Protecting the rights of migrant workers
This year, AI is marking International Migrants Day, 18 December, by urging States to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (the Migrant Workers Convention), which recently came into force. The Convention is an essential tool of protection of the rights of all migrants. Only 34 states have so far ratified it.
An estimated 90 million migrants live and work outside their country of origin, having left their homes in search of security and a sustainable livelihood. From Burmese agricultural workers in Thailand to Indian domestic workers in Kuwait, migrant workers all over the world face exploitation and abuse.
Many migrant workers lack permission to remain legally in the host country and are therefore likely to end up in so-called “3-D jobs” dirty, degrading and dangerous. They face ill-treatment by employers, and are often forced to work in demeaning and unsanitary conditions, while the state turns a blind eye. If they come to the attention of the authorities, they risk being arbitrarily detained and expelled from their country of employment without a chance to appeal.
So why have only a handful of countries ratified the Convention?
Decision-makers might not be informed about the content of the Convention, they misunderstand its implications or are simply indifferent to the issue. Protecting the rights of migrant workers, particularly those who lack permission to remain legally in the host country, is low on most states' political agenda. Many are reluctant to create a legislative framework to protect them, or to have to report to the international community.
The Convention does not create new rights for migrants but aims at guaranteeing equality of treatment and working conditions for migrants and nationals. It provides a more precise interpretation of the human rights of migrants, emphasizing the principle that all migrants, regardless of their status, are entitled to enjoy their fundamental human rights. Ratification is an important affirmation of a state's commitment to respect, protect and promote the human rights of everyone on its territory. States that do not do so are denying the universality of human rights, sending a message that, for migrant workers, human rights stop at the border.
Source: Amnesty International.