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02 September 2015
2 September 2015
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 Guinea on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Introducing the report, Khalifa Gassama Diaby, Minister of Human Rights and Civil Liberties of Guinea, stated that Guinea had ratified the Convention in September 2000, and the initial report had been prepared in a participative and consultative process involving various ministerial departments and national institutions dealing with migration issues. In spite of various structural difficulties, Guinea was fully committed to the protection of migrant workers and members of their families. The 2014 Labour Code prohibited discrimination on numerous grounds in the field of employment. The provisions of the draft revised Criminal Code included the prohibition of discrimination in different aspects of life. The complex nature of the problem of migration, especially given the fragility of Guinea’s institutions and some societal resistance, did not make things easier, but there was no alternative to the respect of human rights as a basis for the development of a democratic society.
In the ensuing discussion, Experts repeatedly noted that the lack of relevant statistics and disaggregated data on migrants and the population in general was a serious weakness which ought to be rectified. They asked about the conditions of migrant children and measures undertaken to combat trafficking in human beings. Questions were asked about the role of the Ministry of Human Rights and Civil Liberties, the situation of Guineans living abroad and possibilities for their return home, the system of sending remittances, the effect of the Ebola epidemic on the situation of migrants in Guinea, and the issue of corruption among the law enforcement entities. Experts also wanted to know more about family welfare payments, residency permits, protection of the most vulnerable categories, the judicial reform process, and prison sentences handed down to those who stayed in Guinea longer than authorized.
Khedidja Ladjel, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guinea, in concluding remarks, said that the solutions lay partly in putting in place real migration policies, which should ensure that everyone could express their potential fully. The productive repercussions of migration ought to be supported, while efforts on the harmonization of national legislation and provisions for those who had suffered needed to be continued.
Ahmadou Tall, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guinea, said Guinea was undergoing changes and peace consolidation, and was facing democratization and development challenges. Human rights could not be side lined in the process of democratization and development, which was why the Ministry of Human Rights had a central role to play.
Mr. Diaby, in closing remarks, stressed that human rights indeed lay at the core of everything that was being done in Guinea. Heartfelt thanks were expressed to the Committee for the rich exchange and constructive ideas. Migration had to be mainstreamed into the larger field of human rights.
The delegation of Guinea included representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights and Civil Liberties, National Commission for the Integration of Refugees, and the Permanent Mission of Guinea to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. today, when it will start the consideration of the initial report of the Seychelles (CMW/C/SYC/1).
The initial report of Guinea can be found here (French only).
Presentation of the Report
KHALIFA GASSAMA DIABY, Minister of Human Rights and Civil Liberties of Guinea, presenting the report, said that regular migration represented a powerful factor of mutual enrichment and closer cooperation of States around the world. On the other hand, irregular migration created a vicious circle of trafficking in persons, selling persons and other related problems, which ought to be fought in an efficient manner, while fully respecting the human rights and dignity of migrants. It was in that context that Guinea was planning to adopt a national policy on migration, which would take into account numerous relevant strategies in order to ensure the effective management of migratory flows and the diaspora.
Guinea had ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in September 2000, and was now presenting its initial report, which had been prepared in a participative and consultative process involving various ministerial departments and national institutions dealing with migration issues. The Convention represented a true source of inspiration and guidance when it came to defining public policies on managing migratory flows. Guinea had also ratified 58 International Labour Organization conventions, 50 of which were applicable to foreign nationals working in Guinea. Migration had become a worldwide concern and a subject of numerous debates. Guinea did not have satisfactory statistics for the time being, which complicated its analysis of migratory flows. A Ministry responsible for expatriate Guineans was now operational. Despite various structural difficulties, Guinea was fully committed to the protection of migrant workers and members of their families. The 2014 Labour Code prohibited discrimination on numerous grounds in the field of employment. The provisions of the draft revised Criminal Code included the prohibition of discrimination in different aspects of life. In 2012, the Ministry on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms had been established. Guinea had also taken several measures to better manage the flow of migrants; efforts were being made to ensure their fair participation in the social, cultural and economic life of the country.
