reporting, and even non-party countries. A better way to demonstrate the treatment of migrants regarding rights was needed, how to measure rights protection for population that included persons completely invisible or even disappeared. For example, migrant domestic workers that simply disappeared from any accounting when their employers confiscated their documents and held them in virtual slavery. Mr. Taran spoke about a case discovered recently in a Gulf State where a now 58-year-old Sri Lankan was held as a virtual prisoner in a sponsor’s home for 15 years and forbidden to communicate with relatives – a “record-breaking case”, as a diplomat described it. Keeping people undocumented effectively rendered them and what happened to them invisible. If it was not seen, it was not happening.
Mr. Taran outlined a method to measure discrimination towards migrant workers known as the International Labour Organization Discrimination Testing methodology, which irrefutably demonstrated the prevalence of discriminatory behaviour in labour market against legal migrants and citizens of recognizable immigrant ancestry. Today, fortunately, civil society were producing credible reports in this field, particularly Amnesty International, the Fedération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme, and Human Rights Watch in particular. International agencies, except for the United Nations human rights treaty bodies, paid little attention to the treatment of migrants. The challenge may be to focus less on inter-State cooperation and more on cooperation for international advocacy. Concluding Mr. Taran agreed that migration data was needed, but specifically it should be data on the human rights dimensions and practice of migration.
YOSHIE NOGUCHI, Senior Legal Specialist at the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour at the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that ILO Conventions covered various themes including Child Labour (C138 and C182), Migrant Workers (C97 and C143) and Labour Statistics (C63 and C160). Considering the first theme, various data collection methods were used but all carried ethnical considerations for research on children. ILO defined “child labour” and “economic exploitation” as an age which a child was too young to work, was below the minimum age and should be in school. Another definition was whether the work was one of the Worst Forms Of Child Labour and therefore impermissible for children under 18 years of age: trafficking, forced labour, sexual exploitation, illicit activities or hazardous work. ILO global estimates established that 215 million children were involved in child labour, and 115 million were involved in hazardous work. Challenges faced included gathering data on hard-to-capture and elusive populations, such as migrant children, street children, or unregistered adoptions. New techniques were needed to investigate the more hidden forms of child labour, such as domestic work, while some child labour forms, especially the Worst Forms of Child Labour, involved illicit or criminal activities.
Inter-agency cooperation was needed on rapid assessment methodology for qualitative information. A collaboration between ILO, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Bank known as the Understanding Children’s Work Project had been designed to inform policies on areas where child labour was prominent and to create a common basis for action against child labour. Ms. Noguchi spoke about the importance of secondary sources of data to the International Labour Organization in identifying child labourers, as they could not just speak to all child workers around the world! For example criminal statistics, police reports, social services, hotlines, trade unions and non-governmental organizations were all good sources. When ILO was given access to recorded case records by Child Helpline International it found over 400 recorded cases of child labour in just three countries that were analyzing data for migration status, which enabled ILO to compare the work situation of migrant children who were child labourers with that of local children involved in child labour, to the conclusion that migrant children were worse off than local children in cases of child labour.
FRANK LACZKO, Head of Migration Research Division, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the international community had been calling for better statistics on migration for at least 100 years. It was very important to remember that the issue was often considered by Governments as very sensitive and sometimes even toxic. Governments were very reluctant to see their country named in a league table with regard to these issues. With that in mind, where there was strong political will there was a way. For example, in trafficking, when a powerful Government decided to produce a global report on trafficking in persons, the international community managed to produce better statistics on trafficking. That may not necessarily be a way forward in this area, that one Government alone should do this, but it demonstrated that strong political will could generate better statistics. There was currently an intense debate about the future global development framework: what would come after the Millennium Development Goals and what did they mean by development? Migration was not currently factored into the Millennium Development Goals framework, but there was a strong international lobby to have them factored in to the post-2015 agenda with a Migrants Right Index.
The majority of countries around the world still did not produce a national migration report on an annual basis that pulled together their existing statistics. IOM, together with other agencies, had been trying to encourage countries around the world to produce country migration profile reports. Mr. Laczko spoke about the difficulties of getting statistics and spoke about how IOM was working with Gallup, the statistical-gathering consultancy agency, to create the Gallup World Poll, the first report to present the situation of the well-being of migrants. Other initiatives taken by IOM included its unique database on trafficking in persons, created 10 years ago, the only one in the world based on information collected directly from victims of trafficking. It included information on 20,000 registered victims from over 85 different countries. It was still a somewhat untapped resource, and the IOM was working to make the data more widely available as it was a very rich source of information which could provide important insight for policy makers around the world. A new database on South-South migratory flows was also proving a success.
