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Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers examines report of Senegal

Committee on Rights of Migrant Workers 

14 April 2016

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families this morning concluded its consideration of the combined second and third periodic report of Senegal on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
 
Presenting the report, Mame Baba Cisse, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that one of the key reforms undertaken by Senegal was the strengthening of a mandatory health insurance with a view to reach universal coverage.  The establishment of a simplified regime to ensure social security for those working in the informal sector had been added to the Government’s priorities.  Senegal had just organized a referendum integrating a representation of Senegalese abroad within the National Assembly.  The Government continued to be concerned about the situation of begging children, and had adopted a National Strategy for Child Protection to address this issue.  Measures had also been taken to improve detention conditions, including an increase of the daily wage for detainees, an increase of the use of conditional liberation, renovations of facilities, and the construction of a new prison able to receive 1,500 detainees.  
 
During the discussion, Experts raised concerns about the situation of children, including those enrolled in Koranic schools and forced into begging, and about the lack of access to birth certificates.  Experts noted the high number of Senegalese emigrants, and asked a number of questions about the Government’s efforts to support them and to encourage their resettlement in Senegal.  Committee Members were deeply concerned about the risks faced by Senegalese migrants seeking to reach Europe or Latin America, and asked what measures had been taken to combat smuggling and exploitation.  Experts regretted the lack of statistics and data collected by the Government relating to migrant workers in or from Senegal.  Other questions were raised with regards to the detention of irregular migrants, detention conditions, as well as the ratification by Senegal of additional international human rights instruments. 
 
Fatoumata Abdourhamane Dicko, Member of the Committee and Country Co-Rapporteur for Senegal, said in her concluding remarks that Senegal was one of the truly committed African countries to the protection and promotion of human rights.  She hoped that Senegal would disseminate the concluding observations to be issued by the Committee. 
 
Abdelhamid El Jamri, Member of the Committee and Country Co-Rapporteur for Senegal, welcomed the fact that Senegal had defended opportunities for regular migration in international fora.  He encouraged Senegal to continue efforts to defend the Convention and promote its ratification by other countries.  The Convention had to be included in the initial training of judges and lawyers, he stressed.
 
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Cisse welcomed the Committee Members’ support to Senegal.  Remarks made by the Experts would be carefully studied by the competent authorities.  Civil society and all other stakeholders, in particular migrant associations, would be closely involved in this study. 
 
The delegation of Senegal included representatives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry for Women, Family and Childhood, the Ministry of Labour, Social Dialogue, Trade Unions and Relations with Institutions, as well as the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
 
The Committee will next meet today at 3 p.m., to start its consideration of the initial report of Turkey (CMW/C/TUR/1).
 
Report
 
The combined second and third periodic report of Senegal can be read here: CMW/C/SEN/2-3.
 
Presentation of the Report
 
MAME BABA CISSE, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presenting the report, said that Senegal had consulted with civil society organizations for the elaboration its periodic report with a view to reflect as much as possible the human rights situation on the ground.  Senegal had acceded to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in 1999, and was committed to implement its obligations under it.  One of the key reforms undertaken was the strengthening of a mandatory health insurance with a view to reach universal coverage.  The establishment of a simplified regime to ensure social security for those working in the informal sector had been added to the Government’s priorities.  In 2014, the Government had adopted a decree prohibiting discrimination and stigmatization on the ground of HIV/AIDS in the workplace.  The Government was also elaborating a law creating a National Observatory for Discrimination in the Workplace. 
 
Senegal had a long democratic tradition, and had just organized a referendum integrating a representation of Senegalese abroad within the National Assembly.  With regard to health, the Government had established universal social security coverage both for nationals and immigrants.  A Social Orientation Law had established a national programme for persons with disabilities, also benefiting migrant workers and their families.  The Government continued to be concerned about the situation of begging children, and had adopted a National Strategy for Child Protection to address this issue.  The State had taken measures to end the exploitation of these children and for their rehabilitation.   The Draft Children’s Code was inspired by international and regional instruments relating to the rights of the child, and would create an Ombudsman for children.  Measures had also been taken to improve detention conditions, including an increase of the daily wage for detainees, an increase of the use of conditional liberation, renovations of facilities and the construction of a new prison able to receive 1,500 detainees.  
 
Questions by the Experts
 
FATOUMATA ABDOURHAMANE DICKO, Member of the Committee and Country Rapporteur for Senegal, said that the Committee would look into not only legislation adopted by Senegal, but also into the concrete situation on the ground and in courts.  Senegal, she noted, had acceded to a large number of international human rights instruments, and was hosting offices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Labour Organization, meaning that human rights were better promoted and protected in Senegal than in other countries of the region.  On the institutional front, Senegal, like its neighbours, had received assistance from the International Labour Office to establish a framework for consultations on migration issues, she noted, asking for information with regards to this framework.  The Country Rapporteur then noted the lack of statistics in Senegal’s periodic report, and asked how Senegal collected data on migrants in the labour market. 
 
