The special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, and the Chairman of the Committee on the protection on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families, Prasad Kariywasam, issued the following statemennt on the occasion of International Migrants Day which is commemorated on 18 December.
International Migrants Day is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution migrants make to the development of economies and societies both in their countries of origin and in the countries where they live and work. At the same time, it reminds us that migrants are still subjected to human rights violations on a daily basis.
The coming year represents a unique opportunity to redouble our efforts in the promotion of the protection of migrants’ rights as we will be celebrating not only the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also the 5th anniversary of the entry into force of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
Recently we have witnessed an increasingly constructive debate in various international fora on the multidimensional aspects of migration. We have noticed however that these aspects have barely been approached from a human rights perspective. Discussing the human rights of migrants remains controversial in the international community which prefers to approach migration from an economic and law enforcement perspective. Accordingly the daily reality for many migrants continues to be linked to exploitation, exclusion and discrimination.
As we know, this is especially true for irregular migrants and even more so for irregular migrant women and children of irregular migrants. These are two categories of migrants we are particularly concerned about, as women often suffer from double discrimination resulting from their irregular status in conjunction with their gender and children are especially vulnerable because of the needs particular to their age.
Migrant women in irregular situation are often employed in domestic service and not seldom face working conditions akin to modern slavery, including confiscation of their identity documents, low and late payment of wages, and long working days with no or little opportunity to rest against minimal pay. In addition, they are often exposed to all sort of abuses by their employers, including sexual harassment and physical violence. Moreover, as a consequence of their irregular situation, they are often denied legal protection and access to effective remedies against these violations.
Among the most serious violations suffered by children of irregular migrant workers, we have come across the lack of access to education, the exposure to economic exploitation and dangerous and degrading forms of labour. Children are especially vulnerable to become trapped in trafficking and smuggling networks, or to become victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
This situation is unacceptable, and we must do more to ensure that the core values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be enjoyed by every person in the world, whatever his or her nationality, creed, colour, sex or age.
As a first step in this direction, we would like to call on member States to harmonize domestic migration policies and legislation with the international human rights framework which protect the inherent dignity and rights of all persons, regardless of their status in a country. Entering a country in an irregular or undocumented situation, should not be treated as a criminal offence and any migrant worker detained in a State of transit or in a State of employment for violations of provisions relating to migration should always be separated from convicted persons or persons detained pending criminal trial.
We encourage member States to take appropriate measures to protect women domestic workers in irregular situation, including by greater and more systematic involvement of the labour authorities in monitoring their working conditions. Women migrant workers in domestic service should have access to mechanisms for bringing complaints against their employers and all abuses, including sexual abuses, should be investigated and punished.
We also encourage member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that access to education is guaranteed to all migrant children in their country, irrespective of their migratory status, and to intensify their efforts to prevent that these children fall victims of any kind of exploitation, and notably economic or sexual exploitation.
We also believe that to reach these goals it is of utmost importance that States cooperate with a view to fostering regular migration and investing in providing better opportunities to migrant workers in their countries of origin, instead of merely focusing on security aspects. It is essential to inform their nationals who are willing to migrate about the risks of leaving home in conditions of vulnerability, placing their lives in the hands of transnational smuggling and trafficking networks that thrive on corruption.
In this context, we want to stress once again the importance of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the first comprehensive international treaty focusing on the protection of migrant workers’ rights and on the link between migration and human rights. This Convention provides very useful guidance for States on how to ensure that migration takes place in humane and equitable conditions and with due respect for the human rights of migrant workers and members of their families.
This is why, in order to continue building the path towards the respect of migrant workers’ rights, we reiterate our call to all States which have not yet done so to accede or ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families for the sake of the dignity and protection of the human rights of millions of women, men and children who have abandoned their homes in search of a better life.