world council of churches

The Global Campaign for Ratification of the
Convention on Rights of Migrants*

Around our globe today, millions of people are on the move - living or trying to live in countries not their own. In some cases, this movement is voluntary. People move across borders for work, education or family reasons. In many more cases, the migration is forced, as people flee civil unrest and war, or search for adequate agricultural land or employment simply for survival.

In recent years, the displacement of people has accelerated. At the same time, the typical response to migrants and other displaced people has deteriorated from acceptance and assistance to hostility and rejection.

The fundamental human rights of migrants are too easily violated or ignored. This is most true for those who do not qualify within one of the categories (e.g. citizen, refugee, registered foreign worker, student) that normally secure people legal protection. The violation of their rights contributes to increasing social disintegration and declining respect for the rule of law.

There is more need than ever before to promote the development and application of international standards which underline a fundamental fact: migrants' rights are human rights.

Recognizing the need to explicitly define and uphold the human rights of migrants, the United Nations created the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. It was approved on 18 December 1990 by the UN General Assembly.

Why is the International Convention significant?
The importance of this Convention may be highlighted by these six points:

1 Migrant workers are viewed as more than laborers or economic entities. They are social entities with families and accordingly have rights, including that of family reunification.

2 It recognizes that migrant workers and members of their families, being non-nationals residing in states of employment or in transit, are unprotected. Their rights are often not addressed by the national legislation of receiving states or by their own states of origin. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the international community, through the UN, to provide measures of protection.

3 It provides, for the first time, an international definition of migrant worker, categories of migrant workers, and members of their families. It also establishes international standards of treatment through the elaboration of the particular human rights of migrant workers and members of their families. These standards would serve to uphold basic human rights of other vulnerable migrants as well as migrant workers.

4 Fundamental human rights are extended to all migrant workers, both documented and undocumented, with additional rights being recognized for documented migrant workers and members of their families, notably equality of treatment with nationals of states of employment in a number of legal, political, economic, social and cultural areas.

5 The International Convention seeks to play a role in preventing and eliminating the exploitation of all migrant workers and members of their families, including an end to their illegal or clandestine movements and to irregular or undocumented situations.

6 It attempts to establish minimum standards of protection for migrant workers and members of their families that are universally acknowledged. It serves as a tool with which to encourage those States lacking national standards to bring their legislation in closer harmony with recognized international standards.

20 UN member States must ratify the Convention for it to "enter into force." Seven years after adoption by the UN, only nine States have ratified or acceded to the Convention: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Colombia, Egypt, Morocco, Philippines, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Uganda. Chile and Mexico have signed the Convention, the first step towards ratification.

The decision of the UN to draft and adopt this Convention was a strong statement of international consensus concerning the need for greater protection of the rights of migrants. Now, that decision must be implemented through national ratification and legislation.

Governments need to be convinced that ratification of the Convention is necessary. This will be achieved only by building awareness about the Convention with government officials, diplomats, politicians, NGOs and the public-at-large, nationally and internationally.

How is the global campaign organized and carried out?
A global campaign for entry into force of this Convention is now underway. It includes coordinated activities at international and national levels to build awareness about the International Convention. Its main purpose is to promote the ratification of, or accession to, the International Convention by a large number of States, and for the incorporation of its standards in national laws and practices.

A formal campaign steering committee generates basic campaign strategies and materials, but the success of the campaign is grounded in its purpose being adopted and promoted by hundreds of organizations and people who may or may not be formally affiliated to the campaign.

Campaigning for ratification requires political and awareness-building elements directed towards building endorsement of the Convention from a broad cross-section of society, including public officials, political parties, trade unions, religious groups, women's organizations and so on.

What to do

For more information, contact:
Patrick Taran
Sec. for Migration, WCC
Tel: (+41 22) 791 6320
Fax: (+41 22) 788 0067

Dan Cunniah
Assistant Director,ICFTU
Tel: (+41 22) 738 4202
Fax: (+41 22) 738 1082

* Steering Committee: Human Rights Watch, Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, International Labour Organization, International Migrants Rights Watch Committee, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Migrants Forum in Asia, Public Service International, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, World Council of Churches.

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