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Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers holds an informal meeting with States

Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers 

4 September 2019

Discusses Global Compact on Migration, Financial Problems Facing the United Nations and their Impact on the Work of the Treaty Bodies, among Other Issues

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families this afternoon held an informal meeting with States, during which participants discussed the Global Compact on Migration, financial problems facing the United Nations and their impact on the activities of the treaty bodies, and the Committee’s work on draft General Comment No. 5 on the right to liberty and protection against arbitrary detention of migrants, among others.   

Committee Chairperson Ahmadou Tall said that during the treaty body Chairpersons meeting that took place in New York, the Secretary-General of the United Nations had insisted on the vitally important role of the treaty bodies, and had underscored that the United Nations was going through a critical period due to the Organization’s preoccupying financial situation.  He said treaty body Chairpersons were committed to harmonizing procedures and work methods and had formulated propositions to that end. 

Jasminka Dzumhur, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, said increasingly, labour migration and mobility were being addressed at the regional and sub-regional levels, and the Convention could also provide important guidance in that respect.  It set minimum obligations for the protection of migrant workers and members of their families and provided a framework for a human rights-based policymaking. 

Maria Landazuri da Mora, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, said migration had a female face.  The Convention had a clear approach recognizing the members of the families of migrant workers; they were not viewed as individual persons.  To ensure an effective protection of their rights, State and regional mechanisms would need to build migration mechanisms that integrated a gender perspective based on human rights.  

Speaking of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, Committee Expert Charef Mohammed said that it was a shame that instead of being a bedrock for the Compact, along with the International Labour Organization conventions, the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families was merely invoked in a footnote.  The Committee had nevertheless been energetically, actively and strongly engaged in the reflection and concertation process that had led to the launch of the Compact.

Alvaro Botero Navarro, Committee Rapporteur, said there was a worrying trend of increased detention of migrants.  While some States had implemented alternatives to detention that had yielded positive results, others still detained children, despite the clear prohibition of this practice put forth in international human rights instruments.  There were also serious deficiencies in access to justice for migrants in detention.  The draft General Comment No. 5 would address the responsibility of States to protect the right of migrants to liberty and freedom from detention.

In the discussion that ensued, States encouraged the collaboration between treaty bodies, special mandate holders and other stakeholders.  They hailed the draft General Comment No. 5, and pointed out that the global number of migrants, refugees and internally displaced person had reached record levels.  They said that an issue which they faced was how to implement the Convention by devising regional strategies.

Speaking in the discussion were Philippines, Burkina Faso, Azerbaijan, Mozambique and Morocco.
The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 6 September, at 10 a.m. to consider the third periodic report of Colombia ( CMW/C/COL/3 ).

Statements by Committee Members

AHMADOU TALL, Committee Chairperson, said that, during the ninth meeting of States parties that had taken place in New York in June 2019, seven new Committee members had been elected, four of which for the first time, namely Khaled Cheikhna Babacar from Mauritania, Edgar Corzo Sosa from Mexico, Pablo Cesar Garcia Saenz from Guatemala and Myriam Poussi from Burkina Faso.

International migration was a complex phenomenon, which implied various matters straddling different areas affecting the human rights of migrants.  The management of migration flows, international protection, trafficking in persons as well as other factors affecting migration called for the implementation of a global approach centred on human rights.  There were about 258 million migrants in the world, about half of whom were women.  Of all those migrants, 20 per cent were in an irregular situation.

“Migration is an everyday reality that we should accept,” Mr. Tall stated.  It was a normal strategy to adapt to climate change and natural disasters.  It was often the only option for entire communities facing domestic catastrophes.  States should address the effects of climate change, the degradation of the environment, and natural disasters as factors that heighten migration.

Migrant rights were often violated.  They worked in deleterious and dangerous conditions, with a high rate of injury, disease and death.  Their wages were under the minima set by law, and were subjected to fraudulent practices, excessive work schedules and even kidnapping at the hands of their employers.  Sexual harassment, threats and intimidation were also amongst problems they faced.

