Migrant Workers Convention

Posted by under Human Rights Education on 1 July 2003

1st July 2003, Migrant Workers Convention enters into force. Singapore has not ratified the Convention. Think Centre calls on the Singapore government to sign and ratify the convention which aims at guaranteeing equality of treatment and the same working conditions for migrants and nationals.

On July 1st, 2003, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families will enter into force, after the threshold of 20 ratifying states was reached in March 2003. For the full text

Welcoming this important event, 290 migrants rights organisations, unions, NGOs, and other civil society actors are calling upon their governments to implement this new UN Convention or if they have not yet done so, to ratify this international human rights instrument. For the full text of the joint letter

Coinciding with the entry into force of the UN Migrants Rights Convention 2003, UNESCO has released an Information Kit, For the full text of UNESCO Information Kit

Think Centre highlights key points from the UNESCO Information Kit below:

Today, one human being out of 35 is an international migrant. The number of people who have settled down in a country other than their own is estimated at 175 million worldwide. This represents 3 per cent of the world population, and is comparable to the population of Brazil. Nearly all countries are concerned by international migration, whether as sending, transit, or receiving countries, or as a combination of those. International migration has become an intrinsic feature of globalisation.

The Convention constitutes a comprehensive international treaty regarding the protection of migrant workers' rights. It emphasises the connection between migration and human rights, which is increasingly becoming a crucial policy topic worldwide.

"It is time to take a more comprehensive look at the various dimensions of the migration issue, which now involves hundreds of millions of people and affects countries of origin, transit and destination. We need to understand better the causes of international flows of people and their complex interrelationship with development". UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [from his report on strengthening the organisation, 09/11/2002]

The Convention aims at protecting migrant workers ; its existence sets a moral standard and serves as a guide and stimulus for the promotion of migrant rights in each country.

The following countries have ratified the Convention as of June 2003: Azerbaijan, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Uganda, Uruguay.


The major objective of the Convention is to foster respect of migrants' human rights. Migrants are not only workers, they are also human beings.

The Convention does not create new rights for migrants but aims at guaranteeing equality of treatment and the same working conditions for migrants and nationals. This implies notably:

    preventing inhumane living and working conditions, physical and sexual abuse and degrading treatments (articles 10-11, 25, 54),

    guaranteeing migrants' rights to freedom of thought, expression and religion (articles 12-13),

    guaranteeing migrants' access to information on their rights (articles 33, 37),

    ensuring their right to legal equality, which implies that migrant workers are subject to correct procedures, have access to interpreting services and are not sentenced to disproportionate penalties such as expulsion (articles 16-20, 22),

    guaranteeing migrants' equal access to educational and social services (articles 27-28, 30, 43-45, 54),

    ensuring that migrants have the right to participate in trade unions (articles 26, 40).

Migrants should also have the right to remain connected to their country of origin, says the Convention. This implies:

    ensuring that migrants can return to their country of origin if they wish to and that they are allowed to pay occasional visits and are encouraged to maintain cultural links (articles 8, 31, 38),

    guaranteeing migrants' political participation in the country of origin (articles 41-42),

    ensuring migrants' right to transfer their earnings to their home country (articles 32, 46-48).

Regular or irregular, all migrants are entitled to a minimal degree of protection

The Convention innovates because it relies on the fundamental notion that all migrants should have access to a minimal degree of protection. The Convention recognises that legal migrants have the legitimacy to claim more rights than undocumented migrants, but it stresses that undocumented migrants must see their fundamental human rights respected, like all human beings.

In the mean time, the Convention proposes that actions be taken to eradicate clandestine movements, notably through the fight against misleading information inciting people to migrate irregularly and through sanctions against smugglers and employers of undocumented migrants.

Sources and Links

Full text of the UN Convention: International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

UNESCO Information Kit: Information Kit

International Steering Committee: Campaign for Ratification of the Migrants' Rights Convention

The list of events around the world to mark the entry into force of the Convention: The list of events around the world

Since 1999, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights UNHCHR has appointed a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. The position is currently held by Ms. Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro from Costa Rica. to the All documents related the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division publishes an International Migration Report every year. The 2002 edition of the International Migration Report

International Labour Organization (ILO): Migrants

International Organization for Migration (IOM): Migration

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): Migration

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): Refugees

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): CEDAW Reports

International Labour Organisation: Sitemap

ILO: International Labour Migrant

ILO: International Migrant Labour Standards



Show some love,

Back to Previous Page