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COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANT WORKERS EXAMINES GUYANA’S INITIAL REPORT

12 April 2018

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Guyana on its implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Introducing the report, John Ronald Deep Ford, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Guyana was committed to doing well for the welfare of migrants in all of the areas covered by the Convention.  Through its national laws and its international obligations, Guyana guaranteed migrants the same rights as those enjoyed by its national citizens, namely the same legal, economic and financial rights concerning employment, health, information, association, detention, marriage, and citizenship matters.  Guyana was particularly proud of the health and education coverage that it provided to migrants.  It was very proactive in its consideration and promotion of the Global Compact on Migration, and it had made its own efforts to address the needs of migrants, namely those relating to social integration, raising awareness about their rights, health assistance, vocational and employment assistance, and education.  The Government recognized that the gathering of disaggregated data on migrants could be improved, whereas it considered that its legislation and enforcement in the area of child rights and trafficking in persons had been considerably strengthened over the past five years.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts inquired about the State party’s plans to harmonize national legislation with the Convention, noting that certain obsolete legal terms were still used in Guyana’s laws.  They wondered whether equal treatment could be safeguarded in a situation where national laws had precedence over the Convention.  Recalling that almost 40 per cent of the population of Guyana worked abroad, while a large number of migrants came from Venezuela, Experts wondered about how the Government handled voluntary return, readmission and reintegration.  They also raised the issue of institutional coordination for the protection of migrants, criminal risks that migrants faced, handling migrants from Venezuela, measures to deal with xenophobic attitudes and avoid discrimination of migrants, consular assistance for Guyanese citizens abroad, readmission agreements with third countries, dissemination of the Convention, the Government’s plans to participate in the negotiations on the Global Compact on Migration, social security for migrants, birth registration of foreigners, family reunification, trade union rights, programmes for channelling remittances, trafficking in persons, protection of migrant children, and migratory detention.

In her concluding remarks, Maria Landazuri De Mora, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guyana, commended the fact that the Government of Guyana had commenced the process of harmonization of national laws with international norms, and she suggested that Guyana look at examples of legal reform in Latin America.  Ms. De Mora stressed that the authorities needed to carry out migratory detentions in a transparent manner and in line with the principle of due process.

Can Ünver, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guyana, commended the delegation of Guyana for its cooperation with the Committee.

Mr. Deep Ford thanked all members of the Committee for the useful dialogue and very good feedback, and he acknowledged the advice on looking at experiences of other countries in managing migration.

Committee Chair Ahmadou Tall concluded the meeting by encouraging the State party to take all the necessary measures to implement the Committee’s recommendations. 

The delegation of Guyana consisted of representatives of the Permanent Mission of Guyana to the United Nations Office at Geneva. 


The Committee will next meet in public today at 3 p.m. to consider the initial report of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (CMW/C/VCT/1).


Report

The initial report of Guyana can be read here: CMW/C/GUY/1.

Presentation of the Report

JOHN RONALD DEEP FORD, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that Guyana was committed to doing well for the welfare of migrant workers in all of the areas covered by the Convention, and that it was ready to listen to the Committee to advance its global, regional and national obligations related to the human rights of migrants.  Guyana had become a State party to the Convention in July 2010 and it was still in the very early stages of addressing the issue of migrants.  Within the past several years the Government had established institutions and committees whose mandate included dealing with that issue.  More than 30 Government departments had been consulted during the preparation of the initial report.  Guyana was committed, through its national laws and its international obligations, to providing migrants with the same human rights that national citizens enjoyed, namely the same legal, economic and financial rights concerning employment, health, information, association, detention, marriage, and citizenship.  The Convention was respected in Guyana with the weight of international law, but it did not have the same force of national laws.  Guyana had many laws that were in harmony with the Convention, for example laws on labour, trafficking and child rights.  Guyana was particularly proud of the health and education coverage that it provided to migrants.  The regional office of the International Organization for Migration for the Caribbean was located in Guyana and that physical presence brought increased services that migrants in Guyana could access. 

