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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 148
December 19, 2009

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Must recognise migrants' rights

As today marks a day where the international community seeks to recognise the contribution of migrant workers; RIGHT JESSORE & CARAM Asia call on all governments to mark this occasion by immediately signing and ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW, 1990).

We note with concern that despite the convention going into its 20th year, not a single developed nation or those that rely on the use of foreign labour have sought to ratify this crucial piece of legislation and this leaves migrants without basic employment rights or protection mechanisms.

In an increasingly globalised world, the reliance of foreign labour by many states has steadily risen, as governments and industries seek to capitalise on the use of cheap labour that foreign workers' supply. At the same time, migrants seek to provide their families with increased financial opportunity for a better life. Today this situation has led to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to estimate that there are approximately 250 million migrants in the world today, representing some over 3% of the world's population. When we conservatively estimate that the number of people who are dependent on the earned remittances, the process of migration is likely to affect over a billion people.

Despite the economic, social and cultural value that migrant workers' bring to destination countries, many are denied affordable access to healthcare facilities. This is especially applicable to the increasing number of domestic workers employed overseas, who are in the most part, denied a weekly paid day. Health remains an essential human right as enshrined in the UN Charter which all members states are duty bound to observe both for their national citizens and foreign nationals employed within their country.

It is also crucial to note migrant workers and mobile populations remain one the key affected populations vulnerable to HIV infection. This is largely due to a lack of HIV and AIDS education, as well as the fact that migrants tend to migrate during their reproductive years while simultaneously being the denied the right to bring their families or loved ones with them. However, rather than provide education, voluntary testing and wider access to health services in general, destination countries continue to implement ineffective policies such as mandatory testing and HV travel restrictions which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has continually argued against. This is due to the fact that such initiatives show little to no reduction in the spread of HIV rates and worse they label HIV and AIDS as that of a foreign problem. It is important to remind all governments around the world that HIV has never been an indicator of an ability to work and thus by denying migrants who are positive the right to overseas employment remains a deeply stigmatising and ineffective practise that must cease.

Finally, RIGHTS JESSORE & CARAM Asia would like to mark today by calling on all governments to immediately recognise domestic work as work through national employment laws. It is deeply disconcerting to note that, while foreign domestic workers (FDW) are known to work up to 15 hours a day, 365 days a year, many are still denied a weekly paid day off. Cases of abuse are notorious in this arena of work and in many areas such as the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC), states mitigate their responsibility by handing power to the employer. Furthermore, there remains minimal outlets for FDW to report cases of abusive treatment and as such many perpetrators of violent or sexual abuse remain unpunished. As such, we call for the following recommendations;

* All governments must immediately seek to sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990)
* Prosecute perpetrators of physical violence, sexual violence, and those who exploit and unlawfully confine migrant workers.
* Prosecute unscrupulous recruitment agencies and traffickers who exploit and abuse migrant workers.
* Prevent the entrance of women into the worst forms of domestic labour by strictly enforcing the anti-violence against women laws in both sending and receiving countries and adopt measures to eradicate all forms of violence against women.

* Extend equal protection of the labour laws to domestic workers, including the rights to a just wage, overtime pay, weekly rest days, benefits, and workers' compensation.
* Provide gender sensitive health services to all female migrant workers and rehabilitation of migrant workers who have suffered physical, psychological or sexual abuse.
* Lift requirements of compulsory or mandatory health and HIV testing of migrant workers at all points of the migratory process as a condition for employment;
* Terminate policies and practices of deportation of migrants on the basis of their HIV status or for other health conditions, such as pregnancy
* Provide ART to migrant workers and facilitate their access to appropriate health services and treatments in both sending and receiving countries.
* Put in place referral mechanisms to ensure returnee migrants have adequate access to AIDS treatment in their home countries.

Source: Press Release.


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