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COMMITTEE ON THE PROTECTION OF MIGRANT WORKERS OPENS NINETEENTH SESSION
Holds an informal meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions on Burkina Faso and Morocco
9 September 2013

The Committee on the Protection of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families opened its nineteenth session this morning, hearing an address by Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopted its agenda and programme of work.  The Committee also held an informal meeting with representatives of non-governmental organizations and national human rights on Burkina Faso and Morocco. 

Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, opened the session by saying it took place ten years after the entry into force of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and just before the General Assembly session that would feature a high-level dialogue on the link between international migration and development and the post-2015 agenda.  Ms. Pansieri spoke about violations of the rights of irregular migrant workers who were considered a security threat.  The post-2015 development agenda had to recognize migrants not just as a force for development but also as right-holders who were part of society culturally and socially.

Abdelhamid El Jamri, Chairperson of the Committee, praised recent initiatives drawing attention to migration issues and said that today, many years since the drafting of the Convention, there was a marked need to continue to work for the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrant workers and their families.  He also spoke about measures taken by the Committee to strengthen the treaty body system.

Committee Members also held a discussion with Mr. Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Division for Treaty the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on strengthening the treaty body system in particular.  Committee Members stressed the need to boost ratifications of the Convention and discussed ways of encouraging States to accede to the Convention, saying that migrant workers often lacked the power to put pressure on the Government of their country of residence to sign the Convention.

The Committee then held an informal meeting with representatives of non- governmental organizations and national human rights institutions on the application of the Convention in countries whose reports will be considered by the Committee this session, Burkina Faso and Morocco.

The following non-governmental organizations and National Human Rights Institutes also took the floor: Association Marocaine des Droits Humains, Association des Marocains victimes d’expulsion arbitraire d’Algérie, Groupe antiraciste d’accompagnement et de défense des étrangers et migrants, Moroccan Human Rights Commission, and Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur les Migrations Internationales et Développement.          

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Monday, 9 September, when it will consider the initial report of Burkina Faso (CMC/C/BFA/1).

Opening Statements

FLAVIA PANSIERI, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said this year the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights celebrated the tenth anniversary of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.  To mark the occasion Morocco had recently held a seminar on Migration Policy and Human Rights, which was attended by numerous human rights experts.  However, despite progress made, more work was needed to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers; especially at a time when security concerns had led to violations of the rights of migrant workers, who were sometimes seen as a security threat. 

The Deputy High Commissioner noted that the United Nations General Assembly would on 3 and 4 October, in New York, hold a high-level dialogue on migration and development, which would highlight the necessity of linking migration with development and including it in the post-2015 agenda.  The Deputy High Commissioner stressed that migration brought many benefits, not only to receiving countries but also to sending countries, so no post-2015 development agenda could be comprehensive unless it truly took migration into account.  Migrants were not a commodity or a flow of remittances or skills, but human beings with rights.  Therefore, the post-2015 development agenda had to recognize migrants not just as a force for development but also as right-holders who were part of society culturally and socially.   The forthcoming session of the General Assembly would also discuss the treaty body strengthening process, which would be an important step towards consolidation of views on how best to strengthen the system; and would hopefully result in a resolution by Member States on strengthening treaty bodies.  It was necessary to strengthen the protection of human rights while fully respecting the independence of the treaty body system.  Any cost-saving action agreed would have to be reinvested into the treaty body system, and modern technology should facilitate access.  More resources were needed for capacity-building.

The Deputy High Commissioner expressed her appreciation for the Committee’s work, which actively demonstrated that words could translate into concrete action.  Recent Human Rights Council resolutions urged States to accede to the Convention in order to protect the rights of migrant workers and to promote the fundamental rights of all migrants, regardless of immigration status.  At its June 2013 session, the Human Rights Council heard and discussed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants, as well as the systematic detention of migrants by States as a means of migration management.  The Special Rapporteur was concerned that irregular migration was viewed as a security concern rather than a human rights issue.  The Deputy High Commissioner concluded by underlining that migration issues should be mainstreamed into the United Nations system.  

ABDELHAMID EL JAMRI, Committee Chairperson, said that the Convention was the only instrument which protected the rights of migrant workers.  It was even used as a reference point by States that had not ratified the Convention.  There were several positive international initiatives on migrant workers’ rights, such as the high-level dialogue on migration and development which would take place at the next session of the General Assembly. 

When the Convention was drafted, it responded to a specific situation which involved an increase in remittance flows and trafficking in persons.  Today, many years later, there was a need to continue to work for the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrant workers.  The recent meeting in Rabat, Morocco, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Convention and draft the Africa Regional Plan, was the first time experts had had the opportunity of focusing on specific issues related to migration at regional levels.  He encouraged experts from other continents to try to recreate similar conferences in order to address the needs of migrant workers in other regions.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee had taken several measures to strengthen the treaty body system, such as in the timing of reviews of reports, as well as taking environmentally-friendly measures, such as a significant reduction of the use of paper.  The Committee then adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Dialogue with Committee Experts
          
Morocco was praised by a Committee Member for its initiative in organizing an expert seminar on migration, as was Ecuador for its initiative in establishing an observatory to deal with trafficking in persons in South and Central America was highly commendable.                

