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States ignoring their own remedies to migrants’ problems - UN Human Rights Chief

(Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to mark International Migrants Day, 18 December 2010)

GENEVA – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Friday that the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families remains one of the least ratified of the core international human rights treaties, 20 years after its adoption by the UN General Assembly.

“We know what is needed to protect the human rights of migrant workers and members of their families, whatever their status – and we know what it takes to promote sound, equitable, humane and lawful conditions of migration. All that is clearly laid out in the Migrant Workers Convention,” Pillay said. “States also know this, because 20 years ago they came together to codify these essential elements into a legally binding treaty.”

“Yet,” she added, “only 44 States have ratified the Migrant Workers Convention since its adoption on 18 December 1990, virtually all of them from the developing world. This is one of the lowest, slowest adoption rates for any international convention, and it is hampering the effective protection of the human rights of all migrants.”

The Convention opened a new chapter determining the rights of migrant workers and their families. It provides standards for domestic policies and laws that recognize the specific vulnerabilities of migrants. It promotes humane working and living conditions for migrant workers, and sets out the rights of often neglected family members.

“Given that migrants often live in a nebulous, unprotected legal limbo in host countries,” Pillay said, “one of the main goals of the Convention is to provide States with explicit guidance on the application of fundamental human rights to migrants, even if they are in an irregular situation. I urge those States that have not yet done so to ratify the Convention and ensure its effective implementation.”

The High Commissioner said the Convention is “today more relevant than ever,” since the world has gone through multiple surges of migration in the past two decades and more than 214 million people are now international migrants.

“We are witnessing a disturbing tendency towards criminalization of irregular migration, which is likely to fuel further discrimination, exclusion, exploitation and abuse of migrants at every step of the way,” Pillay warned. “Growing reports of violence against migrants in transit, as well as in destination countries, reflect a rise of intolerance, xenophobia and racism against them and their communities, a distressing trend which underscores the need for better protection.”

In September, the Global Migration Group, a collective of 14 United Nations agencies, the International Organization for Migration and the World Bank, which is currently chaired by the High Commissioner, adopted a landmark statement speaking out in one voice for the protection of the human rights of all migrants, especially the tens of millions of irregular and undocumented migrants.

“Human rights violations against migrants are often closely linked to discriminatory law and practice, and to deep-seated attitudes of prejudice and xenophobia,” Pillay said. “This must not be allowed to continue. Discrimination against any group of human beings, including migrants, is unacceptable.”

(*) International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cmw.htm

Statement of the Global Migration Group on the Human Rights of Migrants in Irregular Situation

Learn more about the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/HighCommissioner.aspx

For more information on OHCHR mandate and work: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/WelcomePage.aspx

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