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Protecting rights of migrant workers more crucial than ever – UN Committee

GENEVA (2 October 2013) – Migrants are too often regarded as commodities or economic and political problems instead of human beings, a UN Committee has said in an appeal to all countries to join an international treaty that protects the rights of migrant workers.

“The International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families (ICRMW) is one of the core international human rights treaties,” said Chairperson Abdelhamid El Jamri on behalf of the Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers (CMW).

“Ratifying this treaty does not commit States to giving migrant workers special treatment. It does not create new rights nor establish additional rights specifically for migrant workers. What it does do is give specific form to standards that protect all human beings so that they are meaningful within the context of migration,” said Mr. El Jamri.

Changing patterns of migration and the exploitation and discrimination faced by migrant workers in sectors such as construction and agriculture have made protecting their rights more crucial than ever, he stressed.

The Convention, in force for 10 years, has been ratified by 47 States. However, no major destination countries, among them the US, EU member States and Gulf countries, have ratified it, even though it reflects the rights set out in other core human rights treaties to which many States are already party.

The Committee’s call for wider ratification of the Convention comes ahead of high-level talks at the United Nations in New York on 3 and 4 October on migration and development, which are seen as an important opportunity to promote recognition of the fundamental human rights of all migrants.

More than 200 million people worldwide are international migrants; of these some 30 million are estimated to be irregular migrants.

“Migrants are not commodities. They not only contribute to the economic development of their own country and their host country, but keep the host countries demographically young, enrich their cultures and add to their productive capacities,” Mr. El Jamri said. “But in order for migrants to be able to make this contribution, their human rights must be protected and respected.”

He said: “Tightening labour regulations and clamping down on irregular migration in a response to economic downturns can send the wrong message to migrants, who may see that their only option is to use smugglers and human traffickers, with all the abuse and exploitation that entails.”

Mr. El Jamri continued: “The Convention is the best strategy to prevent abuses and to address the vulnerability that migrant workers face as well as to maximize the benefits of migration. That’s why we urge all States to consider signing and ratifying the Convention.”

The CMW Committee, composed of 14 independent human rights experts, oversees implementation of the Convention by States parties. Many of the States parties are not only nations of origin but now also transit and destination countries given the changing patterns of migration.


2013 High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development:

To find out more about the Committee on Migrant Workers:

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families:

For more information and media requests please contact:

Liz Throssell, Media Officer: +41 (0) 22 917 9434/ ethrossell@ohchr.org

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