On behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, I declare open the Seventh Meeting of States parties to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Warm welcome to all of you. It is my honour and privilege to address this meeting.
The plight of migrant workers makes the front pages of the world’s newspapers, but is still failing to generate sustainable human rights solutions. In April, Italian authorities rescued a staggering 1,500 migrants in one 24 hour period. Figures released by the International Organisation for Migration revealed that the number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Italy by sea in 2014 reached a total of 170,100. This was about four times the number registered in 2013. Large migrant flows were also recorded from Central American countries towards North America as well as across South East Asia.
Since the start of his mandate in September 2014, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has given priority to the rights of all migrants. In his Human Rights Day speech in December, he warned that the depiction of migrants as “invasive hordes” who are “threatening our way of life” must stop, and States must act with full respect for the human rights of all – including migrants.
The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families provides a comprehensive framework of rights to be respected at all stages of the migration process. This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Migrant Worker’s Convention. In this regard, I note with appreciation that many of the States represented here are active in promoting ratification of the Convention and I encourage you to continue doing so. It is time for all of us to redouble our efforts to bring the rights in the Convention to the people who are entitled to its protection.
Since your Sixth Meeting, Armenia signed the Convention on 26 September 2013, and both Mozambique and Madagascar ratified the Convention on 19 August 2013 and 13 May 2015, respectively. At present, there are 48 States parties to the Convention. Although these treaty actions are most welcome, the limited number of States having ratified or acceded to the Convention remains the most significant challenge faced by the Committee in ensuring the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families.
My Office continues to promote ratification of the Convention by communicating with signatory States, liaising with civil society and international trade unions, as well as following up recommendations made during the second cycle of the UPR with both the States concerned and the relevant field presences.
In a joint statement issued with the ILO Director-General to mark the International Migrants Day on 18 December, the High Commissioner noted that refusing to give migrants and their families access to education, health care and adequate housing is practically short-sighted as equality and non-discrimination are important drivers of sustainable development.
Before turning to the substantive items on the provisional agenda, allow me to briefly refer to recent developments of interest concerning the activities of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The Committee has so far held 22 sessions. Since the Sixth Meeting of States parties, the Committee considered 12 reports of States parties and, in each case, adopted conclusions and recommendations aimed at the effective implementation of the Convention at the national level. The Committee adopted two Lists of Issues based upon reports submitted to it as well as 12 Lists of Issues Prior to Reporting under the simplified reporting procedure.
The Committee issued several statements on the human rights of migrants and their family members. In July 2014, the Chair of the Committee issued a statement focusing on immigration detention of children. The Committee noted that 35 million children migrate every year for a variety of reasons, including deteriorating security and economic conditions, lack of educational and work opportunities, as well seeking out parents who are working abroad, and called upon States to cease immigration detention of children and adopt alternatives to detention that fulfil the best interests of the child. Following a number of migrant tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea, in April 2015 the Committee urged States to adopt a new approach to migration focusing on the human rights of migrants and addressing the root causes of this complex phenomenon in cooperation with States of origin, transit and destination.
At its twenty-second session, held in April 2015, the Committee organised an informal meeting with States parties to provide an update on efforts made to promote the ratification of the Convention, as well as to discuss possible activities to mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention, which will take place on 18 December 2015.
We will remember 2014 as the year in which the intergovernmental treaty body strengthening exercise came to a conclusion with the adoption of General Assembly resolution 68/268. The Committee has now been provided with three additional days of meeting time for the purpose of increasing the number of States parties that it is able to review annually. The General Assembly also recognized in resolution 68/268 that strengthening the treaty body system requires increased harmonization of working methods across treaty bodies.
It is noteworthy that the Committee was the first Committee to adopt many key proposals and recommendations addressed to the treaty bodies contained in the report of the former High Commissioner for Human Rights on strengthening the United Nations treaty body system (A/66/860), including those concerning the guidelines on independence and impartiality of members of the human rights bodies and the simplified reporting procedure. The Committee also discussed the issue of reprisals against individuals and groups interacting with the Committee, and decided that such matters will be dealt with by the Bureau of the Committee.
The nomination and election process is a determining factor of paramount importance to the expertise and efficiency of each treaty body. As such, the Office invites States parties to adopt national policies and processes for the nomination of experts, and proposes that a public space be opened for all States parties to present their potential candidates for treaty bodies.