Ms. Dicko welcomed legislation adopted to combat discrimination at the workplace, and asked how ILO Convention 111 concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation was being implemented on the ground.  Did international treaties have direct effect into domestic law?  Continuing, she asked what Senegal had done to ensure that the Convention was disseminated.  Was the text of the Convention translated into Wolof, Pulaar and other languages spoken by migrants in Senegal?  She asked whether measures had been taken to facilitate and encourage foreign nationals to invest in Senegal?  Were there measures encouraging their reintegration?  With regards to unaccompanied children in Senegal, she asked what concrete measures had been taken to combat child labour and begging by children.  This practice of begging was exploitation and had to be combatted, she insisted, noting that Senegal had ratified ILO Convention 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. 
 
Turning to the first round of questions, an Expert noted that 73.5 per cent of Senegalese emigrants left the country for financial reasons.  At the same time, Senegal was hosting around 244,000 foreigners, the Expert noted, asking what job opportunities were available to them. 
 
Experts raised concerns about the situation of children, including those enrolled in Koranic schools and forced into begging.  They asked how the Government’s strategic plan helped these children and ensured their access to education, whether they were nationals or foreigners. 
 
An Expert asked whether Senegal’s consular services were available to offer support to Senegalese migrants abroad.  There seemed to be an extensive network of human smugglers bringing people from Senegal to third countries, including El Salvador or Brazil, an Expert said.  How could this sort of trafficking in persons be combatted?  Another Expert noted with concern that Senegalese migrants hoping to reach Europe through Libya and the Mediterranean faced considerable risks, and that many of them died during the journey.  What was the Government doing to address this problem?  What was being done to combat trafficking?  An Expert asked whether cooperation agreements, including scientific agreements, had been concluded between Senegal and countries of transit and destination, for the forensic identification and repatriation of bodies. 
 
With regards to adhesion to international human rights instruments, an Expert regretted that Senegal had not ratified Optional Protocols to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 
 
Replies by the Delegation
 
Senegal had launched projects to encourage Senegalese emigrants to come back and be involved in agriculture.  Latin America was increasingly becoming a destination for Senegalese people, a delegate said, noting that most of these migratory flows were organized by drug-trafficking networks.  The coasts of Senegal were constantly monitored, meaning that few migrants left or arrived in the country that way.  Consular assistance was provided in Brazil and Argentina, which were the countries that Senegalese were going to.  Ecuador was only a transit country for Senegalese citizens.  Senegal used to have an embassy in Tripoli, but it had been closed due to the deteriorating security situation in Libya. 
 
Both private and public recruitment agencies could send Senegalese workers abroad.  Private entities were under the oversight of the Government, and the Government would certainly act in case of inappropriate action by these bodies.  In the absence of an agreement with a destination country for the placement of Senegalese migrant workers, private agencies would make arrangements.  Measures had been taken to monitor the activities of these agencies, and ensure that they were in compliance with the provisions of the Convention. 
 
A platform had been set up, bringing together the State’s representatives and representatives of civil society organizations dealing with migration.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had been working closely with Spain in managing migratory flows, drawing on the work of this platform.  The process of drafting the State party’s report had involved several ministries as well as civil society organizations. 
 
There was no discrimination among children, regardless of their countries of origin, regarding access to education.  In some parts of the country, children from other countries sometimes outnumbered children from Senegal in schools.  The Ministry of Justice had a department for education in social protection, with protection centres where training workshops were held for young people.
 
Questions by the Experts
 
Starting a new round of questions, FATOUMATA ABDOURHAMANE DICKO, Member of the Committee and Country Rapporteur for Senegal, noted that Senegal was a monist country and asked whether the Convention had been invoked directly before courts.  She expressed concerns about birth certificates being difficult to obtain in Senegal.  She underlined the importance of disseminating the Convention towards law enforcement personnel and Senegalese emigrants, even if their host country had not ratified it.  She asked whether people could be imprisoned for the sole reason of being irregular migrants, and whether Senegal was abiding by its non-refoulement obligations. 
 
Replies by the Delegation
 
If an irregular migrant returned after his or her deportation, there had to be some kind of penalty, including imprisonment.  Senegal had never deported irregular migrants to countries where they faced abuses.  Irregular migrants could choose which country they wanted to be deported to.  
 
Problems with the issuance of birth certificates did not affect migrants alone, a delegate said. 
 
With regard to the situation of children, a delegate said that a number of Ministries were involved in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in a coordinated manner.  A directorate was in charge of collecting statistics on the situation of children, child marriage and child labour.  There was also a unit for child protection set up by the Government, and efforts had been made to raise awareness on the needs of children and their access to education.  The question of Koranic education and child begging was directly addressed by the Government, which sought to modernize Koranic schools to make sure that children in these schools, also known as “talibé” children, were provided with an education. 
 
