Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers Opens Thirty-Fifth Session and Meets with Civil Society
The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families today opened its thirty-fifth session, hearing an address by Andrea Ori, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, adopting its agenda and programme of work for the session, and hearing from national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations.
Mr. Ori commended the Committee for its work done in partnership with other committees, including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, with the possibility developing a general comment. Together with the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the Convention was one of the most important instruments in the context of migration. They were unique, complementary and mutually reinforcing in advancing migration governance and in promoting and protecting the rights of all migrants, regardless of their migration status. Mr. Ori concluded by wishing the Committee a successful session.
The Committee then met with the national human rights institution of Senegal, the Ombudsman’s Office of Venezuela and of Bolivia, as well as meeting with representatives of civil society of Senegal, Syria, Türkiye and Venezuela.
The webcast of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families thirty-fifth session can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. tomorrow, September 20, to begin its review of the initial report submitted by Venezuela (CMW/C/VEN/1).
ANDREA ORI, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, commended the Committee for the successful country visit that seven Committee members undertook to Agadir, Marrakech and Rabat in Morocco in May. Mr. Ori also commended the Committee for its work done in partnership with other committees, including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, with the possibility developing a general comment.
Together with the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the Convention was one of the most important instruments in the context of migration. They were unique, complementary and mutually reinforcing in advancing migration governance and in promoting and protecting the rights of all migrants, regardless of their migration status. Migration, in particular irregular migration, had been the subject of intense debate in many countries, with some States attempting to increase the effectiveness of returns, under the assumption that increased returns built trust in the State’s ability to manage borders effectively.
Noting the critical importance that the Committee attached to the issue of enforced disappearances in the context of international migration, Mr. Ori added that they had become an increasingly alarming human rights violation that occurred along various migration routes around the world. The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances had concluded that enforced disappearances of migrants could occur as a result of the abduction of migrants for political reasons, during the detention of migrants, or as a possible consequence of smuggling or trafficking in persons. The guiding principles for the search for disappeared persons adopted in 2019 by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances emphasised the particular vulnerability of migrants and called upon States to pay attention to the risks of enforced disappearances. Yet the issue of enforced disappearance of migrants remained marginalised.
Mr. Ori said States’ preference for soft law as a framework for dealing with international migration was a key explanation for the slow ratification of the Convention. Following its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990, the Convention had taken nearly 13 years to enter into force.
At the meeting in New York in May of the Chairs of the treaty bodies, important decisions had been taken on a predictable review calendar, individual communications, urgent actions, harmonised working methods, and other issues. The implementation of the predictable schedule of reviews would be facilitated through further harmonisation of working methods across treaty bodies. Mr. Ori concluded by wishing the Committee a successful session.
EDGAR CORZO SOSA, Committee Chair, reviewed activities of the Committee since its meeting in Agadir, noting that a joint statement in conjunction with the Global Compact was in the pipeline. The Committee had also conducted activities with the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, as well as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. That highlighted the importance the Committee placed on having contact with the other Committees, noting their common ground. The Committee then adopted the agenda for the session.
Statements by National Human Rights Institutions and Non-governmental organizations
Senegal Human Rights Committee said there was a strategic objective in a priority action plan to promote better migration governance in the country. A draft law had been launched to reform legislation, to better assist and protect migrants. Irregular migration, especially involving women, had not been looked into very closely; there was a significant stigmatisation of women, which in turn often led to the trafficking of human beings.
Amnesty International highlighted its cooperation with the Prosecutor’s Office in several cities, adding that it collected statistics on migrants in detention. The organization had been informed of the arrest of four migrants, and had made a lawyer available to ensure their defense. Concerning the deportation of migrants, a national from Türkiye had been able to appeal his deportation after consulting with Amnesty International. National legislation was obsolete and did not take into account progress which had been achieved.