Despite all those efforts, the Government acknowledged the fact that it still had a lot of ground to cover. The Government needed help, which it requested from relevant international organizations. In particular, assistance was needed to carry out a proper census of Guineans living abroad; to establish a reliable financial transfer system; and to facilitate the situation of Guineans in difficulty in host countries where economic circumstances might have deteriorated. The effort needed to come from all stakeholders, in Guinea and abroad. Miracles could not be achieved overnight, but the fight ought to be fought with tenacity and determination. The complex nature of the problem, especially given the fragility of Guinea’s institutions and some societal resistance, did not make things easier, but there was no alternative to the respect of human rights as a basis for the development of a democratic society.
Mr. Diaby stressed the commitment of the Government of Guinea to respect, in spite of all the challenges, its international obligations vis-à-vis the respect of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families.
Questions by Experts
KHEDIDJA LADJEL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guinea, said that the Committee had used numerous sources and consulted internally in the preparation for the current session.
Regarding the 2014 population census, the Expert asked why its results had not yet been validated by the Government. The data could become outdated if the Government waited for too long.
Had civil society played an active role in responding to the list of issues for the initial report?
Could the delegation provide any information on the benefits of existing programmes combatting trafficking in human beings? Journalists had a role to play in the awareness-raising exercises. How did they contribute to increasing awareness of the Convention?
The Expert asked about the delay in the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman.
Often time, young Guineans would not return home from abroad after having failed to establish themselves in foreign countries. The main reason was the sense of shame. Was the Government doing anything to help reintegrate such people with dignity?
Did migrants in Guinea have access to interpretation services?
A question was asked about the protection of migrant children? Was the Children’s Code being applied in practice? Were free birth registration and vaccination programmes applied to the children of migrant workers?
Trafficking remained a serious phenomenon. What was the State party doing to prevent it and punish perpetrators of such acts?
AHMADOU TALL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guinea, noted that human rights were a cross-cutting issue. It was praiseworthy that Guinea had established the Ministry on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as somebody needed to take primary responsibility for human rights. Could more information be provided about the budget and the responsibilities of the Ministry?
What measures had been taken to ensure that the norms from the Convention were incorporated in the ongoing reforms?
Had specific measures been taken to carry out a study on Guineans living abroad?
An Expert asked if it was true that if an application for stay in Guinea was refused, foreigners had to leave the country within two weeks or be prosecuted.
A question was asked about the impact of the 2012 Paris forum, whose goal was to encourage capable, educated young Guineans to return home.
What actions had been taken to implement and disseminate recommendations of the Committee against Torture? Had any measures been taken related to acts of violence committed against migrants?
Information was sought about the procedures for foreigners wishing to leave the Guinean territory.
Did children of undocumented migrants benefit from the right to education, and how was that implemented in practice?
The Expert also asked about information programmes aimed at educating Guineans who intended to emigrate.
Could the delegation provide details on bilateral and multilateral agreements regulating the area of migration?
Another Expert asked about the role played by migration in the development of Guinea – could more qualitative and quantitative information in that regard be provided?
What was the State party doing to break the vicious circle of trafficking in persons?
A question was asked on whether the current Criminal Code provided penalties for discrimination.
How far had the State party gone regarding the collection of statistics, the Expert inquired.
Were there plans to encourage Guineans living abroad to send part of their salaries home without paying exorbitant fees to various “intermediary” companies?
Questions were asked about the procedures for Guinean workers migrating abroad. Were there rules and regulations for that, or did people simply move in a spontaneous manner? Which way did they go?
Was Guinea affected by the phenomenon of unaccompanied migrant children?
An Expert asked whether there was a particular office or department in charge of the coordination of migration issues.
Was there a mechanism for making Guineans working in other countries belonging to the Economic Community of West African States aware of their rights? What happened in practice regarding the protection of Guineans who found themselves in trouble in a neighbouring country?
The Expert wanted to know how the Labour Code worked in practical terms.
Did Guineans working abroad benefit from their pension rights upon their return home?
The question of prohibition of foreigners’ access to certain activities was raised by another Expert.
Did the Convention have precedence over domestic legislation, an Expert inquired.
Turning to the question of the rights of foreign workers in Guinea, the Expert wanted to know if they all received a minimum wage. Did they have trade union rights and benefit from social security?
