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Experts of the Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers Commend Bolivia for its Comprehensive Report and Ask about Migrant Monitoring Oversight Operations

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families this afternoon concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of Bolivia on measures taken to implement the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, with Committee Experts commending the comprehensive report and asking about the country’s so-called migrant monitoring oversight operations.

A Committee Expert commended the State for the comprehensive report submitted, which contained around 30 annexes. The report set out a lot of statistical information, in particular disaggregated statistics which allowed the Committee to better understand the situation of migrant workers in the country. Regarding the so-called migrant monitoring oversight operations, how did they take place? Messages disseminated on social media spoke about police operations and searching for criminals and gave the impression there was a link between irregular migration and crime. Were individuals caught up in those operations forced to leave the country, or was there another type of outcome? The operations had taken place alongside the regularisation process described by the delegation. It seemed as if people were being expelled who could benefit from the regularisation process.

In opening remarks, Ivan Manolo Lima Magne, Minister of Justice and Institutional Transparency and head of the delegation, said Bolivia’s Constitution guaranteed that all nationals and foreign workers in Bolivia could freely exercise their rights. Bolivia had taken steps to ensure the rights of migrant workers and their families, including through adopting national regulations, punishing discrimination, and through signing and ratifying international instruments. The delegation looked forward to working constructively with the Committee.

In response to questions, the delegation explained that migrant monitoring oversight operations were not raids; Bolivia did not criminalise migrants. Those operations were undertaken to ensure that the proper routes to enter the country were being used. Due to border closures following the COVID-19 pandemic, irregular routes into the country had multiplied, and people had made money smuggling people across the border. The operations aimed to show people that they could enter the country legally, as the borders were open, and that there was no need to enter Bolivia on an illegal basis. Carrying out migrant monitoring oversight operations contributed to the regulatory process around migration. Migration control and monitoring was carried out nationwide, aiming to ensure regular migration.

In concluding remarks, Pablo Ceriani Cernadas, Committee Expert and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, said the Committee’s recommendations would be focused on supporting the State in its efforts to build on all the good work being done for a positive impact on foreigners in Bolivia and Bolivians abroad.

Pablo César Garcia Saenz, Committee Rapporteur and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, thanked the delegation, saying the Committee was grateful for the dialogue shared over the past two days.

Mr. Magne called on countries around the world to treat Bolivian nationals in a dignified fashion, according to their rights. Bolivia was committed to accepting and implementing the recommendations which would be made.

The delegation of Bolivia was comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Institutional Transparency; the Government Ministry; Professional Education; and the Permanent Mission of Bolivia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

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 10 a.m. on Monday, 25 September, to conclude its review of the combined second and third periodic report of Syria (CMW/C/SYR/2-3).

Report

The Committee has before it the third periodic report of Bolivia (CMW/C/BOL/3) .

Presentation of Report

IVAN MANOLO LIMA MAGNE, Minister of Justice and Institutional Transparency and head of the delegation, said a key concern was the plight of migrant workers abroad. Bolivia’s Constitution guaranteed that all nationals and foreign workers in Bolivia could freely exercise their rights. Bolivia had taken steps to ensure the rights of migrant workers and their families, including through adopting national regulations, punishing discrimination, and through signing and ratifying international instruments.

In 2015, free identity cards were granted to migrants, and in 2016 steps were taken to streamline the process for temporary and permanent residents. A 2018 law had been enacted to review the conferring of citizenship to those born to a Bolivian mother or father abroad. A process was adopted in August 2022 to fully guarantee the rights of migrant workers in the country. The State’s pension system obligated all insurance providers to guarantee access for migrant workers and their families. In 2011, the inter-American social security agreement was implemented, particularly the insurance component addressing the issues of death, accidents, and retirement.

Bolivia had amended a law governing its “Unified, Universal and Free Health System," which provided comprehensive free health care to foreigners. That was a reciprocal agreement; Bolivians abroad should also have access to the same services. It was a system for those most in need.

In Bolivia, the right to education was guaranteed, without any form of discrimination. The number of foreign students in the educational system had been gradually increasing.

A significant percentage of migrants who had taken steps to regularise their migration status had found it positive when it came to family reunification.