A Member of the Committee said that the profile of the Committee had been significantly raised by the universal recognition of its important role in the strengthening of the treaty body system, but Committee membership was limited, which increased the workload of its members and made it difficult for the Committee to have a full impact. 

Getting more States to sign the Convention needed increased efforts and greater focus, said a Committee Member.  The Office of the High Commissioner should intensify efforts to get more developed countries onboard and increase ratification of the Convention.  The Committee Member asked what strategy was being deployed by the Office of the High Commissioner to promote ratification of the Convention.

IBRAHIM SALAMA, Director of Human Rights Treaties Division, said the pace of ratification of the Convention had slowed down.  That was not the result of a lack of advocacy but, rather, a reflection of a lack of understanding of the deeper issues related to the Convention.  The Rabat seminar had opened the path for further action, although States still had primary responsibility for promoting the rights of migrant workers in their bilateral and multilateral relations and to commit to a set of values not only at the international but also at domestic level. 
     
An Expert said that problems being experienced with regard to increasing ratification of the Convention were closely linked with the lack of political pressure placed upon States.  Migrant workers were not part of the political life of the countries where they lived and many of them were in a vulnerable situation, which meant that they had no power to put pressure on the Government of their country of residence to ratify the Convention and take concrete action to protect their rights.  

Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations and National Human Rights Institutions

Association Marocaine des Droits Humains said that since Morocco ratified the Convention it had had four different Governments, all of which had implemented the same repressive policy against migrants, particularly those who were nationals of Sub-Saharan countries or in an irregular situation.  Other migrants had also been subjected to violent behaviour, which in some cases had been lethal, while human rights defenders were being targeted and harassed by the Moroccan authorities.  Morocco should engage in a constructive dialogue with the associations representing migrant workers and should account for the abuse and violent treatment of migrant workers, including workers from the Philippines.    

Association des Marocains victimes d’expulsion arbitraire d’Algérie said that in 1975 500,000 Moroccan migrant workers were expelled from Algeria, despite the fact that they had legally resided there for many years and had fully integrated in society.  Action should be taken to restore the dignity of the large number of persons affected by that expulsion.  The international community should be vigilant to ensure that such incidents did not occur in the future.  The Committee could make recommendations to Morocco on how best to deal with that issue.

Groupe antiraciste d’accompagnement et de défense des étrangers et migrants said the rights of migrants needed to be seen in exactly the same light as all other human rights.  The Moroccan migration law was repressive and refugees in Morocco lived in a dire situation.  Very vulnerable categories of migrants, such as women and children, had suffered group rape and murder.  All attempts by migrants to protest against the violation of their rights had been violently suppressed by Morocco, and many Sub-Saharan women lived in unacceptable conditions.  Objective and trustworthy inquiries and firm measures were needed to protect the rights of all migrant workers, including women and minors.             

The Moroccan Human Rights Commission said that the situation of migrants was being closely monitored in cooperation with several international organizations, and that particular attention was being paid to the areas around the country’s borders.  Genuine public policies should be implemented with support from civil society, focusing on the provision of protection to refugees and asylum seekers and their families.  Morocco should give illegal migrants effective access to justice; take measures to eradicate all violence against migrants, including torture and interrogations; facilitate birth registration and provide birth certificates.  A permanent forum should be set up to allow for exchange of information and sharing of good practices.  The Moroccan criminal code should also include new provisions to protect victims of trafficking in persons.

Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur les Migrations Internationales et Développement said that it had been working since 2007 to promote the rights of migrant workers in Burkina Faso.  Recent initiatives included awareness-raising campaigns and open days on migration.  The State had made sincere efforts to protect the rights of migrant workers by introducing new laws, but more work was needed to reinforce implementation of the Convention.  There was a lack of visibility of the Supreme Council for Burkinabés living abroad, and follow-up was limited on reported cases of violations of migrant workers’ rights.  Burkina Faso should allocated more resources to ensure that its migrant citizens abroad fully enjoyed their rights, while the rights of foreigner migrants living in Burkina Faso should also be upheld.

The Moroccan Organization for Human Rights said that migrant workers moved around more and more and were often confronted with discrimination and xenophobia.  Therefore it was imperative that the international community took action to protect their rights.  Morocco had ratified the Convention, adopted a number of protocols and agreements on human rights and strengthened its institutional framework for the protection of human rights.  All that had had an impact on the human rights situation of migrant workers, albeit a more limited impact than hoped.  Morocco should ensure full implementation of all provisions of the Convention, and shoud ratify all other relevant international instruments to ensure effective protection of migrant workers’ rights.                     


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CMW13/009E