With regards to detention, a delegate noted that most migrant workers in Senegal came from neighbouring ECOWAS countries, with free-circulation agreements.  Harsh provisions contained in the law for irregular migrants were not applied by the courts.  This law should indeed be reviewed or repealed, delegates agreed.  Foreign migrants awaiting expulsion were not detained in prisons, they stayed in the yard of a police station.  There was a need to build an administrative centre for these people. 
 
Sexual abuse was on the increase in Senegal, a delegate said.  It could be explained by the fact that information and communication technologies had made such abuse more visible.  The Government had made enormous efforts to combat sexual abuse through fully comprehensive legislation, and up to 10 years imprisonment sentences.  There were awareness-raising campaigns in the streets, and perpetrators were systematically held to account.  Challenges remained as harmful practices against women and girls continued.  The Government was working in conjunction with civil society organizations, which provided certain statistics. 
 
The Government had a bilateral partnership with France for the resettlement of Senegalese migrants.   This project aimed to promote business projects and support for migrants’ return, and to create permanent support mechanisms for those wishing to return to their home country.  The “Programme d’Appui aux Initiatives de Solidarité pour le Développement” (PAISD) was a Senegalese programme created with the support of the French Foreign Ministry.  It offered support to Senegalese business developers settled in France and interested in investing in Senegal.  It also conducted local projects for development at the local level.  
 
Questions by the Committee
 
An Expert asked for information regarding Senegal’s cooperation with neighbouring countries on migration issues, and asked what assessment should be made of bilateral agreements signed by Senegal with regards to the situation of migrant workers.  What was Senegal’s political stand on the current migration crisis and for the protection of Senegalese migrant workers, both in transit and destination countries?  Were regional instruments superior to domestic law?
 
An Expert raised the issue of voting, and asked how Senegalese migrants abroad were provided with the opportunity to vote during national elections. 
 
Coming back to the situation of talibé children, an Expert asked what was being done to ensure the implementation of legislation for concrete change on the ground. 
 
What was being done to support elder emigrants wishing to return to Senegal?
 
The delegation was asked what budget was allocated to migration policies. 
 
The fact that irregular migrants awaiting deportation were kept in a police yard was a matter of concern for Committee Members, as this seemed to constitute double sentencing. 
 
Replies by the Delegation
 
The majority of begging children in streets were actually studying in Koranic schools.  It may not be effective to repress such schools, the delegation said.  This phenomenon was of great concern to the authorities, because it deprived children of their right to a better future.  Special services were being provided on this issue, and agreements had been signed with neighbouring countries to ensure the return of migrant children. 
 
With regards to the current migration crisis, a delegate said that Senegal’s position was that migration should be seen as an opportunity for people to be brought closer together.  The distinction between migrants and refugees should not be debated anymore, and focus had to be put on saving people’s lives.  Regular migration had to be facilitated, and obstacles to regular migration should be lifted.  
 
Around 2,000 foreigners were detained in Senegal.  People were expelled generally after committing a serious crime, and the Government did not necessarily interfere with that process. 
 
With regards to the applicability of the Convention, a delegate said that there was not much case law referring explicitly to the Convention, because judges were often reluctant to do so, or lacked knowledge on the Convention. 
 
Concerning the budget, the delegation said that there was no specific budget line for migration.  This issue fell under the competence of several ministries.  Among them was the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which received more than 20 billion CFA budget.
 
Voting by Senegalese abroad had been possible for all elections through consular services since 1998. 
 
Concluding Remarks
 
FATOUMATA ABDOURHAMANE DICKO, Member of the Committee and Country Co-Rapporteur for Senegal, in her final comments, said that Senegal was one of the truly committed African countries to the protection and promotion of human rights.  The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families had a broad scope of application, she noted.  She said that descriptions of national laws was not what the Committee needed.  What was expected was information about the concrete application of legislation on the ground.  She hoped that Senegal would disseminate the concluding observations to be issued by the Committee.  She encouraged Senegal to implement these recommendations in a comprehensive and timely manner. 
 
ABDELHAMID EL JAMRI, Member of the Committee and Country Co-Rapporteur for Senegal, said that Senegal was committed to human rights, and noted the close relationship between his own country, Morocco, and Senegal.  He welcomed the fact that Senegal had defended opportunities for regular migration in international fora.  He encouraged Senegal to continue efforts to defend the Convention and promote its ratification by other countries.  The Convention had to be included in the initial training of judges and lawyers, to ensure that it was referred to in courts.  It was also important to raise awareness on the positive side of migration.  He encouraged Senegal and its neighbouring countries to establish a sub-regional partnership for the implementation and the promotion of the Convention. 
 
MAME BABA CISSE, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, welcomed the Committee Members’ support to Senegal.  Senegal was committed to the protection of human rights and to cooperating with human rights mechanisms.  The Government was also concerned about the wellbeing of its nationals living abroad.  Remarks made by the Experts would be carefully studied by the competent authorities.  Civil society and all other stakeholders, in particular migrant associations, would be closely involved in this study.  Only by correctly implementing the Convention would Senegal be able to convince other countries to ratify it. 

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