Mr. Magne said that yesterday, the President had shared Bolivia’s 14 proposals for a better world at the United Nations General Assembly. They included, among other initiatives, the goal of universal citizenship, and setting aside the arms race in favour of a human-centred approach, where health care took priority over trade and commerce. The State had declared a decade to tackle violence against women and girls, including migrant women and girls. The delegation looked forward to working constructively with the Committee.

Questions by Committee Experts

PABLO CERIANI CERNADAS, Committee Expert and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, welcomed the 2013 adoption of the Migration Act, which included a rights-based approach and provided for a National Migration Board. How had it been set up, and how had its challenges been addressed?

What happened to migrants who fell outside certain groups when it came to Bolivia’s universal health care system?

What measures were being adopted to strengthen consular assistance? Did Bolivians abroad have representation in Parliament? What was being done to clamp down on hate speech and xenophobic speech, including speech accusing migrants of being behind crime?

The Committee had received reports about a series of raids targeting migrant workers and their families, who were then marched directly to the border following those raids, without any judicial process. Children and young people were often caught up in those raids and subsequently expelled. Could the delegation provide information about whether that happened, and if so, how it happened? When it came to children caught up in those raids, how were their rights protected?

PABLO CÉSAR GARCIA SAENZ, Committee Rapporteur and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, asked for more information about specific measures taken to combat the scourge of human trafficking in Bolivia. Were there any reports about complaints which had been lodged? Would regulations enabling consular offices abroad to provide better assistance to their nationals be assessed? What measures had been carried out to ensure Bolivians abroad were aware of the existence of the Convention and that they could use it when needed? What happened to migrant workers in the border areas when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic? Had the Government taken steps to identify those individuals and provide them with assistance?

A Committee Expert asked about human trafficking and smuggling. Had the implementation of the multi-sectoral plan to combat human trafficking and smuggling been assessed? What results had been obtained?

A Committee Expert said information had been received that the Head of the Ombudsman’s Office had not yet been appointed; it was important that that post was filled to ensure continuity. How was the national human rights institution viewed in line with the Paris Principles, and what was its classification? Information had been received that the National Preventive Mechanism against torture fell under the Ombudsman’s Office. What was the status that institution held when it came to protecting those who were detained outside their own country?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said Bolivia was not ideally placed when it came to resources for health care. The universal health care system was constantly evolving; it was a pilot project being worked on with different administrative levels of the country, seeking to arrive at full coverage. Steps would be taken to remove the word “reciprocity” from the norms and standards. Bolivia was committed to providing free COVID-19 vaccines to all people. Work was being done with the consulates to ensure no foreigner was left without that vaccine. The mortality rate between the third and the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had dropped sharply thanks to those actions.

Bolivia’s National Migration Board would meet in October to find a solution to pending concerns regarding the regularisation of migrants. Efforts would focus on those in vulnerable situations, particularly minors. Regularising minor migrants’ status could be the first step to ensuring that highly vulnerable group were no longer so vulnerable. Minors were not required to pay fees for the regularisation process. Family unity was fully respected as part of that process.

Migrant monitoring oversight operations were not raids; Bolivia did not criminalise migrants. Those operations were undertaken to ensure that the proper routes to enter the country were being used. Due to border closures following the COVID-19 pandemic, irregular routes into the country had multiplied, and people had made money smuggling people across the border. The operations aimed to show people that they could enter the country legally, as the borders were open, and that there was no need to enter Bolivia on an illegal basis.

Bolivians abroad had the right to vote, however they could not elect members of the National Assembly.

A law was in place which criminalised hate speech, including hate speech targeting foreigners. That was not a widespread concern as there was no systematic criticism of migrants. In Bolivia, there was zero tolerance for hate speech.

The Constitution guaranteed the right to asylum and there was a well-developed regulatory framework which surrounded that right. The refugee process in Bolivia was based on the belief that there was a human right to asylum. A request would be drawn up and the National Refugee Commission would assess applications for asylum on a case-by-case basis. If a case was rejected, there was an opportunity for appeal. Those who had been granted refugee or asylum were integrated and given access to health care, education and employment.

The issues of trafficking and people-smuggling were a major concern in Bolivia.