The country was very proactive in its consideration and promotion of the Global Compact on Migration, and it had made its own efforts, and participated as part of international efforts, to address the needs of migrants, namely those relating to social integration, raising awareness about their rights, health assistance, vocational and employment assistance, and education.  The Government recognized that the gathering of statistics on migrants could be improved, especially the gathering of data disaggregated by gender, age and other demographic characteristics.  The Government was currently compiling data by nationality and visa status.  It also recognized that the institutional framework and associated budgets supporting the implementation of the Convention needed to be strengthened.  During the compilation of the report, the Government had become acutely aware that an interagency taskforce would be essential for the fuller and more effective implementation of the Convention.  The Government considered that its legislation and enforcement in the area of child rights and trafficking in persons had been considerably strengthened over the past five years.  Guyana had collaborated with the International Organization for Migration to convene a national consultative meeting about the Global Compact on Migration, and participated in information sharing sessions with vulnerable groups in regional and hinterland areas.  Guyana had passed the Status of Aliens Act that addressed the issue of property rights of foreigners, and it was a party to the Revised Treaty of Chaguramas that protected the rights of nationals of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) who were residents in territories across that community.  The national legislation on financial transfers was very friendly to migrants’ needs, and laws guaranteed their equal access to justice, Mr. Deep Ford concluded. 

Questions by Country Rapporteurs 

MARIA LANDAZURI DE MORA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guyana, inquired about the State party’s plans to harmonize national legislation with the Convention.  Certain terms that were nowadays obsolete in international conventions were still used in Guyana’s laws.  Who was responsible for protecting migrants and ensuring the protection of their human rights at borders?  What was going to be done to update the current norms?

Was Guyana developing norms, rules and standards to help it go beyond giving fines to migrants and avoiding their detention?  What were the new procedures in place?  Was there any institutional coordination for the protection of migrants? 

Ms. De Mora said that the Committee was aware of the solidarity that Guyana had been showing to migrants from Venezuela.  The Committee had also received information about criminal risks that migrants faced.  Ms. De Mora also addressed the presence of police and armed forces in the border regions between Guyana and Venezuela.

CAN ÜNVER, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guyana, drew attention to the implementation of the Convention in Guyana.  Could equal treatment be safeguarded if national laws had precedence over the Convention?  Mr. Ünver recalled that protection should be afforded to all migrants.

There was a global tendency that all migrants faced unwelcoming attitudes and animosity in receiving countries.  Did Guyana have concrete measures to deal with xenophobic attitudes and avoid discrimination? 

What was the level of consular assistance for the citizens of Guyana abroad?  Mr. Ünver noted that the criminalization of migration was one of the most important problems in the world.

Questions by Other Committee Experts

Experts reminded that almost 40 per cent of Guyanese worked abroad, while a large number of migrants came from Venezuela.  What kind of system was in place to handle voluntary return, readmission and reintegration?  How was the Government’s re-migrant scheme, which dealt with the reintegration of returning migrant workers, administered?  Was it transparent and egalitarian?  Which countries did Guyana have readmission agreements with?

How was the State party’s report drafted and how were different Government departments involved in it?  Turning to the dissemination of the Convention, Experts wondered how migrants were informed about their rights under the Convention.  Had regional countries participated in the negotiations of the Global Compact on Migration?  

Was there a social security system that was extended to migrants?  Were migrant workers able to transfer their benefits once they left Guyana?  What was the number of Venezuelan migrants coming to Guyana?

Was there an institution that would look into issues, such as children working in mines, and protect migrants from exploitation?  Where exactly did migrant workers work in Guyana?  Did they have the possibility to send money abroad? 

Was there an active civil society in Guyana and were they active on the issue of migrant workers?  How was civil society involved with institutions in Guyana? 

What were the dynamics of emigration from Guyana?  How and why did people leave?  What was the balance between emigration and immigration?  How was Guyana planning to participate in the negotiations of the Global Compact on Migration?  How did the Government view the Global Compact on Refugees vis-à-vis the Global Compact on Migration? 
 
