7 April 2014

Africa: As Ratifications Lag, UN Experts Renew Call for States to Sign Treaty On Migrant Workers' Rights

The expert members of the United Nations panel dealing with the rights of migrant workers and their families renewed today their appeal to all countries to sign the international treaty on the rights of those workers, which went into effect almost 11 years ago.

"Forty-seven countries have ratified the treaty but that number is far too low given the abuse and exploitation that migrant workers continue to suffer," said Francisco Carrion Mena, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families (CMW), adding that it is especially low considering "the contribution migrant workers make to both their home and host countries."

After being adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1990, it took 23 years for the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families (ICRMW) to come into force - the longest of any of the 10 core international human rights instruments - due to its very slow ratification rate.

The Committee - composed of 14 independent human rights experts whose task is to oversee the implementation of the Convention by States parties - notes that many of the 47 States parties to the Convention are not only nations of origin of migrant workers but now also transit and destination countries, because of the changing patterns of migration.

The experts regretted that, to this day, "no major developed countries that are destinations for migrant workers, including the United States, European Union member States and Gulf countries, have ratified it, even though it reflects rights set out in the other core human rights treaties."

"The treaty doesn't create new rights or establish additional ones for migrant workers. What it does do is give specific form to standards that protect all human beings so that they are meaningful within the context of migration," emphasized Mr. Carrion Mena.

The Committee estimates that more than 200 million people worldwide are international migrants, 30 million of whom are estimated to be irregular migrants. According to the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), almost 21 million people are trapped in forced labour.

"The Convention is the best strategy to prevent abuses and to address the vulnerability that migrant workers face. That's why we urge all States to consider signing and ratifying the [treaty] Convention," Mr Carrion Mena said.

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