International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

FOCUS

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.

The 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.”

The 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.

The 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 their families’.

Articles 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.

The following are excerpts from 14 of the 71 Articles in Parts I-VI which remain especially relevant to the present times:

Article 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.

Article 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.

Article 8: Migrant 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 time.

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 punishment.

Article 11: Migrant workers and their family members shall not be “held in slavery or servitude,” or be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.

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 employment.”

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.

Article 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 remunerated activity.”

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.

AUTHOR

United Nations

COPYRIGHT

United Nations

PUBLICATION DATE

18 Dec, 1990

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