One of the key components of the economy were the remittances received from Bolivians abroad. The availability of consular services was vital and the State was committed to making them available. Conventions regarding consular services were included in the Constitution. In March 2020, the had been border closures. Specific data from the border with neighbouring Chile said that over 450 Bolivian individuals had been prohibited from entering, which violated their rights and exposed them to the elements for 14 days. In light of that violation by authorities, the Bolivian Government had enacted a decree which opened the border crossing. Plans had been made to enable the return of Bolivians to the country at any time.

A two-thirds majority of the vote for one candidate was required to appoint the Head of the Ombudsman’s Office. The political instruments were not currently in place at the institutional level to achieve that result, and therefore the Ombudsman had not yet been appointed. The Committee’s message would be conveyed in order for an Ombudsman to be appointed as soon as possible. It would be ideal for Bolivia to have a fully-fledged Ombudsman.

Questions by Committee Experts

PABLO CERIANI CERNADAS, Committee Expert and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, said the Committee had taken note that Bolivia did not criminalise migration. Regarding the so-called migrant monitoring oversight operations, how did they take place? Messages disseminated on social media spoke about police operations and searching for criminals and gave the impression there was a link between irregular migration and crime. Were individuals caught up in those operations forced to leave the country, or was there another type of outcome? The operations had taken place alongside the regularisation process described by the delegation. It seemed as if people were being expelled who could benefit from the regularisation process.

Could the delegation provide more information about data collection on migration? What steps were being taken to facilitate the validation of diplomas so foreigners could work? Had there been investigations into possible cases of corruption?

PABLO CÉSAR GARCIA SAENZ, Committee Rapporteur and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, asked whether the State had considered a law on stateless persons?

A Committee Expert asked under which conditions could the national human rights institution have access to data, particularly in an urgent situation?

Nationally, the minimum age of employment was set at 14. Was the State planning to bring that in line with its international obligations? Was reintegration assistance part of the facilities available to returning migrants? Which body determined whether a person could return, and provided benefits to them?

A Committee Expert asked what was being done to guarantee optimal protection for domestic workers in the informal sector? Bolivia had not ratified the International Labour Organisation Convention 143 on migrant workers; was the State planning on ratifying it? Was there a General Inspectorate for Labour in Bolivia?

A Committee Expert noted that many Bolivian women had left their husbands and children behind to work in Europe, sending remittances back to their families. What steps were being taken to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of those children? Had there been studies carried out in the country on that trend? What became of those children; how did they develop and grow up? Which steps had Bolivia taken to mitigate risks to those children who had grown up without their mothers?

A Committee Expert asked to which extent civil society had participated in drawing up Bolivia’s periodic report?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said carrying out migrant monitoring oversight operations contributed to the regulatory process around migration. Migration control and monitoring was carried out nationwide, aiming to ensure regular migration. All foreign citizens entering the country were subject to a migration check, to ensure their regular migration status, and to ensure regular entry into the country. Migration checks took place at border points where foreigners who had entered the country illegally were identified. When those people were located, they were prevented from entering the country. In some cases, some migrants were subject to compulsory exit, if their situation could not be regularised. Compulsory exit was only the result if a serious offence had been committed. In no case would a foreign migrant be compelled to leave the territory if there was a risk to their lives.

The Constitutional adaptation process was still underway in Bolivia, and the new Labour Law was being developed. Principles and labour rights were applied universally. There were no restrictions when it came to hiring migrants; however, the State needed to protect its own workers. An online platform had been established to deal with human trafficking and smuggling complaints, promoting prosecution and the restitution of rights in that area.

Foreign migrants authorised to remain in the country could carry out any remunerated activity. The law in force established the different types of residency permits, including short-term and temporary permits. Based on an agreement between Brazil and Bolivia, there was a special cross-border agreement in place which made it possible for Bolivans to study and work in some cross-border areas. An inter-institutional agreement on transit was in place to ensure smooth movement between Argentina and Bolivia.

The delegation said that Bolivia’s Constitution contained clear-cut policies against racism. A national committee against racism had been established to implement policies against racism and any forms of discrimination. The State’s data collection in the area of migration could provide access to statistical information and provide that to stakeholders, including the authorities, who generated appropriate policies from that information.

