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COMMITTEE ON PROTECTION OF RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS OPENS SEVENTH SESSION


Committee on Rights of Migrant Workers

26 November 2007

Hears from Representative of High Commissioner for Human Rights and Non-Governmental Organization on Situation in Ecuador


The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which reviews the implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families by its 37 States parties, this morning opened its seventh session by hearing from a Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and from a non-governmental organization speaking about the situation in Ecuador.

Jane Connors, Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the issue of reform of the human rights treaty body system continued to be a subject of debate among States parties, members of treaty bodies, United Nations entities, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations, and others. The concluding observations of treaty bodies should form part of the basis of the Universal Periodic Review. All treaty bodies should consider developing modalities for enhanced interaction with the Special Procedures mandate holders, including with a view to developing effective approaches to the Universal Periodic Review, in accordance with their respective mandates, and coordinating country-specific inputs to that mechanism.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts raised, among other things, how the Committee could further interact with the next Global Forum on Migration and Development, how it could improve interaction with organizations such as the Inter-Parlimentarian Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the importance of ratifying the Convention. Stronger promotion and better visibility of the Convention could give rise to a stronger commitment from countries that were not currently aware of its importance, speakers said. This would give a better human rights focus in the context of immigration, and could increase ratification of the Covenant. Lack of awareness was a problem, and this issue, along with ratification, needed to be kept on the front burner. These challenges could be faced in such contexts as the Global Forum, when there was a greater participation of stakeholders, and they could be made to hear the voiceless.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work.

Also this morning, the Committee heard from the Coalicion Interinstitucional para el Seguimiento y Difusion de la Convencion Internacional sobre la proteccion de los derechos de todos los trabajadores migratorios y de sus familiars, representing a coalition of non-governmental organizations, which briefed the Committee on the situation in Ecuador. The Committee will begin its consideration of the initial report of Ecuador (CMW/C/ECU/1) at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

Address by Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

JANE CONNORS, Senior Human Rights Officer, Treaties and Council Branch, said the issue of reform of the human rights treaty body system continued to be a subject of debate among States parties, members of treaty bodies, United Nations entities, national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations, and others. Discussions had demonstrated the need to seek ways and methods to harmonise the treaty body system, and highlighted the Inter-Committee Meeting as a vehicle to achieve this end. The need to improve and harmonise further the working methods of the human rights treaty bodies had been recognised. The Committee was encouraged to focus on a CMW-specific report when it developed and adopted guidelines for periodic reports of States parties.

The concluding observations of treaty bodies should form part of the basis of the Universal Periodic Review. All treaty bodies should consider developing modalities for enhanced interaction with the Special Procedures mandate holders, including with a view to developing effective approaches to the Universal Periodic Review, in accordance with their respective mandates, and coordinating country-specific inputs to that mechanism. The Committee might wish to reflect on how its input could be included in the documentation of the review of an individual State within the Universal Periodic Review, Ms. Connors said, noting that the issue was under consideration by almost all treaty bodies in different ways.

The Government of Belgium had organised the first Global Forum on Migration and Development, which was held in Brussels on 10 and 11 July 2007. The second Global Forum was currently being organised by the Philippines, and themes for the Forum would have an explicit focus on human rights. Since the last session of the Committee, Albania had acceded to the Convention. Guatemala had recently made the declaration under articles 76 and 77 of the Convention, accepting the Committee’s competence to examine communications. Since the last session, Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina had submitted their initial report. The General Assembly was scheduled to take action later this week on the draft resolution concerning the Committee’s request to hold a two-week session in April 2008, followed by a one-week session in the autumn, Ms. Connors said.

Discussion by Committee Members

PRASAD KARIYAWASAM, Chairperson of the Committee, said the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), at its next Conference, intended to have a special item on the rights of migrant workers, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights intended to work with the IPU in this regard, and this would give greater impetus to the ratification process, in particular in areas where ratification was low. More work however needed to be done at the IPU level. The Committee needed to continue discussing how it approached treaty body reform.

JOSE BRILLANTES, Committee Member, said the Association of Southest Asian Nations (ASEAN) had just passed its Charter, which had taken decades to be approved. The Charter included a provision that created the ASEAN human rights body, and the emphasis on human rights was recognised among the Member States. ASEAN had also adopted in January 2007 a Declaration on the Rights of Migrant Workers. Indonesia in particular was ripe for ratification of the Convention, and only required the legislative measures to be taken in this regard. The discussions at the Global Forum on Migration and Development, in particular the focus on the human rights of migrant workers, were a positive step. The rights-based approach should be encouraged at the Second Forum in the Philippines.

PRASAD KARIYAWASAM, Chairperson of the Committee, said the Committee should consider writing to the Government of the Philippines on the topic of the Global Forum in order to clarify the position of the Committee.