What type of bilateral agreements did Guyana have with the United States and Canada, which hosted most of the migrants from Guyana?  What bilateral agreements did it have with countries of origin?  How many women were deployed in Guyana’s consular services?  How did Guyana’s consular service provide the necessary support to its nationals? 

What was the status of citizens of Guyana born abroad?  Were their able to obtain Guyana’s citizenship?  What was the procedure for the birth registration of foreigners in Guyana? 

What was more present in Guyana: smuggling or trafficking?  Was trafficking a standalone crime under Guyana’s law?  Was there a problem of corruption in Guyana and what effect did it have on migration?  What were the mechanisms used by the Government to ensure compliance with the Convention by private actors? 

What programmes were in place to channel remittances?  Did Guyana have bilateral agreements on social welfare and labour rights with other countries? 
 
Replies by the Delegation

JOHN RONALD DEEP FORD, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that Guyana was well known in the Caribbean region and beyond for its hospitality, which had a lot to do with its history.  For example, people from Barbados had come to Guyana in the post-slavery period.  Between 1848 and 1915, almost 50 per cent of the current population of Guyana had come as indentured labourers from India.  There was a very vibrant Chinese population, as well as Portuguese from Madera and the population from Africa.  Mr. Deep Ford said that he was not aware of the current mass migration from Venezuela.  In fact, there was a very low number of migrant workers from Venezuela in reported visa statistics, compared to visas granted to workers from China, India, and Peru.

With respect to migrants from Venezuela, Mr. Deep Ford noted that Guyana was trying to extend to them as much help as possible.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had recently established a migration unit.  The Government had also set up the Ministry of Citizenship to process the Guyanese who wanted to return, become dual citizens, and to process migrants.  The transfer of remittances had been simplified and the banking system in the country had improved practices to facilitate that transfer. 

A major effort had been made to protect migrants from trafficking and exploitation.  As part of the national plan to prevent trafficking in persons, the Government had promoted awareness of migrants’ rights, and distributed brochures in hospitals and police stations in remote areas of the country.  Vast hinterland areas of Guyana were very difficult to access and it was in those areas that some migration flows took place.  The Government had organized training courses for members of the Guyana police force and the Immigration Department, and awareness campaigns in schools and indigenous villages.  More decisive actions against trafficking in persons and exploitation included the area sweeps on suspected enterprises that might be violating the laws of Guyana in this regard.

Mr. Deep Ford said there were civil society organizations working to promote and protect the rights of various vulnerable populations.  Guyana’s emigration dynamic was quite concentrated.  It used to be directed towards the United Kingdom, while in the post-colonial period it had diverted towards the United States and Canada.  Guyana had very few embassies across the world, but they were very well distributed, focusing on the countries that hosted large numbers of Guyanese migrants. 

The Caribbean Community and Common Market agreements were now facilitating the movement of migrant workers across the Caribbean region.  As one of the countries with the largest brain drain globally, Guyana was very much interested in the rights of Guyanese migrants.  The Guyanese left their country because of the small national market and, thus, limited opportunities.  They often left mainly to ensure the welfare of their families. 

Comment by a Committee Expert

CAN ÜNVER, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guyana, said that migration was useful for global civilization, and highlighted the importance of consular services for safeguarding the rights of migrants.

Replies by the Delegation

JOHN RONALD DEEP FORD, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the Law Reform Commission had been established in 2016 to undertake the reform and development of all laws applicable in the country.  He noted that the Global Compact on Migration was good for the Convention and all migrants, and thus would help create an environment in which the Convention would thrive.  Some countries that were the key destinations for Guyana’s migrants had not ratified the Convention, namely the United States, Canada, Barbados and the United Kingdom.  As for consular support for Guyanese migrant workers abroad, it was provided mainly through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Citizenship.  All consular offices, especially in countries with a large concentration of Guyanese nationals, were very closely linked with their diaspora communities.  It was estimated that some 75 per cent of key positions in consulates were held by women.