During the treaty body Chairpersons meeting that took place in New York, the Secretary-General of the United Nations had insisted on the vitally important role of the treaty bodies, and had underscored that the United Nations was going through a critical period due to the Organization’s preoccupying financial situation.  The Secretary-General had said that, along with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, no efforts had been spared to ensure that the treaty bodies’ sessions could continue as planned in 2019.  The Organization’s financial situation remained critical, however, as regards the planning for 2020.

During that meeting, treaty body Chairpersons had put forward measures that could be implemented without delay by each Committee.  These measures aimed at improving coordination and the used of simplified reporting procedures.  Other measures were presented that could be progressively implemented, such as the creation of a reporting system that was more predictable and regular.

Treaty body Chairpersons were committed to harmonizing procedures and work methods.  They believed that these propositions, which aimed at focusing, coordinating and rationalizing reporting procedures, would reinforce interactions with States parties, other stakeholders and treaty bodies.

Migration should be a positive and stimulating experience for individuals and societies.  It should be an experience that contributed to economic progress and human development, both in migrants’ own countries and their countries of destination.  Additional efforts must be made to provide a remedy to the root causes of desperate acts of flight.

JASMINKA DŽUMHUR, Committee Vice-Chairperson, said that, increasingly, labour migration and mobility was being addressed at the regional and sub-regional levels, and the Convention could also provide important guidance in that respect.  It set minimum obligations for the protection of migrant workers and members of their families and provided a framework for a human rights-based policymaking. 

The Committee had carried out actions aiming to increase the ratification of the Convention, including sending letters to States and holding bilateral meetings with some of them.  And yet, significant progress had not been achieved.  It was not possible to give a clear explanation as to why, exactly, States were not ready to ratify this instrument.  All rights defined in it had already been outlined in other United Nations instruments.  The Committee would continue to promote the Convention and the rights which it prescribed.  She reiterated an invitation to States that had signed the Convention, namely that they take further steps to ratify it.

CHAREF MOHAMMED, Committee Expert, said that migration was an omnipresent issue in all societies; it was complex, cross-cutting and multidimensional.  It was controversial, exploited and used to fuel populism.  The 162 States that had met in Marrakech in December 2018 had approved the Global Compact for a Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  The United States’ withdrawal even though negotiations were underway had led other countries to back out, such as Hungary, Austria, Israel, Poland, Australia, Slovakia and Bulgaria.  Others had come close to withdrawing, including Italy, Denmark and Belgium.

It was a shame that instead of being a bedrock for the Compact, along with the International Labour Organization conventions, the Convention on the Rights of Migrants Workers and Members of their Families was merely invoked in a footnote.  The Committee had nevertheless been energetically, actively and strongly engaged in the reflection and concertation process that had led to the launch of the Compact.  Member States must imperatively agree on a common position to realize the Compact’s 23 objectives.  It was evident that the Compact and the Convention were threading one and the same path.  Efforts had to be made to foster fruitful cooperation that could adapt to new challenges.

MARIA LANDAZURI DE MORA, Committee Vice-Chairperson, said migration had a female face.  The Convention had a clear approach recognizing the members of the families of migrant workers; they were not viewed as individual persons.  To ensure an effective protection of their rights, State and regional mechanisms would need to build a migration mechanism that integrated a gender perspective based on human rights.  They had to recognize the role played by women in migration and promote their empowerment and leadership.  The perspective that considered women as victims had to be abandoned.

The effective protection of the human rights of migrants was put to a test when there were massive flows of migrants.  Forced migrations and displacements were due to desperate reactions of people forced to flee after being subjected to violations in their home countries.  In that context, civil society was the best guarantor for the protection of the rights of persons on the move.  Furthermore, it was important to note that public opinion was an important factor in the protection of human rights of migrants.  She called on States, authorities, leaders and communications platforms to abstain from spreading ideas that divided communities and dehumanized migrants.

ALVARO BOTERO NAVARRO, Committee Rapporteur, said the draft General Comment on migrants’ right to liberty and freedom from detention would provide authoritative guidance to States in their implementation of the Convention.  A concept note had been published, following which numerous submissions had been made from various stakeholders, including State parties, civil society organizations and academia.

