Committee on Migrant Workers Holds Panel Discussion on Global Migration, with the Participation of States
The Committee on Migrant Workers this afternoon held a panel discussion on global migration, with the participation of States.
Opening the meeting, Can Ünver, Committee Chairperson, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had had a devastating impact on the human rights of migrant workers and their families. Along with other mandates, the Committee had participated in issuing joint guidance calling on States and societies to develop responses in order not to leave migrants and their families behind.
The Committee then held a panel discussion, moderated by Ben Lewis of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, where the participants were Azad Taghi-Zada, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, who spoke on the topic of climate change and migration; Myriam Poussi, Committee Member, who spoke about the protection of migrants in the context of deportations, expulsions, return and reintegration; Edgar Corzo Sosa, Committee Rapporteur, who spoke about mental health and migration; Fatima Diallo, Vice-Chair of the Committee, who spoke about the human rights of domestic migrant workers; Alvaro Botero Navarro, Vice-Chair of the Committee, who spoke about enforced and involuntary disappearances of migrant workers; and Mohammed Charef, Committee Member, spoke about the Convention and its connection with the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration.
In the ensuing discussion, States remarked that it was important for them to hear examples of good practice which the Committee might gather through its reviews and dialogues with States. Committee Experts, noting the dynamic nature of migration as a phenomenon, and explained how the Committee’s work could complement work done on similar issues by other United Nations bodies and other organizations.
All documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, are available on the session webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 7 October at 3:00 p.m. to launch its new General Comment 5 on migrants’ rights to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention.
CAN ÜNVER, Committee Chairperson, opened the panel debate noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had had a devastating impact on the human rights of migrant workers and their families. Along with other mandates, the Committee had participated in issuing joint guidance calling on States and societies to develop responses in order not to leave migrants and their families behind. During its 33rd Session, the Committee had considered the reports of Rwanda and Azerbaijan. He noted that the Committee would be launching its General Comment on migrants’ rights to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention, providing authoritative guidance to States on fulfilling their obligations under the Convention. The objective of the meeting with States was to advocate for more ratification, and to provide updates on migrants’ human rights.
Keynote Remarks by Committee Members
BEN LEWIS, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and moderator of the panel, said migration and the rights of migrant workers and their families was a priority of the Office.
AZAD TAGHI-ZADA, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, on the topic of climate change and migration, said when there were changes to the landscapes where people lived, it affected their lives strongly. They needed to find a new homeland, or die. Migrants were looking for conditions similar to those they were accustomed to from their homelands. Reviewing historical migration events, he said they guided understanding of processes occurring in the present day. Climate change and global warming was causing environmental degradation, giving rise to climate migrants. The term “environmental refugee” was coined in 2001, he noted, and their number was predicted to reach 50 million in ten years’ time. The system creating the climate was complex, so if States attempted to change the environment according to their own preferences, it could affect their neighbouring countries.
MYRIAM POUSSI, Committee Member, spoke about the protection of migrants in the context of deportations, expulsions, return and reintegration. Migration concerned all countries; people migrated all over the world, often in extremely difficult situations. Everywhere, issues of hosting and welcome were relevant. Management of migrants required a holistic, human rights-based approach. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some States had used forced returns against migrants. When it came to protection of migrant workers by States, she noted that expulsions and deportations must be done in line with human rights law. The Convention prohibited collective expulsion measures. Reintegration was complex as it brought together different phases of migration. Return to the country of origin was a human right, and no country should oppose the readmission of their own nationals, after which a process of reintegration followed. All States should share best practices.
EDGAR CORZO SOSA, Committee Rapporteur, spoke about mental health and migration. As the world moved through the COVID-19 pandemic, people’s habits had been drastically changed, with less human contact, he noted, adding that the World Health Organization had warned of a mental health crisis due to the isolation people were facing. People who were migrating faced those challenges, in addition to leaving their countries and the attendant instability of that. Migrants faced moments of depression when they wondered what was happening in their lives. There was a lack of visibility to mental health problems; physical suffering and harm often concealed mental suffering. Migration had an impact on family members, as well, he pointed out. The conditions of hundreds of thousands of family members of migrants needed to be improved. There was a real protection gap when it came to the right to mental health of people in a migration situation.