Statistics for Hidden Populations and Data Protection and Confidentiality
MICHELE LEVOY, Director of Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, said International Organization for Migration estimates from 2010 showed that 10 to 15 per cent of the world’s 214 million international migrants were undocumented (between 21 and 32 million people). Yet on a global level no authoritative source specifically focused on global trends in undocumented migration. Regionally, in 2012 the United States estimated that they had 11.1 million undocumented migrants. The United States was one of few countries worldwide with credible estimates of the undocumented population due to the use of the Government data collected through the census. The Clandestino Project, funded by the European Commission, showed that in 2008 there were approximately 1.9 to 3.8 million undocumented migrants in the European Union. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that there were five to six million undocumented migrants in Russia.
Ms. Levoy undertook several ‘myth busting’, showing how credible evidence and data showed that detention for migration purposes did not deter irregular migration. There was little evidence and scarce academic research to support the claim that regularization programmes were magnets for further migration. The granting of access to social services and health care were not a ‘pull factor’ and did not lead to ‘health tourism’, in fact a 2013 Doctors of the World report collected data in 14 cities across seven European Union Member States to show that undocumented migrants were not usually aware of their health pathologies before migrating and lacked awareness of any health benefits they might be entitled to in Europe. Among patients surveyed in 2012, health represented only 1.6 per cent of the reasons for migration.
Ms. Levoy also spoke about social policies to collect qualitative information on undocumented migrants to promote adequate protection of vulnerable groups, including on child poverty and gender-based violence. The challenges of data sharing, in ensuring the confidentiality of data on migrants and the isolation of data collection from law enforcement, were also discussed. Ms. Levoy concluded that the misperception that irregular migration posed threats on national security and State sovereignty needed to be corrected through careful and objective analysis and contextualization of available data. Irregular migration did occur in significant numbers but it represented only a small proportion of total migration. Consistent and inclusive policies that avoided further categorization of vulnerable groups and that promoted social inclusion needed to be adopted. Ms. Levoy also emphasized that safeguards were necessary in data collection and sharing in order to guarantee the privacy, confidentiality and security of personal information in accordance with data collection standards.
JASON SCHACHTER, Statistician and Focal Point on Migration Statistics, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), spoke about UNECE’s challenges in measuring hard-to-count migration populations, namely short-term migrants, circular migrants, irregular migrants, transit migrants, trafficked persons, refugees and asylum seekers. In 2008 UNECE organized a questionnaire on international migration statistics sent out to both UNECE Member States and other countries. Questionnaires were generally incomplete with scarce data on several hard-to-count migration groups. Mr. Schachter said the sources of the data that was returned included censuses, visa and border control data, some household and passenger surveys, police reports and non-governmental organizations. Overall the questionnaire showed that almost two thirds of countries believed irregular migration was highly relevant to them, but the majority found it difficult to measure. Factors that influenced the difficulties of measuring hard-to-count migrants were data issues such as a lack of communication between organizations and State bodies in a country, data already produced by another organization, a wide array of definitions of the groups constituting ‘hard-to-count migrants’ and a lack of relevance for a country in terms of size or policy.
SEBASTIAN BAUMEISTER, Expert and Migrant Smuggling Analyst, Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), spoke about the Voluntary Reporting System on Migrant Smuggling and related conduct in support of the Bali Process. He said that at the fourth Bali Process Ministerial Conference in March 2011 Government Ministers endorsed a new data collection system, and agreed to strengthen engagement on information and intelligence sharing, and welcomed assistance from UNODC in establishing a voluntary reporting system on migrant smuggling and related conduct in support of the Bali Process. The new data collection system was voluntary and a secure internet-based, data-sharing tool to allow States’ authorities to share data on irregular migration and migrant smuggling, to inform policies and to built trust and strengthen cooperation between States. A broad range of data on illegal entries and exits from States, refused entries, smuggling routes, methods and fees, convictions and more was collected and shared, broken down by citizenship, gender and entry and exit points. The Voluntary Reporting System faced challenges including competition among agencies at a national level in collecting their own data, a lack of coordination and cooperation at a national level, different understanding of terms, that not all States collected the same data, and mistrust in sharing data at an international level – irregular migration was a very sensitive topic and political will was needed, and a fear of the workload involved by contributing States should be removed.