The migratory status of a student did not limit his or her access to education in Bolivia. The number of foreign students in Bolivia grew from 53,000 to 72,000 between 2018 and 2021. A total of 980 foreign qualifications had been regularised in Bolivia, the majority of them from Venezuela. The General Directorate for Migration had obtained knowledge that illegal actions had led to the prosecution of two police agents regarding possible cases of corruption. There had been four complaints concerning alleged acts of possible corruption, and investigations had been conducted.

Bolivia was a member of the two Conventions relating to statelessness. The National Statistics Institute had a webpage where all information dating back to 2012 was available to the public.

Bolivians abroad were able to access a range of provisions allowing them to return to the country. Those who wanted to return to Bolivia could easily import their personal and professional belongings. People were required to present a request to the consular office, and the claim would then be processed. Funds were being raised to carry out a study on socio-economic reintegration of returning migrants. There was a firm commitment in the State’s economic policy to ensure that all Bolivians who returned to the country were given the opportunity to reintegrate.

People working within homes had particular rights under the Bolivian Constitution, and had wide-ranging protection from the State. New regulations included comprehensive and technical labour inspection which would be rolled out across all sectors.

Migratory movement toward Europe had grown exponentially, especially movement to Spain. There had been more than 386,000 Bolivians who had recently migrated to Spain. Information had been received about the adverse conditions faced by expatriates in the countries where they were working. All Bolivians abroad were given the same levels of protection enshrined in the Bolivian Constitution, and those working abroad were given the opportunity for a streamlined return.

Questions by Committee Experts

PABLO CERIANI CERNADAS, Committee Expert and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, asked for further clarification on the operations carried out to facilitate the regularisation process. When those operations took place in areas close to the border, what happened? Were those people redirected to the other side of the border? When there were children, did the same actions apply, or was there a different mechanism used? Were those people directed by car somewhere else? Those operations gave the message that migrant workers were a risk to society. Did the Ombudsman’s Office have a mechanism in place for when they identified minors who were vulnerable?

PABLO CÉSAR GARCIA SAENZ, Committee Rapporteur and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, asked whether the State had considered ratifying Conventions 181 and 190 of the International Labour Organization? Were there any cases of jurisprudence where the Convention had been cited? Was there information about cases where assistance had been provided to a migrant worker and his or her family?

A Committee Expert commended the State for the comprehensive report submitted, which contained around 30 annexes. The report set out a lot of statistical information, in particular disaggregated statistics which allowed the Committee to better understand the situation of migrant workers in the country. What was the nature of the bilateral agreements? What was specifically happening to regularised migrants at checks, not at the border areas, but on the streets and in the workplace? Did the same procedure apply, with a view to regularisation, at the border areas or close to the border areas? Were there statistics on persons who had undergone controls and checks, and whether they had achieved regularisation? What type of support did those migrants benefit from, from the State party or their State of origin?

A Committee Expert asked whether civil society had a mechanism to take part in decisions when it came to legislation? Had the State organized itself for follow-up of decisions handed down by international bodies?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said there were no concerning figures around child labour. There was no asylum provision which could be considered as restricting human rights in Bolivia. All migrant workers and their families were invited to contribute and become part of society. All laws in Bolivia went through a socialisation process, and in some cases had been repealed due to a lack of social involvement. Civil society’s participation was fully guaranteed in Bolivia.

Closing Statements

PABLO CERIANI CERNADAS, Committee Expert and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, recognised Bolivia’s great efforts in engaging in the constructive dialogue. The Committee was aware of the challenges and obstacles the State had overcome in recent years. The Committee’s recommendations would be focused on supporting the State in its efforts to build on all the good work being done for a positive impact on foreigners in Bolivia and Bolivians abroad.

PABLO CÉSAR GARCIA SAENZ, Committee Rapporteur and country co-rapporteur for Bolivia, thanked the delegation, saying the Committee was grateful for the dialogue shared over the past two days. Mr. Saenz hoped the Committee’s input would be received in good faith, to support Bolivians in abroad and foreigners in Bolivia.

IVAN MANOLO LIMA MAGNE, Minister of Justice and Institutional Transparency and head of the delegation, called on countries around the world to treat Bolivian nationals in a dignified fashion, according to their rights. Bolivia was committed to accepting and implementing the recommendations which would be made.

 

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