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COMMITTEE ON PROTECTION OF MIGRANT WORKERS OPENS SEVENTEENTH SESSION
10 September 2012

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families this morning opened its seventeenth session at Palais Wilson in Geneva, and adopted its agenda and programme of work.  The Chief of the Americas Section, Field Operations and Technical Co-operations and Technical Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights gave an opening address, which was followed by a general discussion with Committee Experts and a non-governmental organization.  During the session the Committee will review the reports of Rwanda and of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Maria Clara Martin, Chief of Americas Section, Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division, in an opening statement, said there were now 46 States parties to the Convention and a further 16 States had signed but not ratified it.  Achieving universal ratification of the human rights treaties remained a primary goal of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Ms. Martin stressed the importance of co-operation between the Committee and organizations fighting for migrant workers’ rights.  The Committee faced significant challenges, particularly in the face of xenophobia and hostility towards migrants. 

Abdelhamid El Jamri, the Chairman of the Committee, said that the issue of strengthening the treaty bodies would watermark discussions throughout the week.  The immigration issue was at the centre of many debates, with several high-level meetings being devoted to it in the coming months.  

In a general discussion Committee Experts stressed the importance of promoting the Committee’s work and said that the United Nations should increase its efforts and funds in awareness-raising to that end.  In the next ten years the global number of migrant workers was likely to increase for a number of reasons, such as climate change and the global financial crisis, which meant that it was imperative to pay close attention to all aspects of the complex phenomenon of migration so as to be better prepared to deal with it in the future.  A representative of a non-governmental organization suggested that the tenth anniversary of the Committee in 2014 be used to celebrate and further promote the Convention.

When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m. this afternoon it will begin consideration of the initial report of Rwanda (CMW/C/RWA/1).  The Committee will complete that review tomorrow morning.

Opening Statement

MARIA CLARA MARTIN, Chief, Americas Section, Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave an update on important developments that had taken place since the Committee’s last session in April 2012.  Since then, Indonesia had ratified the Convention, bringing the number of States parties to the Convention to 46.  Currently 16 States had signed but not ratified the Convention.  Achieving universal ratification of the human rights treaties remained one of the primary goals of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Martin said, highlighting that the Office was working towards mainstreaming migrants’ rights within the United Nations system.

The main objectives of the Field Operations and Technical Co-operation Division were to strengthen protection systems, to enhance the implementation of international human rights norms at State level and to prevent human rights violations.  The Americas in particular had seen a deterioration of the human rights situation of migrant workers, particularly those in an irregular situation.  The Committee’s concluding observations on the countries it reviewed provided the basis for the Division’s work in the region.  It was important to co-operate with organizations fighting for migrant workers’ rights.  Xenophobia and hostility towards vulnerable migrants added to the difficulties they faced.  The Committee also faced significant challenges in its advocacy and normative role and in ensuring that migrant workers could fully enjoy their rights. 

Ms. Martin congratulated the Chairperson of the Committee, Abdelhamid El Jamri, on his role presiding over the twenty-fourth annual meeting of chairpersons in Addis Ababa in June 2012, and reminded the Committee that during that the Chairs held a video conference with the two co-facilitators of the General Assembly’s intergovernmental process on strengthening the human rights treaty body system.  Ms. Martin concluded by encouraging intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to co-operate more actively with the Committee by submitting information about the implementation of the Convention by State parties.  She expressed her Division’s determination to support the Committee’s efforts to strengthen co-operation with external partners in gathering country-specific information.

Statement by Committee Chairperson

ABDELHAMID EL JAMRI, Chairperson of the Committee, said for his part that the issue of strengthening the treaty bodies would watermark exchanges throughout the week.  The immigration issue was at the centre of many debates, he said, with several high-level meetings being devoted to it in the coming months.  Protecting and securing international migration was a fundamental question, which gave the Committee an essential role in law, he observed.

Discussion with Committee Members

A Committee Expert took the floor to highlight his participation in several academic meetings which promoted the Convention, stressing that the promotion of the Committee’s work was highly necessary.  Another Expert said it had taken a long time for the Convention to come into being through ratification by countries adhering to it.  More time was needed for more States to become parties to the Convention.  He stressed the need for the United Nations to find additional mechanisms to make the Convention more popular, such as increasing ratification by directing greater effort and funds in encouraging States to ratify it.  The Committee’s tenth anniversary should be fully exploited in order to increase awareness of its work, an Expert said.

An Expert highlighted that in several former Soviet Union countries the use of migrant workers was linked to other phenomena, most notably corruption.  Therefore, those other phenomena should also be studied in order to gain a better understanding of the problems facing migrant workers.  In the next ten years the global number of migrant workers was likely to increase for a number of reasons, such as climate change and the global financial crisis, which meant that it was imperative to pay close attention to all aspects of the complex phenomenon of migration so as to be better prepared to deal with it in the future.

MARIA CLARA MARTIN, Chief, Americas Section, Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, responded to the questions and agreed that more could be done in terms of committing more resources to promoting the work of the Committee.  It was the Committee’s policy to be as little donor-driven as possible because donors were not necessarily parties to the treaty.


Statement by Non-Governmental Organization

A representative of a non-governmental organization that worked on migration issues addressed the Committee and suggested that its tenth anniversary, which would fall in 2014, be used to celebrate and further promote its work.  He reported that a number of case-studies, notably including situations in Mexico and the Philippines, were in progress and that almost ten years after the Committee had started its work several country reports had been produced and were being examined.  In addition to the Convention all other treaties relevant to the rights of migrant workers were taken into consideration.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CMW12/007E