Migrants Rights International

Thursday, December 21, 2006

An International Statement for International Migrants Day

An International Statement for International Migrants Day

18 December 2006

Today, on the 18th of December 2006, in observance of International Migrants Day, Migrants Rights International (MRI) calls upon the international community and the United Nations to uphold the human rights of all migrants around the world. We remember the plight of migrants, who brave separation from their families, face the ordeals of migration, are forced to work in poor conditions, and suffer from racism and discrimination in many of our societies. We also remember the enormous contribution that migrants make to all countries of the world, with hard work, skills, and creativity – and migrants’ role in bridging cultures and nations and contributing socially, culturally, and economically to societies in both home and host countries.

There have been a number of key developments in 2006 indicating the growing recognition by states and other members of society of the value of international migration. Yet at the same time, we are extremely concerned about the continued deterioration of migrants’ human rights throughout the world.

In September 2006, the United Nations General Assembly convened its High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development. The various contributions of migrants were underscored throughout the High Level Dialogue, including the amount of money migrants remit back to their countries of origin, how migrants alleviate labour shortages in certain countries, the way in which migrants inspire new ways of thinking about social and political issues, and how migrants form a dynamic human link between cultures, economies, and societies[1].

We applaud the acknowledgement by many Member States at the High Level Dialogue about the importance of protecting migrants’ human rights in the development of migration policy. As Ali Hassani, the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council reminded delegates at the High Level Dialogue, “Migration can only be beneficial if the rights of migrants are respected.”

However, most Member States did not offer any commitment to the protection of migrants’ human rights that it needed to legitimately develop as international policy and practice. We are particularly concerned that there was almost no mention of states’ obligations to deal with the main causes of migration, such as the lack of access to human rights in their countries, the impact of international trade policies, and armed conflicts.

In addition, we are disappointed over the significant exclusion of migrant voices themselves at the High Level Dialogue. We echo the words of Jorge Bustamante, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants – when he addressed representatives from more than 50 migrants rights groups from all over the world gathered in New York from 11-15 September at the Community Dialogue on Migration and Development organized by Migrant Rights International – by exclaiming, “We have been excluded from the high level discussions on migration policy!” Furthermore, we continue to express grave concern that the Secretary General’s proposal to form a Global Forum on Migration and Development might only include the participation of civil society when Member States deem it “desirable and appropriate.”

We continue to remind all Member States of the United Nations of the need for universal ratification of the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families as a vehicle to recognize and protect the human rights of migrants around the world. For those states that are parties to the convention, we call on their obligation to fully and effectively implement the convention, while engaging the participation of civil society and migrant groups in monitoring its implementation.

We call for more attention to the plight of women migrants, particularly domestic workers, as well as undocumented workers. Due to their status as women and migrants, domestic workers are among the most vulnerable group of workers in our societies, often discriminated and exposed to abuses and exploitation such as the lack of labor legislation of domestic work, unchecked practices of unscrupulous recruitment agents, the withholding of passports, strict employee-tied residency rules, slavery-like working and living conditions, physical and verbal abuse, and sexual violence, among others. These conditions are also overwhelmingly faced by undocumented workers, whose migration status leads them to be particularly at risk of exploitation and abuse[2]. Empowering undocumented workers, and especially women migrant domestic workers, recognizing their work and ensuring labor protection are urgent calls. Allowing these workers to join associations and unions will contribute towards providing them better protection under the law and representation for themselves as important contributors to society.

We condemn the deterioration of migrants’ human rights throughout this past year. The increases in discriminatory border policies, coupled with unscrupulous abuse with impunity, have resulted in increasing migrant deaths and susceptibility to trafficking in many border regions around the world. In many cases, the deteriorating human rights conditions at these borders also emerged due to the escalating denials for asylum at ports-of-entry to asylum-seekers, leading to increasing numbers of undocumented migrants and mass deportations to poverty-stricken, dangerous and highly volatile regions.

We denounce and express great alarm over the growth of vigilante groups in various countries, which have assumed the role of migration law enforcement whether with or without States’ sanctions. It is widely documented that these groups, often driven by xenophobia, routinely have total disregard for migrants’ basic human rights, to the point of causing migrant deaths, directly or indirectly. We call on all such vigilante groups preying on migrants to immediately cease and desist, and for states to uphold the human rights of migrants by prohibiting the existence of such groups.

Finally, we resolutely condemn the racism and discrimination practiced by local governments with regards to access to economic, social and cultural rights, by basing these according to national origin and/or immigration status. Such rights are universally-recognized human rights which should be categorically protected, rather than eradicated by restrictive and illegitimate immigration laws and initiatives being passed by many states such as the U.S., France and Switzerland.

With all of these assertions, we continue to call for sustained vigilance in addressing the human rights of all migrants, especially undocumented migrants, as we celebrate International Migrants Day. We remind states of the human face of migration and to ensure that migrants are able to enjoy their basic human rights and freedoms, based on the principles of inclusion, non-discrimination, and participation, while developing rights-based migration policies and practices.

Migrants Rights International (MRI) is a non-governmental organization and federation of migrant organizations and non-governmental organizations promoting the human rights of migrants. Its purposes are: to promote recognition and respect for the rights of all migrants; to advocate for ratification of the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; to facilitate the efforts of migrant associations and other non-governmental organizations in advocating for migrants rights; and to monitor trends and developments in the situation of migrants' rights and welfare. MRI is a non-governmental association in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Migrants Rights International

migrantsrightsinternational@gmail.com

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[1] Source: United Nations Secretary General Address to the High Level Dialogue of the General Assembly on International Migration and Development.

[2] Source: Report by the Global Commission on International Migration, October 2005, chapter on irregular migration.

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