UN convention to protect migrant workers holds first meeting

11 December 2003

The States parties to an international treaty protecting the rights of 60 to 65 million workers and their families held their first meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York, pledging to protect migrants from physical and sexual abuse, working in inhumane conditions and being denied freedom of thought and expression.

Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told the meeting that the international convention would respond to the migrant workers' vulnerability and protect them.

The 24 States that have ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families met today mainly to elect the members of the Convention committee of the same name.

The Committee's role is to examine reports submitted by States parties on the legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures they have taken to give effect to the Convention's provisions.

Cheick Sidi Diarra of Mali was elected committee chairman, with Felipe H. Paolillo of Uruguay as vice-chairman, and representatives from Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uganda comprising the rest of the committee.

The Convention came into force on 1 July and sets minimum standards for the protection of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of migrant workers. Its aims include protection from sexual and physical abuse, from having to live or work under inhumane conditions, from being denied freedom of thought, expression and religion, and from being denied access to information about their rights.

Mr. Ndiaye said the Convention "breaks new ground" because it defines rights for specific categories of migrant workers, including frontier workers (who reside in a neighbouring State and return there daily), seasonal workers, itinerant workers and self-employed workers.

He added that the Convention sought to end the illegal or clandestine recruitment and trafficking of migrant workers around the world and their exploitation.

The International Labour Organization has estimated there are 60 to 65 million migrant workers around the world, with as many as 175 to 180 million people falling under the definition of either a migrant worker or a member of their family.

The countries that are parties to the Convention are: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Uganda and Uruguay.

 

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