Migrants Rights International

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

MRI Oral Statement Presented at the Informal Hearings

Oral Statement Presented at the Informal Interactive Hearings of the General Assembly with NGOs, Civil Society Organizations and the Private Sector

Segment 1: Promoting a comprehensive rights-based approach to international migration, and ensuring respect for and protection of the human rights of all migrants and their families.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, in view of the UN Secretary General’s report and the General Assembly High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, I make this statement on behalf of Migrants Rights International (MRI)—a global civil society network of migrant workers associations and unions, labor and community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations promoting the human rights of migrants.

1990 UN Migrant Workers Convention & UN Human Rights Mechanisms & Procedures

MRI welcomes the effort of the UN Secretary General and the General Assembly to highlight the issue of migration and bring it to the forefront of discussions of the international community, particularly the need to protect the human rights of migrants and the reference made to UN international human rights instruments and Conventions of the International Labour Organization, with the 1990 UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families being cited as the “most comprehensive international treaty dealing with the rights of migrant workers.”

MRI notes with regret, however, that despite being a document of the UN Secretary General, this Report does not make full reference to these UN human rights mechanisms in order to further enhance the human rights perspective in addressing migration and development. These, along with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, all offer sound human rights framework for the treatment of migrant workers.

We urge the UN Secretary General to use these mechanisms as the fundamental normative and analytical framework for its treatment of the issue of migration and development, so as to continuously remind States of their obligation to protect, promote and fulfil migrants’ human rights.

Global Consultative Forum and Civil Society Participation

With regard to the idea put forward by the Report of an intergovernmental “consultative forum,” MRI is seriously concerned about the absence of participation by civil society, trade unions, and migrants themselves. In particular, para. 21 of the Report states that Governments would only engage with NGOs and civil society “when they deem it desirable and necessary”. We view this as a threat to genuine migrant civil society participation. Any consultative forum on migration and development which does not include representatives from civil society, the NGO community, trade unions, migrants and their organizations, would not articulate policy ideas that leading to sustainable development.

MRI Framework

MRI promotes the rights-based approach to international migration that:

rectifies inequalities between women and men in the migration process; and that
acknowledges the current imbalances in economic and trade relations between developing and developed countries, that are dictated by strong corporate interests in the North and a neo-liberal economic agenda that intensifies poverty, destroys the environment, depletes farmlands, heightens conflict and armed struggle, strips indigenous peoples of their ancestral domain and identity, and creates human suffering -- all of which constitute the real root cause of migration.

Examining the Consequences of Migration within the Frame of Human Rights

MRI notes with deep concern that the current mode of labour migration denies migrants’ access to their human rights, especially economic, social and cultural rights. Migrant workers exist as a cheap, exploited and un-unionized labour force. The complexity of the migration discourse thereby demands a more deliberate process of engagement in debunking the myths around migration, and developing policies that would make migration a valuable experience for all.

MRI is deeply disturbed by the arguments presented in the Report that are strongly concentrated on labor mobility and on enhancing the positive economic benefits of migration, while lacking a firm analysis of how the migration process impacts on migrants’ labour and human rights. We caution that an overemphasis on labour market economics commodifies the migrant worker and treats them as mere factors of production.

Programmes of managed migration to maximize economic benefit tend to be regressive and restrictive in the name of national sovereignty and security.

MRI asserts, therefore, that any development discourse that denies the fulfilment of migrants’ human rights is simply unacceptable to migrants and members of their families. To protect, promote and fulfil human rights of every person, including all migrants regardless of status, asylum seekers and refugees, are the core obligations of States. Fulfilling migrants’ right to decent employment, equitable wages and proper working conditions, trade union rights, access to basic public services and social security, and the right to family reunification is essential to ensuring migrants’ well-being and integration in the host country.

The Human Rights of Vulnerable Groups of Migrants

MRI places special attention to the most vulnerable groups of migrants, which include undocumented migrants, women migrants and migrant domestic workers, children of migrant workers and aged migrants.

MRI views that the Report lacks systematic analysis of the reasons why irregular migration occurs on the scale it does across the world. In MRI’s experience, irregular migration increases when national immigration policies operate in excessively bureaucratic ways, with States imposing fragmented immigration policies that only exacerbate the further exploitation of migrants, placing them in dangerous and clandestine situations.

MRI urgently calls on Governments to regularise undocumented migrant, establish comprehensive solutions that incorporate migrant workers’ rights and perspectives, and create the social space in which migrants can prosper and achieve their full aspirations for a better life for themselves, their families, communities and countries.

Recommendations to the Continued Process of the UNHLD

Finally, in addition to the accredited participation for a 12-person civil society representation at the HLD, we urge the General Assembly and the Secretary General to recommend to all member States to include in their delegation to the HLD at least one civil society representative with considerable experience in working on migration, and that a consultative process be initiated at the country level prior to participation at the HLD.

Presented by:

Sajida Ally
Migrants Rights International
12 July 2006