The issue of cooperation of Guinea with European countries in the area of regular migration was also brought up. Had Guinea developed any legal channels for migrants working together with Spain and other Member States of the European Union?
An Expert asked about reintegration programmes for Guinean children returning to Guinea from abroad.
Was the Government of Guinea concerned about the family members of those who left the country in order to seek better life abroad, another Expert inquired.
Could more information be provided about Guinea’s consular policy in cases of deportation and legal proceedings?
The lack of exact statistics was raised again by another Expert. Did the State party have an estimate of migratory flows from, to and through Guinea?
Given that Guinea had very long borders with several countries, how did the State party handle migratory flows, and how did it identify who was Guinean and who was foreigner?
Was the issue of migration going to be an issue in the upcoming election?
To what degree had governmental programmes on migration and handling of borders been affected by the Ebola crisis?
The importance of having disaggregated data was emphasized by another Expert.
What was being done regarding the conduct of elections abroad and ensuring votes of Guineans living in other countries were counted?
The issue of corruption among the police and the judiciary, who worked on the implementation of the Convention, was also raised.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation noted that migrant issues posed a challenge even for mature democracies, and not only for countries still in the process of developing their institutions. While the State’s obligations were self-evident, the key question was how to implement them in practical terms.
Everyone was aware of the importance of statistics. Collecting reliable and comprehensive statistics was a sign of the Government’s ability to control and run its territory. Guinea, which was a young State, was still not fully able of doing so. Sometimes it was difficult to establish whether people in Guinea were its nationals or nationals of some of the neighbouring countries. Guinea did have a very real problem with data, but it did what it could under given circumstances.
Migration was not a priority issue, the delegation stressed, even for the civil sector, because the country had so many different problems to deal with. Fellow nationals in other countries were a matter of concern. Cross-cutting issues entailed cross-cutting difficulties. Young people left universities to go abroad because there was no economic growth. It was extremely difficult to list all reasons leading a young person to leave home.
The delegation stressed that irregular migration ought to be settled in a humane manner.
Guinea had suffered very grave consequences of the Ebola epidemic, which should hopefully be at its end now. The country and its nationals had been stigmatized, partly because some perceived Ebola as a genetic disease. Ebola had not had a particular impact vis-à-vis migrants; a number of them decided to stay in Guinea and work with Guineans throughout the epidemic.
Regarding the issues related to children, the delegation explained that there was no difference in the provisions of schooling between nationals and children of migrants. At the moment, with the help of the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Government was implementing measures to ensure more effective birth registration.
Social security was a fundamental right, but not even Guinea’s own nationals enjoyed it. It was definitely a weakness which led to discrimination.
The Ministry of Human Rights and Civil Liberties had been operational for three years now. There were human rights considerations which needed a very substantial input so that they could be solved. The society in Guinea needed to find ways to generate wealth, which would allow the State to meet many of its obligations. The Ministry was not simply a token department, but the department had quite a lot of room for manoeuver. When there were human rights violations, it had the obligation to denounce them and help deliver justice to the victims and deal with sanctions for the perpetrators. The question of impunity was recognized as a critical one.
Like a lot of other Francophone countries, Guinea recognized the Convention as being above the national legislation.
Regarding the general population census, the results of which had not yet been validated, the delegation said that the census had been taken at a particular time, followed by a controversy over it. The Government was taking necessary measures to correct the census.
Some 63 immigration officials had been trained thus far. Coordination with the media was taking place with the view of raising awareness in that area, especially amongst young people. Migration over maritime and land borders was difficult to control. Regional cooperation with the neighbouring countries ought to be stepped up in that regard.
On the Ombudsman, it was explained that the post had been created in 2011, but the person had been appointed to it a few years later. The delay was due to logistical problems connected to the political and economic climate and situation. It was hoped that the future would bring more political stability.
There was no special body dealing with migration, but the establishment of such an organ was being considered.
If Guinean nationals had a negative experience abroad, one had to tackle both the psychological and social context, as many of those people were returning with shame. Some managed to deal with it with a healthy attitude, whereas others could not come to the grips with what had happened to them.
The delegation said that the State was considering what it could do to support young people who had entrepreneurial ideas, but no funds to realize them. Even with bilateral agreements with other countries, such as Switzerland, it was not so easy to entice and train young people in Guinea.
