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COMMITTEE ON PROTECTION OF RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS CONSIDERS INITIAL REPORT OF ECUADOR

Committee on Rights of Migrant Workers
27 November 2007

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families has considered the initial report of Ecuador on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Presenting the report, Carlos Lopez, Under-Secretary for Migratory and Consular Services at the Ministry of External Affairs of Ecuador, said the politics of the Government with regards to the protection and defence of the rights of all migrant workers and their families were within the postulates of the installation of the National Constitutive Assembly in order to draw up a new framework for the State. The National Policy contained integral plans, which had been created with the input of civil society and academia, among others, and one of the objectives of this Policy was the application of international law on the protection of the human rights of migrant workers and their families.

Experts raised questions concerning the issue of female migrant workers and the attention paid to such vulnerable groups as women and children, which appeared to be absent from the authorities’ focus, and the lack of disaggregated data in their regard; what specifically was being done to respond to the challenge of migration and create the necessary institutions for dealing with the issue; what was the impact on families of women migrating, and whether this caused family disintegration; whether efforts to encourage literacy applied to irregular migrant children; and a request for statistical information with regards to the number of complaints pertaining to police officials when it came to human rights violations, in particular of migrants.

Also in the delegation were representatives of Ecuador’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Ministry of Governing and Police, the National Secretariat for Migration, and the Ministry of Work and Employment.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be on Wednesday, 28 November at 3 p.m., when it will discuss follow-up to the study on violence against children; status of reporting; promotion of the Convention; and organizational matters, including cooperation with other treaty bodies and treaty body reform.

Report of Ecuador

The initial report of Ecuador (CMW/C/ECU/1) says that as migration is among the priorities of Ecuador’s foreign and domestic policy agenda, strategies have been adopted and coordinated action has been planned to address migration issues. Given Ecuador’s history, international migration needs to be analysed from two perspectives: one related to immigration and the other to emigration, although at times the two overlap. At the core of this two-way phenomenon - the in- and outflow of persons - is the human being. Hence it is important for the international community and individual States to take measures to guarantee the human rights of migrant workers, and for States to ensure not only their survival but also equal opportunities for those who migrate in search of better living conditions.

As the official figures show, in Ecuador as in other Latin American countries, the balance of international migration (the difference between the number of immigrants and emigrants) has been negative. Nonetheless, catering for large numbers of immigrants has placed an enormous economic strain on Ecuador as a developing country, since a significant number of immigrants have been unskilled, unproductive workers, whereas emigrants from Ecuador have tended to be potentially productive, often highly skilled workers. Moreover, the negative migration balance as it emerges from the official records does not reflect the full reality, since the figures reflect only legal immigration, there being no exact figures for the number of persons who have entered and remained in Ecuador illegally. According to information from the National Statistics and Census Institute, international immigration makes a significant but as yet unquantified contribution to demographic growth in Ecuador.

As regards international migration and the integration of immigrants, the Ecuadorian constitutional framework is compliant with the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, since the Constitution guarantees to all those resident in Ecuador the rights explicitly established therein, as well as the rights set forth in the international instruments in force in Ecuador, such as the Convention. The law on migration is contained in the Aliens Act, which describes the various types of immigration status and category, and the Migration Act, which sets out the structures of and coordination between the services that regulate the entry and exit of citizens and aliens from Ecuador. Ecuador recognizes that domestic legislation has not yet been brought into line with the Convention, which explains why some provisions in the aforementioned legislation are obsolete.

Presentation of Report

Carlos Lopez, Under-Secretary for Migratory and Consular Services at the Ministry of External Affairs of Ecuador, introducing the initial report of Ecuador, said all Ecuador’s authorities were committed to the effort to protect migrant workers. The politics of the Government with regards to the protection and defence of the rights of all migrant workers and their families were within the postulates of the installation of the National Constitutive Assembly in order to draw up a new framework for the State. The Government considered this essential in order to guarantee the realisation of the Citizens’ Revolution. The Government sought to reform in a structural manner the structure of the representation of workers’ rights. The proposal made by the Government in the area of rights was to modernise the mechanisms providing the guarantees which offered full and fully-fledged protection.

A number of programmes were being set up to assist Ecuadorian citizens and foreigners when they had to be tried in the courts. Efforts were being made to modernise the police force, training them in human rights and citizens’ rights. On the global level, there was promotion of the free movement of goods and services, and on the other hand a refusal of the free movement of people. Ecuador aimed to construct a country that provided the guarantees which prevented the mass exodus of its citizens. The National Policy contained integral plans, which had been created with the input of civil society and academia, among others, and one of the objectives of this Policy was the application of international law on the protection of the human rights of migrant workers and their families.

