Committee on Rights of Migrant Workers
13 April 2016
The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families this morning concluded its consideration of the initial report of Lesotho on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
Presenting the report, Lekhetho Rakuoane, Minister of Home Affairs of Lesotho, said that there had been significant progress in the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families, as evidenced by the number of laws pertaining to this issue. The Government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Labour Cooperation with South Africa to regulate and address issues relating to semi-skilled migrant workers. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2011 had been adopted, and a team of law enforcement officials had, since its establishment in 2015, managed to rescue 20 victims of trafficking. Lesotho had been vulnerable to the effects of the global financial crisis, and efforts had been undertaken for job creation and poverty elimination. Despite efforts made to assist farmers, productivity had not responded positively due to ever changing weather conditions and climate change. Pursuant to this, a state of emergency on food insecurity had been declared by Lesotho, calling for assistance from the international community.
During the dialogue, Experts noted the particular geographic situation of Lesotho, and asked a number of questions with regard to its cooperation with South Africa on migration-related issues. Committee Members raised a number of concerns with regards to abuses against workers in the mining industry, xenophobia against the Chinese population, and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. They noted that Lesotho had a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and asked how this affected its migration policies. They encouraged Lesotho to strengthen its efforts for the implementation and dissemination of the Convention.
In concluding remarks, Jose Brillantes, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Lesotho, congratulated the delegation for making the dialogue as fruitful and constructive as possible. The Committee would now elaborate its recommendations, and Lesotho was encouraged to implement them.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Rakuoane assured the Committee that Lesotho would continue its efforts to better protect migrants’ rights, to address remaining challenges and to fully cooperate with the international community and with human rights instruments. Lesotho would strengthen efforts relating to registration and to combatting statelessness.
During the meeting, the Committee elected Committee Expert Jose Brillantes as its Chairperson. Committee Experts Pablo Ceriani Cernadas, Fatoumata Abdourhamane Dicko and Jasminka Dzumhur were elected as Vice-Chairpersons, and Abdelhamid El Jamri was elected as Committee Rapporteur.
The Committee will reconvene today at 3 p.m., to start its consideration of the combined second and third periodic report of Senegal (CMW/C/SEN/2-3
The initial report of Lesotho can be read here: CMW/C/LSO/1
Presentation of the Report
LEKHETHO RAKUOANE, Minister of Home Affairs of Lesotho, said that Lesotho perceived State party reporting and reviewing as an effective tool for an open, objective and constructive assessment of achievements, shortcomings and challenges in implementing the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Lesotho had a dualist system, meaning that international treaties were effected by enactments of Acts of Parliament. The Constitution was the supreme law of the land and guaranteed the principles of equality, non-discrimination and freedom from inhumane or degrading treatment. The obligations under the Convention were realized through Acts of Parliament, subsidiary legislation and policies reviewed regularly to ensure that they remained relevant for the protection of migrants.
The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act 2011 protected the rights of all children in conflict and affected by the law, and established the children’s court. The rights of children of migrant workers in Lesotho were secured equally as those of other children. The Labour Code Order 1992 was currently under review, with a view to strengthen the legislation of recruitment agencies, enabling them to carry out proper follow-up on people they recruit. This would contribute to combatting human trafficking. Although socio-economic rights were not justiciable, the Government had put measures in place to safeguard them. The Education Act 2010 provided for free and compulsory primary education for all children and further set up a penalty for parents or guardians keeping children at home. This measure had also assisted in reducing child exploitation. The Government provided free health services in clinics at minimal cost.
There had been significant progress in the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families, as evidenced by the number of laws pertaining to this issue. The Government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Labour Cooperation with South Africa in November 2013 to regulate and address issues relating to semi-skilled migrant workers travelling from Lesotho to South Africa. This agreement also covered issues of dispute resolution, social dialogue and cooperation between the two countries. A large number of persons relied on migration, and proper regulation of migration issues could contribute enormously to the development of countries of origin and destination.
