Global perspective Human stories

Human rights expert calls on States to back UN treaty protecting migrant workers

Human rights expert calls on States to back UN treaty protecting migrant workers

The United Nations independent expert on the rights of migrants today called on UN Member States to ratify the international treaty that seeks to protect the almost 200 million migrant workers around the world against abuse.

Jorge Bustamante, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that it was time for countries to demonstrate their commitment towards improving the rights of migrant workers.

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was adopted by the General Assembly in 1990, but so far just 34 countries have ratified it and the treaty only entered into force in 2003.

Mr. Bustamante said he hoped more States would ratify the treaty during the Global Forum on Migration and Development, to be held in Belgium in July, and he also called for the creation of a voluntary fund to allow the world’s least developed countries to attend the Forum.

The treaty includes clauses providing for a halt to the clandestine employment of irregular migrants so that they do not work in abusive conditions but enjoy safe and decent work and equal wages, as well as assistance to the orderly return of migrants, so that they can enjoy adequate economic and social conditions for their reintegration.

Delivering his report in Geneva today, Mr. Bustamante also outlined his recent country visits to the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Indonesia, noting that the former had not yet ratified the Convention and pressing the latter to do more to alleviate the especially precarious situation of its female migrant domestic workers.

The ROK’s delegate Dong-Hee Chang said Seoul was making steps towards ratifying the treaty, adding that the country was also involved in serious efforts to help female migrant spouses successfully integrate into Korean society.

Indonesian representative Makarim Wibisono described Mr. Bustamante’s recommendations as feasible and constructive, adding that the Government had already set up taskforces to tackle the issues of violence towards migrant workers.

In other reports before the Council, the Independent Expert on minorities issues, Gay McDougall, said minorities around the world were among the poorest of the poor and faced long-standing discrimination, exclusion, denial of basic rights and sometimes even violence.

Ms. McDougall said that during her recent visit to Hungary, she found the situation of the Roma people to be dire, and she called on the Government to introduce affirmative action, aggressively enforce school de-segregation and to offer other financial and policy commitments.

In response, Hungary’s delegate Dora Blaszek said that although her country acknowledged that much remained to be done, it was confident that some of the institutions and mechanisms it had established to deal with such problems were examples of best practice.

During her visit to Ethiopia, Ms. McDougall observed that although the country’s constitution established fundamental freedoms for its diverse peoples, there was little confidence in the political process and a widespread feeling, exacerbated by elections last May and subsequent events, that it was dominated by an ethnic and political elite.

Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, submitted reports on his visits to Ecuador and Kenya.

In Ecuador, Mr. Stavenhagen found that while the Government had created various institutions to tackle the problems of indigenous peoples, a lack of resources meant the impact of those institutions was limited.

In Kenya, the Rapporteur observed that the situation of hunter-gatherer and pastoralist communities was increasingly difficult, although he also said that the process of democratization in the country had allowed indigenous organizations the opportunity to place their concerns on the national agenda.

Ecuador’s delegate Luis Vayas Valdivieso described Mr. Stavenhagen’s report as deep and well-balanced, adding that it wanted to work more closely with both the Rapporteur and the Council to improve its standards.

Kenyan representative Phillip Richard O. Owade said his Government had taken specific steps to try to ameliorate the problems faced by his country’s nomadic, semi-nomadic and pastoralist groups, including school feeding programmes and a national policy for sustainable development of arid and semi-arid lands.