An integral policy backing migrants and their families had been set forth, based on the free circulation of people. Diplomatic, legal, and administrative actions had taken place in order to protect the full enjoyment of the rights of migrants in countries of destination. In Ecuador, migration was not criminalized - there was no criminal prosecution of people who employed migrant workers. There was control by the Ministry of Labour and the Secretariat for Migration to ensure the human rights, labour rights and social rights of the migrant workers. The National Migratory Secretariat had been set up, with the fundamental objective of defining and implementing migratory policies, to nurture a human development through a proper link between the protection and rights of the migrant population. There was a national programme to combat trafficking, and reforms of the penal code in order to penalise trafficking and connected offences. International cooperation was required to make a different for migrant workers world-wide.

Questions by Experts

FRANCISCO ALBA, the Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report of Ecuador, said the Committee was not standing still - its position was one of constructive engagement, aiming at a constructive dialogue with the State party. The Committee saw the submission of reports as an ongoing process, with the aim of improving the implementation of the Convention, and of ensuring that rights were better implemented. Ecuador had taken a hard look at the question of migration, and had demonstrated political will to bring things forward. This should be recognised at the outset. There was an Action Plan against trafficking in persons, the agreements with Spain, and relationships were becoming institutionalised, paving the way for the future.

The Government had undertaken various heartening efforts, but needed to continue in this direction, Mr. Alba said. The Advisory Council for Migratory Policy was a positive step, as this would institutionalise the presence of Government officials, as well as of civil society and of the world of academia, allowing people to engage and exchange opinions on various actions before they were implemented. There was a need to clarify the situation with regards to the progress of various laws and programmes, and to develop indicators which showed what results had been obtained. National legislation should include the international conventions and treaties.

The entire issue of statistics was difficult to interpret, Mr. Alba said, and it required clarification. Further, what were the intentions of the Government with regards to building a health system, and restricting access thereto by non-nationals. The issue of detention of migrants in detention centres or prisons was also raised.

Other questions and issues raised by Experts included the issue of female migrant workers and the attention paid to such vulnerable groups as women and children, which appeared to be absent from the authorities’ focus, and the lack of disaggregated data in their regard; what were the Consular special mechanisms that applied for the protection of female migrant workers abroad; what were the protection regimes that were envisaged to protect them during their reintegration into family life; the need to protect and nurture private remittances, whilst encouraging their appropriate use; what examples of best practice Ecuador could transmit; what specifically was being done to respond to the challenge of migration and create the necessary institutions for dealing with the issue; how figures of remittances were estimated; the need to work together with NGOs; what type of detainees were held in detention centres besides migrants; issues related to safe houses and rehabilitation for victims of trafficking in persons and a request for information in this regard; the need to look not just at supply but also at demand with regards to trafficking in persons; what was being done to repatriate vulnerable groups or populations; health care for immigrants; what were the reasons for those who returned to their country of origin; and what was the impact on families of women migrating, and whether this caused family disintegration.

Response by Delegation

Carlos Lopez, Under-Secretary for Migratory and Consular Services at the Ministry of External Affairs of Ecuador, said the interest reflected in the statements made by Experts was very satisfactory, and the questions reflected this, as well as revealing to the delegation with what great passion the Committee dealt with this issue, which was a very sensitive one for Ecuador. Ecuador was very interested in the multiple ways in which mixed migration touched it. Current legislation dated from 1971, but the current practice was to look at, for instance, issues from a more modern perspective.

Responding to the questions, the delegation said with regards to the dialogue with the Coalition of Civil Organizations, the Government had embarked in a long dialogue, looking at the working rights of women, social issues, and their pay. Ecuador had endeavoured to put in place a large number of public policies giving women equal footing with men, and provided benefits to foreign working women. There were a number of initiatives to include gender questions in all issues pertaining to migrants. There was a Plan for Equal Opportunities 2005-2006, which provided for a very broad framework, agreed upon by Public Policies on the insertion of women in working life and also in Ecuadorian society. The State was committed to wiping out any discrimination, including differences in salaries.

On the issue of child prostitution and awareness-raising, the delegation said there was a certain indifference, acceptance and resignation shown towards this phenomenon. The State did not look upon it permissively, and was doing its best to react to the situation, but the problem was located in remote areas of the country, where women and girls had dedicated themselves to the exercise of prostitution. People were accustomed to the phenomenon, and did not view it from an alarmed point of view. The Government had a plan to fight against trafficking, and was working to increase awareness. It had some strategic guidelines to increase social awareness, and had periodic monitoring of the media, looking at the perception of child prostitution, putting into place campaigns working to prevent this type of activity, and increasing awareness. Work was being done to attack the demand for as well as the supply of trafficked persons.