In addition to the critical presence of the International Organization for Migration in Guyana, there was a programme of assisted voluntary return and reintegration for returning Guyanese migrants.  Police and armed forces had received training on migrants’ rights.  The Ministry of Social Protection provided important institutional support for migrants, whereas the Ministry of Education had created off-shore schools for children of migrant workers.  The Ministry of Tourism played an important role in providing information to prospective migrants.  The National Office of Investment provided information to professionals who wanted to bring foreign workers to Guyana, Mr. Deep Ford explained.

Turning to challenges, Mr. Deep Ford mentioned external cooperation for the implementation of the Convention, noting that Guyana needed to do more at the regional and international levels.  There was also an issue of institutional strengthening of the human rights framework, and of achieving greater integration of civil society in the implementation of the Convention.

Second Round of Questions by Committee Experts

MARIA LANDAZURI DE MORA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guyana, inquired about social security for the Guyanese abroad and for migrant workers in the country.  How was the transfer of remittances facilitated?  Ms. De Mora also asked about the reintegration programme for the Guyanese migrant workers expelled from countries, like the United States.

CAN ÜNVER, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guyana, asked about the birth registration of the Guyanese born abroad, and about pre-departure information.  Were there any problems for migrant workers in Guyana to achieve family reunification?

Mr. Ünver said he appreciated the efforts of the Government of Guyana, reminding of the unique position of the Convention to protect the rights of migrant workers.  The fact that Guyana was a State party to the Convention was a positive example for the rest of the region.

What trade union rights were available to migrant workers in Guyana, one Expert asked?  Was there a law that guaranteed them an equal pay with nationals?  What were the main features of updating the national laws in order to bring them in line with the Convention?

What kind of concrete consular services did Guyana provide to its citizens in countries that had not ratified the Convention?  That kind of information could help the Committee to make links with some other treaty bodies, an Expert observed. 

Given the status of Guyana as one of the very few Anglophone countries in Latin America, how did the Government handle difficulties related to the language issue?  How did migrant workers coming mostly from Spanish speaking countries familiarize themselves with their rights in Guyana?

In what kind of conditions could irregular migrants be placed in detention?  What were the conditions prevailing in case of detention?  Were individuals able to make an appeal against detention?  Who monitored places of detention for migrants? 

What was the situation of migrant children in an irregular situation?  Could they also be detained?  How did Guyana care for the most vulnerable migrant children?  

Could migrants be entitled to compensation for detention?  Could they receive any kind of psychological support?  Had there been any court rulings using the Convention, or using the standards developed by the Committee?

On the issue of migrants from Venezuela, an Expert inquired about any measures to regularize their situation.  Were there any provisions for accepting individual communications from victims whose rights had been violated? 

How many bilateral agreements on social welfare had Guyana concluded?  How did Guyana ensure that families received remittances through specific programmes?  Did they pass through the official banking system? 

AHMADOU TALL, Committee Chairperson, inquired about the situation of female domestic workers, as well as relevant statistical data.  Had there been any collective expulsions of migrants from Guyana over the past five years?  Which authorities could order such expulsions and could they be appealed?  What happened to migrant workers without a work or residence permit? 

Replies by the Delegation

JOHN RONALD DEEP FORD, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, explained that the current insurance scheme guaranteed the transfer of social benefits for migrant workers, but it was the responsibility of individual migrant workers to access that social security payment in a local bank.  The payment of social security transfers for those migrant workers who had left Guyana had become much easier than 10 or 15 years ago. 

As for the use of remittances, that was a private matter between migrant workers and their families.  Remittances contributed to foreign exchange balances.  were a very large part of the economy and foreign exchange balances.  The Government thus had an interest in making the transfer of remittances easier.  No taxes were imposed on the transfer of remittances.  Most were transferred through financial institutions, Mr. Deep Ford explained. 

On the use of remittances for the purposes of economic development, Mr. Deep Ford clarified that they were used for such purposes through community-led initiatives in agriculture, for example.  Government institutions did not lead such initiatives.  Responding to the question on whether migrants could use the flow of remittances for accessing loans, Mr. Deep Ford said that concerned private arrangements between migrants and banks.   