Opening the ensuing debate ABDELHAMID EL JAMRI, Committee Chairperson, thanked all of the speakers for their excellent contributions and asked a few questions. He asked whether the million irregular migrants who had been regularized in Argentina was planned; he also said that the Global Migrant Rights Index proposed by Professor Ruhs was a very good plan and the Committee were prepared to work with him on that.
Responding to questions panellist MIRIAM CHAVES, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Argentina to United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the Patria Grande programme was initially launched to regularize an unknown number of irregular migrants living in Argentina within a two-year period from 2004 to 2006. In that time approximately 400,000 were regularized. However the programme remained in place and today more than one million persons had been regularized in Argentina. A representative of Guatemala said taking a diplomatic stance he would emphasize the importance of ensuring undocumented migrants felt important, in using the contribution they could make to society in dialogue in order to diminish the fear people had of migrants and their impact on the country. From a consular perspective it was important to have bilateral and multilateral agreements in place with sending States, particularly on vulnerable sectors of the population. A Committee member asked whether the potentially rich resource of data from returning migrants had been tapped: was it possible to monitor that?
A representative of UNAIDS said they would be very interested in the possibility of a Migrants Index, particularly with a focus on a punitive approach to persons with HIV/AIDS. Imposing compulsory testing and putting restrictions on their entry, stay and residence, was a form of discrimination that migrants continued to face. UNAIDS celebrated that since 2011 nine countries had lifted restrictions on the entry of persons with HIV/AIDS, including China and the United States. A representative of Amnesty International said it was essential that migrants had a way of reporting abuses that was safe and separate from any immigration control, as they were put off reporting crimes and exploitation as they were afraid of going to the authorities. A representative of Morocco said the rights of migrants were closely linked to the political and economic situation of a country. Morocco had launched a project to identify developments in migratory profiles, but as others had said, it was not easy to approach and identify irregular migrants. Morocco had tried to build trust with those groups through non-governmental organizations as it was not easy to get them to talk openly to the authorities. It would be good to consider techniques to reassure irregular migrants and make it easier to collect information about them so programmes could be implemented to help them, especially the most vulnerable.
PATRICK TARAN, President of the Global Migration Policy Associates, responded to questions by saying that some States parties and some non States parties had the best policies and jurisprudence on migrants in the world but some of the worst violations against migrant populations. The Committee had to find a way to measure how rights were enjoyed. Also, for an Index, it was important to have a way of measuring how rights were being realized on the ground. The abuses were happening, but if the data did not exist and the media did not publicize them, it was as if they were not happening. The Committee had to address that challenge.
MICHELE LEVOY, Director of Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, said that in Europe the most frequent way of becoming an undocumented migrant was by arriving in a country legally, with documents, but by overstaying the visa and then becoming undocumented. Was that the situation in other countries? Furthermore, could data be gathered on the consequences of restricting migration? Undocumented migrants needed to become more visible: a firewall was needed to guarantee that their personal data would not be shared with immigration enforcement.
MARTIN RUHS, University Lecturer in Political Economy of the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education and Senior Research Fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford University, said he was very encouraged by the interest shown in his proposal for a Global Migrant Rights Index and would very much like to work with the Committee on it. However, with any data collection system there were politics: whatever was created had to be vigorous and it had to be transparent. It had to be an inclusive process that consulted all stakeholders in all countries.
FRANK LACZKO, Head of Migration Research Division, International Organization for Migration (IOM), spoke about advocacy, saying that a way forward in looking at Millennium Development Goal 8, about global partnerships for development, was having a sub-goal in managing migration in a sustainable way.
AZAD TAGHIZADE, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, said migration was a key factor in global development, and legal protections for the people taking part in the process of migration were needed. It was unfortunate that, although it had been in force for some time, only a small number of countries had signed the Convention. Politics sometimes did not want to call things by their names, and information was not appropriately reflected in the media. Unfortunately, said Mr. Taghizade, Governments did not take into account the consequences of today’s migration flows when making policy. For example, in Europe, which did have statistics on migration, a difficult process was underway in eastern countries with a young and well-educated population – what would happen to those countries when the educated youth migrated? Mr. Taghizade thanked the contributors, who donated their time and expertise without compensation, for their valuable contributions that really could be a call to action and give the Committee impetus for its future work