The Government was looking, the delegation said, at various options, and hoped to change socio-cultural patterns in order to change the behaviour of those who used the sex industry as customers. From 2006, a campaign had been started in all ports and airports, as well as public places, providing publicity and information to warn anyone who might solicit sexual services from children or adolescents about the consequences of their actions and the penalties that they might have to undergo. With regards to special centres for the victims of trafficking, this was covered in the National Plan. Some State organizations, NGOs and local bodies had come up with initiatives to create shelters for such victims. Opportunities and training were provided, and victims were prepared for reinsertion into the labour market. There were initiatives starting in other areas and cities of Ecuador to create such shelters. With regards to asylum applications, about 30 per cent were accepted, and Ecuador had been said to be one of the countries with the best asylum practices in the world.

For Ecuador, drafting the report had been a useful and enriching experience. It had taken two years, under the Commission for Public Coordination for Human Rights and Public Policies, the delegation said. Throughout the process, a number of organizations had been involved, even though they had not all been physically present. There had been contribution and input from a range of organizations representing civil society. Ecuador had determined to keep itself up to date on this issue, as it had with other issues related to the other international conventions and treaties which it had signed and ratified. Ecuador hoped that, in light of the Committee’s comments, it would be able to improve its dialogue with civil society. With regards to the Shadow Report, some matters required clarification, however, the Government felt it did not need to react to some of the issues raised.

Ecuador formulated consistent and transparent policies in order to manage labour migration so that it could help the migrant workers, to ensure consistency in social and labour policies, and to ensure the full productive labour of all, in agreement with workers, and in a context of social harmony. Ecuador tried to promote policies which tackled situations of vulnerability, particularly those encountered by certain groups of migrant workers, the delegation said, including those in irregular situations. Labour policies included gender aspects, and specific abuses which targeted women in labour contexts. The Ministry of Labour, in coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs, had provided continuity, in participation with civil society, to promote and disseminate the regularisation agreements and spreading awareness of the rights of migrant workers and their families through various means, including with the Trade Union for Cooperation. The full liberties of workers were guaranteed, and the rights of workers and employers were guaranteed through the Labour Code. In practice, there were some limitations on the statutes of trade union organizations.

Concerning the hierarchy that existed with regards to the Convention and Ecuadorian law, the norms of the Convention prevailed, as stipulated in the Constitution of Ecuador, the delegation said. With regards to the issue of statistics, the Government had provided its full support to the National Police, and from 2004 had established a modern communication system in this regard, which also covered the Migration Police, allowing digitisation of all information covering foreigners who entered and left the country. Clear studies had been thus possible on all aspects of migration. Ecuador had very long borders, and there were places for irregular illegal passage, regardless of the Government’s best efforts. Statistics, when it came to regular border crossings, were the most reliable at present. Migratory offences were considered an infraction, but not a crime, and could at most be punished by deportation.

With regards to detention, the delegation said there were specific places where migrant detainees were held. Those who entered the country without the proper documents, during the preparation of the deportation process, were held for a maximum period of 24 hours - if this was extended, the deportation was cancelled and replaced by a fine. Places of detention were within the Migration Service Centre - people were not held in prisons or penitentiary centres.

With regards to remittances, the National Secretariat for Migrants included, among other programmes, a number which would be initiated on December 18 2007, including a programme for incentives and public and personal investments. This would include a Migrants Bank, initiatives for migrants and their families, a project for community tourism, another in training in marketing, and many others. A reduction of the cost of transmitting remittances had also been organised. All of this was under the basic principle, the delegation said, that money was the private property of the migrant workers, and, at the end of the day, the owners could use these funds as they wished. Work was also being done to strengthen family links and community links, and an organised re-insertion into society was planned for those who wished to return home. In this regard, a number of cross-cutting policies to facilitate the process for those who returned home were being implemented. In order to further nurture necessities for development, Ecuadorians living abroad were required to register with Consulates, in order to give them the same status as Ecuadorians at home, and to ensure that they could return with their capital. There was consultation with the migrants themselves.

With regards to how many people had benefited from the bilateral agreement with Peru on migration, the latest figures indicated that 549 people had done so, Mr. Lopez said. In Peru, no Ecuadorians had had their status regularised in terms of being able to stay there. On whether a consular identification card could be used in Ecuador, the answer was yes - it was a simple document, an informal document, which had been used in consulates in New York and Spain. Work was being done to strengthen Consular Services. On why there was a low number of people on the electoral lists, in contrast to inside the country, where voting was obligatory, for those outside the country, voting was optional. There was only one electoral district outside the country. Some did not vote as they were undocumented migrants - others because the places of voting were far from their workplaces. Some 143,000 registered voters abroad indicated a considerable effort by the authorities. Electoral registration facilities would be opened up on a permanent basis in Consulates.

