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19 Dec, 2013

Respect Workers’ Dignity: Global Unions Statement on International Migrants’ Day


– The UN established International Migrants’ Day for December 18th to mark the anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly in 1990 of the international convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families. Global Unions issued a statement calling for respect for migrants, including the full respect of the rights of migrant workers to form and join trade unions. The full text of the statement:

International Migrants’ Day, December 18, is an occasion to celebrate the many contributions, economic, social, and cultural, that migrants make to their countries of destination as well as to their countries of origin.

Yet, too many migrants, rather than finding recognition of their contributions, are rebuffed and fall victim to racism and xenophobia. In host countries, they often face hostility rather than hospitality. And, they become popular scapegoats for failures of governments and societies.

Rather than address global imbalances and inequality, oppression and grinding poverty, which force the majority of the world’s migrants to become uprooted, too many politicians are complicit in the vilification of migrants, “talking tough” on immigration and introducing ever more restrictive or punitive migration policies.

Migration can also produce humanitarian disasters. The most recent tragedy in Lampedusa, in which, amongst others, 270 Syrian migrants perished, is only one example of what is happening in all regions of the world. Such incidents are not only shocking due to the loss of life and, in some cases, local indifference, but because they show just how frantic many migrants are to escape regardless of the cost. Drowning for them was the last chapter in a history of degradation, misery, and desperation.

Their migration was not chosen, but dictated by the consequences of global and local policy failures in many areas, including development, jobs, human rights, social protection, and quality public services, which have robbed people of opportunity and hope. Those failures have meant the loss, for far too many, of their effective right not to migrate.

Ninety percent of the world’s 232 million migrants leave home in search of work. That is why workers’ rights are so central to migration. The lives of migrant workers are often constant struggles for respect and human dignity. They are subject to serial rights violations, from recruitment agencies, to local agents, to government agencies, to employers, to local citizens. This chain of oppression often places migrant women, who make up nearly fifty per cent of international migrants, in particularly cruel and humiliating circumstances.

Global Unions draw particular attention to the situation in Gulf countries, such as Qatar, where migrant workers form the majority of the workforce, yet are denied the most basic of rights, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

However, even in countries that, on paper, respect human rights, including trade union rights, migrants are often concentrated in precarious work. For such “disposable” workers, even the right to struggle is beyond reach. Freedom from fear and access to basic human rights is often difficult or impossible to obtain.

On International Migrants’ Day, Global Unions call on Governments to:

- Recognise the contributions of migrants to all forms of development (social, economic, cultural, etc.), including quality public services;

- Ensure equal treatment of migrant and local workers, including equal working conditions and access to social protection ;

- Provide that all work is performed under an appropriate legal framework where the rights of workers can be protected and where workers have access to justice;

- Ensure that the right of migrant workers to form or join trade unions and to bargain collectively is provided for by law and respected in practice;

- Provide decent work for all;

- Act to counter racism and xenophobia.

- Ratify and implement the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 97 and 143 and ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, , the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and all other human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); and

- Support a leading role of the ILO in the development of a system of coherent, global governance of migration.

UN Secretary-General’s Message on International Migrants Day

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for International Migrants Day, to be observed on 18 December:

International migration is a powerful tool for reducing poverty and enhancing opportunity.  That is why there are now some 232 million international migrants bringing consistent benefits to countries of destination and origin through their essential labour and remittances.  Yet, this important population remains largely invisible and unheard in society.  Too many live and work in the worst conditions with the least access to basic services and fundamental rights, making them disproportionately vulnerable to extortion, violence, discrimination and marginalization.

Almost half of migrants are women; 1 in 10 is under the age of 15; 40 per cent live in developing countries.  Poor and low-skilled migrants face the highest barriers to social mobility.  The United Nations is acting to safeguard the rights of migrants, lower the social and economic costs of migration, and promote policies that maximize the benefits of mobility.  Migrants should not be forced to risk lives and dignity seeking better lives.  Earlier this year, the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, many of whom are migrants, came into force.  And in October, United Nations Member States called for the post-2015 United Nations development agenda to take full account of the positive impact of international migration.  They also committed to develop a framework for protecting migrants affected by humanitarian crises and recognized the need to facilitate international cooperation to address the challenges of migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner, with full respect for human rights.

On this International Migrants Day, I urge Governments to ratify and implement all core international human rights instruments, including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.  And I call on people and Governments everywhere to reject xenophobia and embrace migration as a key enabler for equitable, inclusive and sustainable social and economic development.  Migration is a reality of the twenty-first century.  It is essential that we conduct an open debate on this important subject.  Let us make migration work for the benefit of migrants and countries alike.  We owe this to the millions of migrants who, through their courage, vitality and dreams, help make our societies more prosperous, resilient and diverse.