International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
The United Nations General Assembly adopted this Convention on December 18, 1990. It has 13 signatories and 55 countries have ratified or acceded to it. (Signatories are qualified to ratify, accept or approve a treaty. Ratification is the 'international act' where a State indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty.) India had not signed or ratified this treaty.
Preamble of the Convention notes that ‘non-documented workers’ are frequently
employed under less ‘favourable conditions’ of work than other workers. The
Preamble recognises “…the need to bring about the international protection of
the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families.”
Convention refers to the principles embodied in various human rights treaties
of the United Nations, including the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights,
the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
93 Articles of this Convention are arranged in nine parts. Articles 1-6 (Part
I) contain the Convention’s scope and definitions. Article 7 (Part II) states
that the Convention shall be applied to all migrant workers and their families
without discrimination of any kind. Article 8-35 (Part III) discuss the human
rights of all migrant workers and their family members. Articles 36-56 (Part
IV) detail other rights of such workers. Articles 57-63 (Part V) cover
provisions applicable to certain categories of migrant workers. Articles 64-71
(Part VI) discuss the ‘Promotion of sound, equitable, humane and lawful
conditions in connection with international migration of workers and members of
72-78 (Part VII) propose establishing a Committee on the Protection of Rights
of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families composed of nationals of
the State Parties to the Convention. They prescribe the manner in which State
Parties shall report the measures they have adopted to observe the rights
recognised by the Covenant. Articles 79-84 (Part VIII) contain ‘General
provisions’. And Articles 85-93 (Part IX) discuss the processes by which the Convention
is to be ratified and amended.
following are excerpts from 14 of the 71 Articles in Parts I-VI which remain
especially relevant to the present times:
2: A ‘migrant worker’ is a
person who is – or has been – engaged in a remunerated activity in a State (country)
of which they are not a national.
7: State Parties shall – within their territory
or jurisdiction – provide the rights set forth in the Convention to all migrant
workers and members of their families, without distinction based on gender,
colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, ethnicity, nationality,
age, economic position, marital status, birth or any other status.
workers and members of their families shall be free to leave any State
(country). This right shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which
are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or the
rights and freedoms of others. Migrant workers and members of their families
shall have the right to enter and remain in their country of origin, at any
Article 9: The right to life of migrant workers and
members of their families shall be protected by law.
Article 10: Migrant workers and their family members shall
not be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
Article 11: Migrant workers and their family members shall
not be “held in slavery or servitude,” or be required to perform forced or
Article 28: Migrant workers and members of their families
have the right to receive any medical care that they urgently require to preserve
their life or avoid “…irreparable harm to their health.” No migrant worker
shall be refused emergency medical care due to any ‘irregularity’ with regard
to stay or employment.
Article 30: Each child of a migrant worker shall have the
right to education on an equal basis with the nationals of the State of
employment. Such children shall not be refused access to public pre-school
education due to the “…irregularity of the child’s stay in the State of
Article 31: State Parties shall respect the cultural
identity of migrant workers and members of their families and shall not prevent
them from maintaining their cultural links with their State of origin.
Article 40: Migrant workers and their families shall have
the right to form associations and trade unions in their State of employment to
promote and protect their economic, social, cultural and other interests.
42: States Parties shall establish procedures or
institutions – in States of origin and in States of employment – through which they
can take account of the employment, needs, aspirations and obligations of
migrant workers and members of their families. States of employment shall
facilitate – in accordance with their laws – the consultation or participation
of migrant workers and members of their families in decisions concerning the
life and administration of local communities.
Article 45: Members of the families of migrant workers in
the State of employment shall be treated equally with nationals of the State,
for access to educational institutions and services, vocational guidance and
training institutions and services, social and health services, and
participation in cultural life.
Article 51: Migrant workers who have been granted
permission to engage in a ‘remunerated activity’ in their State of employment shall
be treated equally with nationals of the State “…in the exercise of that
Article 67: States Parties concerned shall co-operate to
adopt measures for the orderly return of migrant workers and members of their
families to their State of origin when they decide to return.
Focus by Sruti Penumetsa.
PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.
18 Dec, 1990