Involuntary returns was of concern to the Government of Guyana and it worked on providing psychological and economic assistance to returning Guyanese nationals.  As for birth registration and citizenship, any child born to a Guyanese parent overseas could be registered at a Guyanese consulate and thus obtain the nationality of Guyana.  Pre-departure information was not systematically provided to Guyanese migrants by the Guyanese Government, but by the Governments of destination countries.  Traditionally, Guyanese migrants always informed themselves about prospects in destination countries, Mr. Deep Ford said.

Family reunification was part of the normal visa process.  It was well accepted and practiced that migrant workers could bring the rest of their family to Guyana.  The labour legislation of Guyana did not distinguish between a national and non-national worker.  Everyone was entitled to the same pay for the same work.  As part of the Law Reform Act of 2016, laws would likely be modified in line with the Convention provisions. 

Consular services afforded to Guyanese nationals abroad included providing lists of Guyanese lawyers practicing in destination countries.  As one of the few Anglophone countries in the Latin American region, the Government ensured that border officers were adequately prepared to treat Spanish migrants’ family concerns, including in terms of language engagement. 

Addressing the questions about irregular migrants, Mr. Deep Ford explained that they were brought before magistrates and they could be allowed to apply for a residence permit, or could be ordered to leave the country. 

Irregular migrant children were treated in line with Guyana’s national and international obligations to protect the rights of children.  The Government sought to protect all children from trafficking, sexual exploitation and child labour.

In the context of the Treaty of Chaguramas and other regional frameworks, Guyana had signed a number of bilateral agreements.  It also had the so-called “soft agreements” between regional countries on the rights of migrant workers. 

As for female domestic workers, Mr. Deep Ford noted that phenomenon was a common occurrence among Guyanese migrant workers abroad, rather than a regular occurrence among foreign workers in Guyana.  Nevertheless, the national labour legislation provided domestic workers with adequate protection.  

Concluding Remarks

MARIA LANDAZURI DE MORA, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guyana, thanked the delegation for its constructive participation in the dialogue, and she looked forward to receiving additional information.  Ms. De Mora commended the fact that the Government of Guyana had commenced the process of harmonization of national laws with international norms.  She noted that the Government could already put in place services to ensure the rights of Guyanese migrant workers abroad, and she suggested that Guyana look to examples of legal reform in Latin America.  The Committee could assist the Government on best ways to handle the legal reform process.  As for migratory detention, Ms. De Mora stressed that the authorities needed to carry out such detentions in a transparent manner and in line with the principle of due process.  She recommended that the Government sought alliances with civil society which reported on the situation of migrants in that respect.  Due to the human rights crisis in Venezuela, the Government of Guyana should send positive signals to migrants.  With respect to the prevention of trafficking in persons, Ms. De Mora welcomed the fact that Guyana had signed relevant international treaties and that it sought regional partnerships.  On Guyanese abroad, Ms. De Mora noted that they needed support from their Government.  All consular services could work better with the help of organized Guyanese communities.  State intervention to facilitate fair interest rates for channelling of remittances was essential.  Guyana should look at the experience of the reintegration of returning migrants in other countries.  The International Organization for Migration was an excellent partner in that respect.  Guyana should forge alliances with neighbouring countries in order to manage migratory flows.
 
CAN ÜNVER, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Guyana, commended the delegation of Guyana for its cooperation with the Committee.

JOHN RONALD DEEP FORD, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked all members of the Committee for the useful dialogue and very good feedback.  Mr. Deep Ford acknowledged the advice on looking at the experiences of other countries in managing migration, noting that this would be investigated further.  

AHMADOU TALL, Committee Chairperson, thanked Committee Experts for their exhaustive questions and the delegation for the replies it had provided.  The replies had allowed the Committee to obtain a better picture of the situation of migrants in Guyana and Guyanese migrants abroad.  Mr. Tall encouraged the State party to take all the necessary measures to implement the Committee’s recommendations.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CMW18.03E