Guinea drew no distinction between children of nationals and migrants, who were all eligible for vaccinations and education.
Turning to trafficking in persons, it was explained that certain concrete actions had been taken. The State needed to redouble its efforts in order to eradicate the problem. Sanctions not only needed to be strengthened, but also fully enforced. Sub-regional cooperation was also very important, in order to ensure prosecution and seek out perpetrators of trafficking crimes. People did not know that much about trafficking in persons as it was an underground, clandestine activity.
The delegation said that, regrettably, there were no special provisions for the elderly in Guinea, including elderly returnees. The State was not able to predict future developments in migration.
The first impact of the return of Guinean refugees from abroad was on the social fabric. Guinea was a receiving country, and identifying who was Guinean and who was foreigner was sometimes difficult as the borders were blurry. There had been a great level of pressure on their survival under very difficult circumstances. The State had no ability to provide jobs for everyone. With civil wars happening in countries around Guinea, unfortunately Guinea had not been supported enough to handle the influx of migrants and refugees. Very few migrants were deported or expelled from Guinea.
There was an automatic system in place to ensure that a ratified international treaty was immediately domesticated; international conventions had a superior status over domestic laws. Efforts were made to ensure that domestic legal instruments were harmonized with the various conventions Guinea had acceded to.
The delegation said that Guinea had very much welcomed the Paris Forum, the purpose of which was to attract Guineans back to their country. It was difficult to bring people back, mainly because of the large discrepancy in salaries they could make abroad and at home. The sending country needed to scale up its efforts to bring migrants back, but countries where migrants worked also needed to do their share.
Torture could happen in detention facilities, the delegation said, but the State was doing its utmost to ensure that it was prevented and punished. Detention personnel were trained in order to understand that torture was not only wrong, but also useless. Several judicial decisions against law enforcement personnel had been handed down, and had had a strong effect. Very recently, torturers in Guinea used to be proud of being so, but today that was no longer acceptable and justifiable.
Data and statistics were crucial for countries attempting to improve their governance. It was difficult to keep track of both land and air departures, and what those people did once they were abroad.
There was no open debate in Guinea about emigration because most people believed that their children and grandchildren should be free to leave the country in search of a better life. The right to information needed to be improved, and awareness raising about costs and benefits of moving abroad ought to be improved.
Throughout history, migration had fostered civilization and had brought benefits to both sending and receiving countries, the delegation stated. As a result of such flows, nations were more interdependent and minimized misunderstandings.
Setting up of special remittances channels was being discussed, so that migrants could easily send money back to Guinea.
Domestic workers were provided for by the Labour Code. It was not a very well developed sector or a priority in Guinea. Most domestic workers were Guineans, so it was not a migration issue, but rather related to rural exodus.
In general, the delegation said, Guinean migrants abroad were subjected to the domestic laws of the countries they were in. Countries in the south were slowly beginning to understand all aspects of lives of migrants.
In Guinea, there was no distinction drawn between nationals and non-nationals, and it was up to the authorities to ensure that everyone was ensured quality social protection while working.
The delegation said that there were no court rulings based on the Convention.
In the region, there were sometimes unaccompanied minors. In Senegal and Guinea, for example, there were children who wanted to go to Koranic schools. The issue was yet to be fully addressed.
Regarding national labour policies, the delegation explained that such policies were in place, but were not fully structured. Women’s and youth employment were among the issues the authorities were focused on. Training components within policies were given particular attention.
Migrant workers working and retiring in Guinea would get pensions. For Guinean nationals working abroad and then returning home to retire, further cooperation was needed with the countries where they had earned their pensions.
Some of the Guinean migrants abroad were not in a regular situation and were thus not using consular services because it would then be discovered that they were not in a regular situation. Human and financial resources were needed to ensure better support for Guineans abroad, but part of the problem stemmed from migrants themselves.
Impunity was a core issue in Guinea, the delegation stressed, and it had to be fought against strenuously. Difficulties remained, but there was political will, and the authorities were aware of the risks involved.
The delegation informed that the minimum wage was 50 euros, but there was no enforceable guarantee that everyone would be paid at least that much. The situation was difficult for both nationals and non-nationals. Labour inspections were trying to put an end to such violations. Corruption was rife in some institutions, including in the employment sector.