AZAD TAGHIZADE, Committee Member, said the aging of the European population appeared to be viewed in the light of migration. Perhaps the most viable method to solve the problem of aging could be linked to migratory movements into Europe. There appeared to be a lack of political will in this regard, and no intent to solve the issue through immigration. The Committee should provide a clear definition of its position in this regard, as well as with regard to the fact that immigration was going to be an important process for solving many problems. Issues of sustainable development were also important in the context of migrant workers.

FRANCISCO CARRION-MENA, Committee Member, said there was a positive reaction from Parliamentarians, and the Committee should make a strong effort to ensure that it could better promote, through its work at the legislative level with various Parliaments, the rights of migrant workers. It should work to emphasise the importance of the ratification of the Convention, in particular with the Executive Branches of various countries. Stronger promotion and better visibility of the Convention could give rise to a stronger commitment from countries that were not currently aware of its importance. This would give a better human rights focus in the context of immigration.

AHMED HASSAN EL-BORAI, Committee Member, said the issue of migration was becoming more significant in the Arab world. The problem of the Gulf countries was that migrant workers, from the point of view of numbers, were actually more numerous than citizens, and immigrants were the majority of the population in many countries, with concomitant problems, pushing Governments towards certain policies. The Convention needed to be further promoted in the Arab World, and people made more aware of its existence.

PRASAD KARIYAWASAM, Chairperson of the Committee, said he agreed that lack of awareness was a problem, and this issue, along with ratification, needed to be kept on the front burner. These challenges could be faced in such contexts as the Global Forum, when there was a greater participation of stakeholders, and they could be made to hear the voiceless. At the moment, there was no forum in which people could be heard.

FRANCISCO ALBA, Committee Member, said all were aware of the efforts and discussions in the United States for the last two years on changes in migration laws. Analysts considered that reforms of these laws had not achieved what had been desired. In the absence of a comprehensive reform, in practice a policy of “enforcement first” was gaining ground, with stronger controls on borders, prevention of entrance of undocumented flows of migrants, and less tacit acceptance of these migration flows, for the convenience of all involved. In the past, in the region, there had been a lot of transit migration, with migrants passing through Mexico in order to reach the United States.

MEHMET SEVIM, Committee Expert, said the Committee should follow what was happening on migration issues at the international level. The Committee should show its position on new developments.

PRASAD KARIYAWASAM, Chairperson of the Committee, said the Convention was clear in its prescription of rights, and the Committee had to work within that context. The Members needed to discuss how they would approach the Global Forum, as well as other bodies and organizations.

Discussion on Ecuador

A representative of the Coalicion Interinstitucional para el Seguimiento y Difusion de la Convencion Internacional sobre la proteccion de los derechos de todos los trabajadores migratorios y de sus familiars, representing a Coalition of non-governmental organizations, said the Coalition was made up of different organizations working in Ecuador. The Coalition had already presented a first report on General Administrative Issues. Regulatory frameworks were not solid enough in Ecuador - international multilateral conventions were formally ratified, but they were not included in national legislation. There was no formal migratory policy. Internal legislatory frameworks should be brought into line with international conventions. The competence of the Committee should be recognised with regards to articles 76 and 77 of the Convention. Full protection of migrants should be ensured.

The administrative structure was diffused, and there was no integrated and effective policy. There should be a single sphere or forum for effective coordination of migratory policy, with an integrated concept of migration, allowing for integrated work, based on gender, human rights, and diversity. The State needed to eliminate restrictive policies with regards to the exercise of the rights of migrant workers, and should establish effective mechanisms to ensure consular protection. The Coalition also recommended the establishment of a solid system for statistical information to contribute to drawing up public policy; to implement specific protection mechanisms; to adopt a broad process of regularisation adopted to the needs and realities of the migrant population; to adopt reforms that removed the arbitrariness of sentencing, deportation and others; and to adopt a policy based on the protection of human rights. Internal legislation should be adapted to the Convention, with constitutional and legal reforms.

Experts then asked questions, including, among other things, issues related to the specific measures that the Government had taken to protect the interest of female migrant workers; whether there were any opinions on the efficacy of the bilateral agreements between Ecuador and, for example, Spain, to ensure the safety of migrant workers, and the granting of papers to them so they were no longer clandestine; what was the situation with regards to transitory migrants; a request for more targeted recommendations; and what type of mechanisms could be more effective when it came to protection through the consulates.

Responding to these questions, the representative of the Coalition said women were more vulnerable, and the recommendations proposed to the Government underscored the need to have equal relations for men and women, and appropriate measures to try to get rid of some socio-economic patterns, and ensure that women and girls were no longer discriminated against in families and society at large. Organizations on women’s rights should be involved in regulating the migratory process. There was a series of agreements with Spain, and these were a certain response to the situation, but there should be other criteria that should come into play, ensuring that supply and demand were better balanced, with things better geared towards the needs of the migrant workers. On transit migration, this gave rise to some issues. The presentation had been general, but more specific recommendations would be submitted in writing.
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For use of the information media; not an official record