Réseau Paix et Sécurité Pour les Femmes de l’Espace CEDEAO said that in Senegal there was a problem of coherence, and several ministries intervened on migration. There was a need to enforce laws on begging, child labour and exploitation. The free movement of children at land borders must be organized, as children were taken across borders without papers. The State, with the support of civil society and diplomatic representations, needed to organize their return and send children to school in their country of origin.
Syrian Network for Human Rights said regime aircraft had launched tens of thousands of indiscriminate attacks on residential neighbourhoods, which also failed to distinguish between migrant workers and residents. The labour law showed no respect for the rights of Syrian or migrant workers, with foreign workers usually not provided contracts, or provided one that was subject to Syria’s labour law, meaning it was almost impossible to secure the legal rights of migrant workers if they worked for a member of the security services.
International Refugee Rights Association said Türkiye currently hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide. Turkish law specified that an administrative detention decision could last for up to one year, however, once released after one year, many migrants were re-detained. As Türkiye’s immigration detention capacity grew, there was a notable divide between those detention centres that provided adequate living conditions and those that did not meet European Union regulation standards. Concerning situations were reported at some centres, and detainees also faced obstacles in accessing legal assistance.
Border Violence Monitoring Network said patterns of violence against migrants had been corroborated by human rights organizations, and expressed concern about the continued use of pushbacks. Multiple testimonies had been recorded about migrants who had been pushed back into Syria. Evidence collected showed that Syrian refugees were coerced into signing voluntary return forms. The Committee should focus on migrant pushbacks.
Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation said there was a growing discrepancy between existing laws and their implementation for refugee and immigrant women. Language barriers made it difficult for women to report an official complaint and to take legal action against male violence, and violence against immigrant and refugee women and girls was normalised a cultural phenomenon. Support services for refugee women were not public and were mainly provided by humanitarian aid organizations which did not have a comprehensive knowledge of gender inequality and gender-based violence.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said that in 2016, the Committee issued recommendations to Türkiye, including measures to eradicate the detention of children and families. Had the organizations seen or analysed any measures which the State had put in place to comply with those recommendations? Was the migration status of the woman an obstacle to them in submitting a complaint about violence they had suffered?
A Committee Expert asked for more information about the administration process to ensure migrants had access to justice. Were discriminatory practices still in place?
A Committee Expert noted that Syria was a country with a history of migration, and asking for more information about the mobility of migrants. What were the distinctions between migrants, immigrants, and different categories of migrants? What happened to migrants who returned?
A Committee Expert asked about child marriage; were there any figures about that and was it an ongoing practice? Could more information be provided about violence against women?
Responses by Civil Society
A civil society representative explained that in Türkiye, the migration status of women and children determined the availability of public services. It also directly affected women and children’s situation when it came to escaping violence. Shelters referred women and children to migration offices, which then referred them to the centre for violence, however the referrals were continuous and the women were never able to find a secure place due to their regular status. Furthermore, there was a gap between the laws and their implementation. Women from Türkiye faced many problems in the implementation of the law. Refugee and migrant status in Türkiye was complicated. In Türkiye, refugee status was only given to citizens of the European Union. Child marriage was a national problem. Violence generally came from members of the household.
Statements by National Human Rights Institutions and Non-governmental organizations
The Ombudsman’s Office of Bolivia said there was progress regarding migration, including free regularisation for minors. Reasons for concern included the lack of any law on statelessness. The lack of access to reliable information made it impossible to create indicators for the development of new policies for the protection of the rights recognised in the Convention. Bolivia should adopt a normative instrument that incorporated the categories of migrant workers established in the Convention, so that the national regulations were in accordance with the international obligations assumed by the State. Bolivia needed to guarantee public access to statistical data on people subject to temporary and definitive mandatory departures.
The Ombudsman’s Office of Venezuela said the economic blockade led to a high migratory flow of Venezuelans who moved to other countries in the region to improve their quality of life, or for promises of employment. The Office had registered and attended to about 150 complaints for alleged violation of the right to work filed by foreigners. There was a lack of official figures that quantified the departure of nationals to other countries, as well as figures on migrant workers and their current conditions of employment. Institutions should keep a more detailed record of everything concerning migratory movements. It was convenient to continue with the "Plan Vuelta a la Patria," a State policy for the safe and effective return to Venezuelan territory for the migrant population that wished to do so. The coordination between the governing bodies in labour and migration matters should also be deepened, to join efforts to carry out actions in favour of migrant workers and their families.