There was a worrying trend of increased detention of migrants.  While some States had implemented alternatives to detention that had yielded positive results, others still detained children, despite the clear prohibition of this practice put forth in international human rights instruments.  There were also serious deficiencies in access to justice for migrants in detention.  The draft General Comment would address the responsibility of States to protect migrants’ right to liberty and freedom from detention.  In line with the ideas presented during the treaty body Chairpersons meeting that had taken place in New York, regional consultations on this draft General Comment would be held in Mexico, at the invitation of the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico.   

Discussion

Philippines said the protection of overseas Filipinos was a key pillar of the country's foreign policy, and migrant workers protection was a key component of the Government’s agenda.  The Philippines had strongly advocated for the respect of the rights of migrants, regardless of their migratory status.  It encouraged the collaboration between treaty bodies, special mandate holders and other stakeholders.

Burkina Faso said the Convention was a central mechanism in mobilizing stakeholders and recalling countries’ responsibility in migrant workers and families.  Burkina reaffirmed its full support for the treaty bodies in general and this Committee in particular.  Despite having accepted the simplified procedure, the list of issues had not been sent.  Burkina Faso hailed the draft General Comment no. 5. During the meeting of the treaty body Chairpersons, what had been the essence of exchange with the Secretary-General and what had been his view on the budgetary situation?

Azerbaijan said this Committee was an important treaty body.  The global number of migrants, refugees and internally displaced person had reached record levels.  An electronic system had been put in place in Azerbaijan to allow nationals from about 100 countries to obtain visas quickly, including in emergency situations.  Azerbaijan was pleased to host the Committee’s informal follow-up meeting set to take place in Baku.

An Expert noted that the Convention had not been signed by a majority of host countries.  If the country of destination was not a signatory to the Convention, the Committee found itself in a difficult situation.  Still, it could act. For instance, when a migrant child’s rights were violated, the matter could be raised with colleagues from the Committee on the Rights of Children.  Nevertheless, States parties should inform the Committee of violations their nationals were subjected to in other countries. 

Mozambique confirmed that it was still committed to implementing the Convention, which it had ratified.  In 2018, it had presented a report to the Committee.  An issue faced was the implementation of the Convention.  How should regional strategies be designed?  Xenophobia was still rearing its head in some countries of the region.  Some countries had ratified the Convention but still faced xenophobia and discrimination in the region.

Morocco said it had taken considerable measures to protect the rights of migrants.  It had adopted a regularization process from which 24,000 persons had benefited.  It was still attached to international cooperation, which was increasingly necessary in the face of increased migration flows.  Morocco was fully willing and available to work with the Committee.

AHMADOU TALL, Committee Chairperson, responding to Burkina Faso’s questions, recalled that the treaty body Chairpersons had appealed to the Secretary-General to maintain the sessions that had been planned for the last quarter of 2019.  During his meeting with treaty body Chairpersons, the Secretary-General had conveyed that he understood the importance of the treaty bodies’ work.  Thanks to his intervention, the sessions that were supposed to be cancelled were in fact confirmed.  Whilst awaiting the 2020 review, it was important to recognize that a crisis was ongoing, and find a way to articulate reforms so as to address the financial issues.  While this was primarily the responsibility of States, treaty bodies also had a role to play in that regard.

An Expert said that more than 60 per cent of African migrants stayed in Africa.  There was work to be done at the continental and sub-regional level.  He expressed hope that an African Commissioner for Migration would be appointed.  The DNA of migration was the DNA of humanity; stakeholders had to work together to address the challenges in Africa.

AHMADOU TALL, Committee Chairperson, said the media and journalists had to be mobilized on migration issues.  Efforts had to be made to combat xenophobia. It was important for Southern African Development Community Members, amongst others, to carry out awareness-raising activities in that regard.  

Concluding Remarks

AHMADOU TALL, Committee Chairperson, thanked all the participants, all the States parties that supported the Committee, as well as all the United Nations agencies that collaborated with it.  He thanked civil society organizations and the various Committee partners for helping it promote the Convention, as well as the universities that had supported the Committee in its thought processes.  “More than ever, we have to collectively strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts to promote the Convention,” Mr. Tall said.

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For use of the information media; not an official record
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