Follow-up Questions by Experts
An Expert expressed appreciation for the delegation’s frankness. She asked for further details on family welfare payments for migrant workers. Did the migrant worker who had paid contributions to national insurance count on those payments being transferred later on?
Did the permission to work and a residency permit normally expire at the same time, the Expert inquired.
Another Expert asked further questions about the Ministry of Human Rights and Civil Liberties, and wanted to know about its staff and budgetary provisions.
Guinea was involved in a judicial reform process with the help of the European Union, the Expert noted. Would human rights modules be included? Would border guards be trained on the human rights of migrants?
The Expert brought up the issue of consular services again, saying that some Guinean nationals living abroad wanted to change their nationality, partly because of the lack of such services.
Could the delegation provide an update on the efforts to regularize irregular migrants in Guinea? Information was also sought about the number of Guineans waiting to be repatriated from Libya and the Central African Republic.
More information was also asked about prison sentences for foreigners who overstayed their stay in Guinea.
Responses by the Delegation
Responding to the question on the substitution measures, the delegation said that the ongoing existence of certain practices was also due to the State’s inability, for whatever reason, to counter violence against children, women and domestic workers. Those vulnerable groups were thus often unable to leave the unacceptable conditions in which they lived. Prosecutors could carry on with charges even if the complainant had withdrawn them. It was crucial that victims be given critical support. Strengthening such measures would increase the credibility of the State in the eyes of its citizens.
On family welfare payments, the delegation would provide a detailed reply in writing.
The role of the Ministry of Human Rights and Civil Liberties was absolutely fundamental and the Ministry had been greeted with hope by Guinean citizens. Its current resources were insufficient, even though the political will was there. It was nonetheless hoped that there would be more resources in the future which would allow for a more in-depth focus on human rights.
There were currently no sufficient resources for the full reform of the police, army, gendarmerie, local authorities and all other relevant stakeholders in the field of human rights.
Training for magistrates in human rights was underway, in spite of structural and institutional problems. The training needed to be consolidated. Work was underway on making magistrates more professional.
It was difficult to get clear estimates of Guineans participating in Guinean elections in their countries of residence. Only those with established resident statuses could partake in electoral processes.
Some serious problems involving irregular migrants were becoming visible. After the election, the State would have to tackle those issues. It had to be ensured that there was no hostility against such migrants, which was why the issue had to be addressed head-on, but with subtlety at the same time.
In order to provide information for migrants leaving the country, Guinea needed the support of the international community. The political will, which was an absolute prerequisite, was there. The Committee’s comments and recommendations would be faithfully shared with Government bodies.
KHEDIDJA LADJEL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guinea, said that the delegation’s approach spoke volumes of the will of the State party to tackle problematic challenges. The issue of migration represented a meeting point between human potential and the dynamic of development. The solutions lay partly in putting in place real migration policies, which should ensure that everyone could express their potential fully. Productive repercussions of migration ought to be supported, while efforts on the harmonization of national legislation and provisions for those who had suffered needed to be continued. Solutions would come from the sub-region itself, through cooperation, exchange of good practices and pulling resources.
AHMADOU TALL, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guinea, expressed satisfaction with the dialogue with the delegation of Guinea, the neighbouring country of his own country of Senegal. Guinea was undergoing changes and peace consolidation, and was facing democratization and development challenges. Guinea had a tradition of reception, and did not differentiate on the basis of origin and nationality, and migrants arriving to the country shared the same difficulties as Guinean nationals. It was the reality that the State party found it difficult to provide services to its nationals living abroad. Human rights could not be side lined in the process of democratization and development, which was why the Ministry of Human Rights had a central role to play.
KHALIFA GASSAMA DIABY, Minister of Human Rights and Civil Liberties of Guinea, appreciated the words of encouragement by the Rapporteurs. Human rights indeed lay at the core of everything that was being done in Guinea. Heartfelt thanks were expressed to the Committee for the rich exchanges and constructive ideas. Migration had to be mainstreamed into the larger field of human rights. Justice and peace were shared objectives of all in Guinea.
For use of the information media; not an official record