Although notable progress had been achieved, challenges remained. Lesotho had witnessed an increase in human trafficking, particularly against women and children. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2011 had been adopted, and intensive awareness-raising measures had also been carried out, in partnership with civil society organizations, law enforcement officials, and local authorities. In March 2011, the Ministry of Social Development had trained 21 persons on basic trafficking victim identification. A team of law enforcement officials had, since its establishment in 2015, managed to rescue 20 victims of trafficking and had secured 17 cases of which 10 were before the courts and 7 were still pending investigation. Lesotho had been vulnerable to the effects of the global financial crisis. Worsening unemployment rates had affected labour migration flows. Basotho mineworkers in South Africa had been laid off with dire financial and social consequences, especially in rural areas. To address this challenge, efforts had been undertaken for job creation and poverty elimination, including through measures to strengthen small and medium businesses. Despite efforts made to assist farmers, productivity had not responded positively due to ever changing weather conditions and climate change. Pursuant to this, in 2015 a state of emergency on food insecurity was declared by the Prime Minister, calling for assistance from the international community.
Questions by the Experts
JOSE BRILLANTES, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Lesotho, commended Lesotho’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. He noted that there had been no punishment or conviction yet under this particular law, and asked whether Lesotho was facing any difficulty in its implementation that the Committee could help resolve. He pointed at the fact that the body in charge of the implementation of this legislation had not received any funding. The Expert then recalled that Lesotho was a country landlocked inside South Africa, and asked how immigration relations with South Africa were managed. What was the role of Lesotho’s consular services? Continuing, he noted that Lesotho had one of the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world, and asked how this affected the country’s migration policies. Mr. Brillantes noted that there had been reports of violations in relation to the mining industry in South Africa, and asked what had been done in that regard. Moving on, he referred to reports of “Sinophobia”, or xenophobia against Chinese immigrants in Lesotho, and asked how this was being handled by the Government. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity also seemed not to be properly addressed. Was civil society consulted for the preparation of Lesotho’s initial report? Would Lesotho proceed to establish a national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles? Was there a programme for family reunification?
With regards to the domestication of the Convention, an Expert noted that the Constitution provided that international treaties had legal value only when incorporated by a law. No legislation had been enacted to transpose the provisions of the Convention, he regretted. Moreover, some pieces of Lesotho’s legislation were not in line with the Convention.
An Expert asked whether measures had been taken to control the recruitment of migrant workers by private employment agencies.
With regards to international human rights instruments, an Expert regretted that Lesotho had not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
A Committee Member asked what would be done to ensure that the national human rights institution was in full compliance with the Paris Principles.
An Expert asked some questions on gender equality and gender parity in State institutions.
Turning to family issues, a Committee Member noted some gaps in the national legislation to ensure that all new-born children had a nationality and to combat statelessness.
Child labour seemed to continue despite the adoption of legislation on this issue, Experts noted. Was there any action plan for the implementation of this legislation?
What measures ensured that foreign nationals, particularly migrant workers in South Africa, could vote in national elections? How many consulates did Lesotho have in South Africa? What services did they provide to foreign nationals?
Replies by the Delegation
The mining industry had led to health challenges and diseases, which were still rampant in the country, the delegation said. Lesotho was still trying to push for compensation to be provided to affected former mine workers.
In 1991, there had been an incident of xenophobia against Chinese immigrants. There were no such cases anymore, and the Chinese population lived safely in the country.
With regards to work permits, between 300,000 and 500,000 people could benefit from an agreement between Lesotho and South Africa.
There were four consulate offices in South Africa, a delegate said. They provided services in rural areas as well.
The law on citizenship was indeed outdated, a delegate agreed. It needed to be reviewed in order to allow people to enjoy dual citizenship. There were thousands of children without papers, and Lesotho was in need of international assistance to address this issue.
Civil society organizations were consulted for the elaboration of the report.
Constitution amendments provided for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, which would hopefully be running before the end of the year, in compliance with the Paris Principles.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert raised some questions on the detention of irregular migrants under the same conditions as criminals under ordinary law. What provisions were available to ensure that migrants were helped in conditions that complied with the Convention? The expulsion of irregular migrants was decided by the Ministry of Interior and was not subject to an appeal mechanism, an Expert noted with concern.
Turning to labour, a Committee Member was concerned that some migrant workers could not receive financial remuneration, which exposed them to risks of exploitation. Could migrant workers receive employment benefits? What was being done to provide legal redress? Was free legal counsel provided to migrant workers? Was there a social security agreement with South Africa for Lesotho nationals working there?