SURES said Venezuela historically had an open-door migration policy, which had seen a significant increase in international immigrants in the national territory. The State should publish official information on the current status of the Venezuelan migratory flow abroad, as well as the number of people who had returned. It was important that the State continued to strengthen its normative framework to guarantee the protection of the human rights of the migrant population, and to strengthen consular assistance to prevent violations of human rights.
The Venezuelan Association of Jurists said the Venezuelan State had criminalised the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons, and implemented a series of measures to prevent and combat human trafficking. The right of migrant workers and members of their families to return to their State of origin was violated due to the refusals of foreign companies to supply fuel to the State airline. Venezuela should expedite the issuance of passports and their renewal to guarantee the right to identity of Venezuelan migrant workers and their families both in the country and at consular offices abroad.
Center for Justice and Peace said Venezuelan women on the move were victims of a continuum of violence that began in the country of origin and was maintained through migratory transit and in host countries. Unlike men, they migrated with their children, increasing their risk in migratory transit. They were vulnerable to violence, discrimination, harassment and scams, among others. The State responded with proposals such as the "Plan Vuelta a la Patria" which under the euphemism of voluntary return sought to promote collective expulsions contrary to international human rights standards. Return, as a human right, needed to be exercised freely and without coercion.
Human Rights Center of the Andrés Bello Catholic University said the “Plan Vuelta a la Patria” with the alleged purpose of facilitating voluntary return had recorded the return of 17,522 people, equivalent to 0.35% of the population that had left. More than 900,000 children had been affected by the migration of their parents. The Venezuelan population faced barriers to accessing passports, and Venezuelan migrants and refugees faced additional challenges when it came to renewing them. Many children born abroad to Venezuelan parents had not been able to obtain their Venezuelan nationality due to the malfunctioning of consular services.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert addressed questions to the Bolivian Office of the Ombudsman, asking about information received on migration control operatives. Could more information be provided on the situation of the movement of indigenous persons from Venezuela to Colombia, and from Venezuela to Brazil? What was the situation those persons found themselves in, and the reasons for their migration? Addressing the Venezuelan Ombudsman’s Office, what had Venezuela done so the parents of children living outside the country had the necessary documentation and would have a right to a name and nationality?
A Committee Expert asked whether the Offices of the Ombudsmen had had communication with some of the other ombudsmen’s offices in the region? Could more information be provided on the support provided to Venezuelan migrants in other countries?
EDGAR CORZO SOSA, Committee Chair, said trafficking in persons was very concerning. It was important to go into more depth about the victims and survivors of that crime. Could information be provided about consular assistance? How was it provided to persons who lived outside Venezuela? Where were the figures on refugees coming from, as there were discrepancies?
Responses by Non-Governmental Organizations
A civil society representative said there were two indigenous groups in Venezuela migrating across the Brazilian border due to the complex humanitarian crisis in the country, as well as mining activity which was forcing indigenous people to leave their territory. The Colombian Institute for Family Welfare had taken the decision to offer more than 1,200 Venezuelan children for adoption, as they could find no way to ensure that the corresponding institute in Venezuela allowed for the children’s reunification with their families.
The Ombudsman’s Office of Venezuela said the Ombudsman had received no complaints relating to trafficking, however the Prosecutor’s Office could provide more information regarding that crime. The plan against trafficking had been put together in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund, to provide effective care for victims of trafficking. There were various instruments to categorise the crime of trafficking; however, there was no stand-alone law making it a crime. The national plan on trafficking needed to become fully operational to ensure all State authorities were involved. There was contact with other Ombudsman’s Offices throughout the region; information on best practices and regarding cases was exchanged. More information would be provided in writing.
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