On specific measures linked to family reunification, Mr. Lopez said in Ecuador family reunification of foreigners took place on an automatic basis, on presentation of documents attesting to kinship, marriage, or common-law marriage, as well as a document attesting to willingness to pay the costs linked to staying on in the country. Family members were allowed to carry out lucrative remunerated activities. If there was a divorce or cruel treatment, then the perpetrator lost the rights obtained under family reunification.

In the new Constitution, the delegation said the Government would be strengthening protection of human rights without reference to creed or orientation, and this would be dealt with in a very broad way. With regards to diversity, the present Government was inspired by the belief that it should centre all its work on human beings, on respect for their human rights. The Government wished for international cooperation concerning the possibility of drawing upon experience in amending the country’s secondary laws and aligning its norms upon international standards, in particular with regards to the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. The policy of the Government, with regards to health and migration, was to re-establish the right of citizens of access to free education and health. Traditionally, Ecuador had been recognised for its human rights approach to migration, and this commitment had been assumed by the President by denouncing the limits of international migration policies, and inequities in that area.

Questions by Experts

In follow-up questions, among other issues, Experts raised the situation of migrant children working in banana plantations; whether efforts to encourage literacy applied to irregular migrant children; whether Ecuador was lagging behind with regards to mental health; a request for statistical information with regards to the number of complaints pertaining to police officials when it came to human rights violations in particular of migrants; how the Government guaranteed and monitored the way in which its decisions were actually being implemented on the spot in remote far-off and rural areas; whether the Ibero-American Agreement on insurance had entered into force, or whether the process for this would be long; whether there was a limitation on remittances; what was the pressure on migrant spouses not to divorce as one of them therefore lost their rights and whether this situation could be misused; whether migrants could hold a position on the executive bodies of trade unions; and whether Ecuador exported social security benefits if a migrant returned home, or an Ecuadorian went abroad.


Response by Delegation

Responding to these issues and others, the delegation said on access by migrant children to education, they had a right to education, which was a universal right from which none could be excluded, and there was a Ministerial Agreement that was in force ensuring that not just refugees but also asylum-seekers had the right to be enrolled with an educational institution. There were sometimes problems in the remote areas, but the authorities were determined to receive complaints or grievances by the parents of children who had not been admitted, and thus ensure that they were admitted and not deprived of their right to education. On the police record on refugee issues, Ecuador and Colombia were working on a joint declaration. Ecuador maintained that asylum-seekers should produce a police record in order to ensure whether their safety would be threatened if they were returned to their country of origin. With regards to the number of investigations of trafficking, more than 150 cases were mentioned in the report, and only four had been sentenced. The criminalisation of this behaviour of child pornography, labour exploitation and trafficking in persons had only taken place recently, and the judicial process was very slow. The four cases that had been completed were estimated to be a good measure of success.

The text of the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers was integrated into the legal system. The problem was that the domestic system was often considered to be supreme by judges, who were not sufficiently aware that a range of conventions was part of the legal order. This was a problem of training, and judges needed to be trained in order to inculcate the new legal order, the delegation said. The immigrant visa was the same thing as a residence visa, and the non-immigrant visa allowed for temporary residence in the country. People who had been given status as residents or immigrants enjoyed all the benefits of Ecuadorian legislation, and could even get the identity document of the country. All residents had the right to work freely in Ecuador, without being required to obtain a work permit. In the case of non-residents, there were other options, including diplomat visas, student visas, refugee visas, and others. As for trade union rights, this right was enshrined in the Constitution and international instruments in the Labour Code, and it was fully enforced. The law prohibited the employment of minors through sub-contracting agencies and job agencies, and the Ministry of Employment was aware that this issue was extant, and had made it a priority area, the delegation said.

Ecuadorians who had been contributing to social security schemes in Spain had those contributions counted when they returned home, the delegation said, as well as the converse situation. The National Police was a professional body, and all the statistics concerning infractions or offences committed by police officers were punished depending on their seriousness. Complaints that came in with regards to the rights of migrants were fully investigated. On children, there had been working meetings in the banana plantation regions, and the companies involved were required to strictly comply with international norms. On deportation measures, there had been some problems with regards to transmission of decisions to the remoter areas, but work had been done to remedy this situation.
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For use of the information media; not an official record