FATIMA DIALLO, Vice-Chair of the Committee, spoke about the human rights of domestic migrant workers. The COVID-19 pandemic had brutally highlighted the precarious situation domestic migrant workers were in, she said. Half of domestic workers had seen their revenues drop during the pandemic, she noted, adding that most government pandemic-mitigation programmes did not include migrant workers. Workers suffered from isolation and restrictions on their liberty of association, and were often unaware of the economic benefits they brought to the countries where they worked. To protect migrant workers and their families, including those in irregular situations, States needed to ensure the application of international standards, including General Comment 1 of the Committee, and relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization. Migrant domestic workers needed to be included in all assistance programmes, bearing in mind the specific issues they faced.
ALVARO BOTERO NAVARRO, Vice-Chair of the Committee, speaking about enforced and involuntary disappearances of migrant workers, said it was one of the largest humanitarian tragedies of the present day. In some situations, migrants could not contact their families due to being held in detention; in others, they had died en route. Migrants abducted by organized crime groups were often victims of human rights violations, including disappearances. Not all disappearances of migrants were due to enforced disappearance, he noted. The lack of attention to migrants who had disappeared was troubling. Families of disappeared and missing migrants, as well as civil society organizations, were crucial in drawing attention to that problem. States had an obligation to attend to the structural causes of migration, and should avoid adopting excessively strict or rigid migration policies.
MOHAMMED CHAREF, Committee Member, spoke about the Convention and its connection with the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration. The COVID-19 pandemic was a global crisis which was multi-faceted, and had engendered myriad consequences. It had showed how important it was to protect migrants, which was far from the greatest priority for many States. The 23 objectives of the Global Compact were just reminders of commitments which had already been made, he said, adding that the Committee had a working group on the Compact which sought to find contact points between the two, paying particular attention to oversight mechanisms. No manual would work in all situations and direct national mechanisms so ensure efficient migration. The Convention was a tool to push forward human rights in migrant communities.
Remarks by States
Mexico said inclusive policies that were human rights-based were essential. Treaty bodies needed to avoid overlap, and the Committee was urged to seek collaboration with other bodies on environmental issues and other matters, which might lead to synergies. Mexico would like to hear from the Committee which good practices would be worth highlighting.
Azerbaijan noted that it had been considered by the Committee during its current session, and had no overdue reports, and thanked the Committee as well as members of the Secretariat for the smoothly held dialogue.
Discussion by Committee Members
Committee members, responding to remarks by States, said that growth in migration flows due to climate change could change current dynamics, and States which were currently countries of destination could become countries of origin for migrants. Children and families should never be detained for reasons pertaining to migration, it was also remarked. In response to a request for good practices to be emulated, a Committee Expert noted that a country which had recently been reviewed gave all children the nationality of the country they were born in, regardless of the nationality of the parents. As for the need to avoid duplication and overlap, the International Labour Organization was also working on issues facing domestic migrant workers, a Committee Expert noted; the role of the Committee in monitoring and oversight was very important, another Expert added.
BEN LEWIS, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and moderator of the panel, encouraged the States present which had not yet ratified or acceded to it to consider joining the Convention. The Global Compact could move the international community in that direction, as there were significant synergies between the Compact and the Convention. Engagement with regional commissions as well as with other parts of the United Nations system was also an area to be explored.
CAN ÜNVER, Committee Chairperson, thanked all participants, and noted that the Committee needed to analyze the reasons for the relatively low number of States parties to the Convention. The Committee expected that its States parties supported the promotion and visibility of the Convention. In the current age of migration when people were moving widely, the international community needed to find ways to support and protect migrants, and to let them keep their human rights. The Convention was a good tool to achieve that.