JOSE BRILLANTES, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Lesotho, said that Lesotho should encourage South Africa to ratify the Convention. He then asked what measures had been taken to disseminate the Convention, and whether it had been translated in Sesotho. What measures had been taken to train law enforcement officers on issues relating to migration? The Expert regretted the lack of information on specific measures taken to implement the Convention and Lesotho’s national development policy. He was also concerned about the lack of information on measures to tackle exploitation linked to prostitution.
During the meeting, the Committee proceeded to the election of its Chairperson through secret ballot. With six votes in favour out of 11 votes, the Committee elected Committee Expert Jose Brillantes as its Chairperson. Committee Experts Pablo Ceriani Cernadas, Fatoumata Abdourhamane Dicko and Jasminka Dzumhur were nominated as Vice-Chairpersons, and Abdelhamid El Jamri was nominated as Committee Rapporteur.
Replies by the Delegation
Starting with the domestication of the Convention, the delegation recalled that Lesotho had a dualist system. Because the Convention was a cross-cutting instrument affecting many different areas, its domestication required the harmonization of different parts of the legislation. Lesotho had not yet signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention, but individual people and organizations had the possibility to file individual complaints. The Government was also looking into the possibility of acceding to the International Labour Organization’s Convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, but already had laws covering this issue.
The Government had undertaken activities for the dissemination of the Convention through partnerships with workers themselves and awareness-raising campaigns.
Minimum wages were provided to all migrant workers, a delegate said.
Lesotho currently had no agreement on social security with South Africa.
Lesotho was committed to make efforts to comply with the Convention with regard to the detention of migrants.
The Labour Code imposed on recruitment agencies to inform migrant workers of their rights and to provide them with support in case of labour disputes.
A Children’s Court had been established, and a national plan had been established to improve the quality of children’s life. A law against child labour had been adopted, and the Government was working hand in hand with the United Nations Children’s Fund on this issue. There was a large number of orphans in the country, and the Government had been trying to provide them with protection. Measures had also sought to prevent unaccompanied children from crossing borders, by ensuring their registration and hence minimizing their risk of being subjected to trafficking.
The Anti-Trafficking Agency had conducted visits to places where workers had allegedly been abused.
The Government had encountered challenges with regards to family reunification. It was working with the Government of South Africa on this issue, and automatically allowed immediate family members to stay with their migrant relatives in Lesotho.
Consular services in South Africa offered support to migrant workers there.
Safety officers had been trained to monitor working conditions for migrant workers.
The Government was collecting disaggregated statistics on migrant workers.
Turning to gender balance, the delegation said that boys had traditionally not been encouraged to go to school but to work in the mining industry instead, leaving women with the opportunity to gain education and accede decision-making jobs.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were considered as any other persons under the Constitution. There was no specific legislation protecting them because of the influence of the Church. These persons were however tolerated in the society, and organizations working on their behalf were allowed to operate and advocate freely.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert noted that, although the Convention concerned migrant workers, its dissemination should target the entire population. She asked whether measures had been taken to include the media in dissemination efforts.
An Expert asked whether unaccompanied or orphan children of migrant workers in Lesotho had the possibility to return to their home country, and whether their relatives would be informed.
JOSE BRILLANTES, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Lesotho, was concerned that the Office of the Ombudsman of Lesotho did not have any explicit human rights mandate.
Replies by the Delegation
The media had not really been directly involved in dissemination efforts, the delegation said. The media was involved in dissemination through its participation in non-governmental organization initiatives and activities called Media Houses.
The Government attached importance to the wellbeing of migrant children, and was working closely with South Africa on this issue.
The Ombudsman was in charge of human rights and corruption issues.
JOSE BRILLANTES, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Lesotho, congratulated the delegation for making the dialogue as fruitful and constructive as possible. The Committee would now elaborate its recommendations, and Lesotho was encouraged to implement them.
LEKHETHO RAKUOANE, Minister of Home Affairs of Lesotho, in his concluding remarks, thanked the Committee Members for their welcoming reception. He assured the Committee that Lesotho would continue its efforts to better protect migrants’ rights and to address remaining challenges and gaps. The Government was also committed to fully cooperate with the international community and with human rights instruments. Many laws were in the pipeline, and Lesotho would continue its efforts to promote the ratification of the Convention by its partners. Recommendations by the Committee would be disseminated, and efforts would be made to strengthen efforts relating to registration and to combat statelessness.
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