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Closing Statement by Mr. Ibrahim Salama Director Human Rights Treaties Division at the Day of General Discussion of the Committee on Migrant Workers on workplace exploitation and workplace protection

7 April 2014

Mr. Chairperson
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentleman
Distinguished guests

Good afternoon, It is also my pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the High Commissioner to this Day of General Discussion of the Committee on Migrant Workers on workplace exploitation and workplace protection. As you can see from the programme, we have the pleasure of bringing together six distinguished speakers, giving us the opportunity to listen to their varied perspectives and expertise.

The arrangement for today will consist of two panels in which our invited experts will present their views on workplace exploitation and workplace protection, respectively. Before starting discussions for each of the two panels, I will call upon the speakers in turn, who should proceed to join me on the podium once your name is called. After hearing the presentations of each panel, there will be time for a questions and answers segment where the floor will be open for frank and open dialogue, meaning that time management will be extremely important for this day of general discussion. I would therefore kindly ask all panellists to observe the time limit of 10 minutes each for your remarks.

Interventions from the floor should be limited to 3 minutes. Participants wishing to make interventions should indicate their intention to do so to the CMW Secretary (You can point me out).

Without delay, let us begin and I ask our distinguished guest speakers presenting on workplace exploitation to join me on the podium: Mr. Francois Crepeau, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Ms. Francesca Pizzutelli, Migrants’ Rights Advisor from Amnesty International; and Mr. Jolovan Wham, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), Singapore.

Mr. Francois Crepeau is our first speaker. Mr. Crepeau was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in 2011, and has tirelessly championed the rights of migrants since assuming his mandate. He is Full Professor and holds the Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law, at the Faculty of Law of McGill University. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and was a Fellow from 2008-2011 of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. He has given many conferences, published numerous articles and written several books relating to migration. It is my great pleasure to welcome Mr. Crepeau. Mr. Crepeau you have the floor.

Thank you.

Our next speaker is Ms. Francesca Pizzutelli, Migrants’ Rights Advisor from Amnesty International. Ms. Pizzutelli is a researcher/adviser with the Refugees and Migrants’ Rights Team at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International. Her research focuses on labour exploitation and access to justice of irregular migrants in Europe. Before joining Amnesty International, Ms. Pizzutelli worked for the Advocacy Forum in Nepal, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Italian National Research Council. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at Oxford University. A very warm welcome to you. Ms. Pizzutelli, you have the floor.

Thank you.

Our last speaker on this panel is Mr. Jolovan Wham, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) a non-governmental organisation based in Singapore which deals with issues concerning migrant worker's rights and welfare. Mr. Wham played a key role in the founding of the organisation and running its current programmes and initiatives, which include the establishment of a shelter for migrant workers, help desks, legal aid programmes, research studies and campaigns. He is also a co-founder of Workfair Singapore, a newly formed initiative which is concerned about workers' rights. The floor is yours, Mr. Wham.

Thank you.

We will now take a few questions and comments from the floor. Interventions from the floor should be limited to 3 minutes.

[At 5:15 pm move to second panel] We will now move to the second panel. I ask our distinguished guest speakers presenting on workplace protection to join me on the podium: Ms. Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International; Ms. Michele Levoy, Director, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM); and Mr. Patrick Taran, President, Global Migration Policy Associates.

It is my great pleasure to welcome Ms. Rosa Pavanelli, the General Secretary of Public Services International – a global union federation representing 20 million public service workers in more than 150 countries. PSI runs a Migration Programme in partnership with affiliated trade unions worldwide with the objective of defending the human and labour rights of migrant workers. Ms. Pavanelli has long been active in defending the rights of migrant workers, including in her previous roles as President of the public sector branch of the Italian General Confederation of Labour, and as Vice President of the European Public Service Union Federation. Ms. Pavanelli currently chairs the Council of Global Unions’ Quality Public Services – Action Now! campaign group. Welcome and without further ado, Ms. Pavanelli, you have the floor.

Thank you.

Our next speaker is Ms. Michele Levoy, Director of Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants. Ms. Levoy joined PICUM in March 2002 as a researcher on the organization’s first EU project on solidarity towards undocumented migrants in Europe. She became director in April 2006. She was previously coordinator of an international Master Degree program in human ecology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and coordinator of a European multicultural society youth program at Pax Christi International. She has worked with resettled refugees in Chicago, USA, and with migrants in Brazil. Ms. Levoy, you have the floor.

Thank you.

Our last speaker is an old and dear friend to the Committee on Migrant Workers and also tirelessly works to promote the Convention and the human rights of migrants. Mr. Patrick Taran is the President of the Global Migration Policy Associates, an international expert body providing research, policy development and advisory services worldwide. He counts 36 years full-time professional experience in international migration and human rights work at local, national and global levels. From 2000 to 2011, he was Senior Migration Specialist with the ILO, responsible for, inter alia, activities relating to the protection of migrants. He convened the Steering Committee for the Global Campaign on the Convention in 1998, and the activities of the Steering Committee contributed to its entry into force in 2003. The Steering Committee is still active in promoting the Convention. He has numerous publications to his credit. Without further ado, you have the floor, Mr. Taran.

Thank you.

We will now take a few questions and comments from the floor. Interventions from the floor should be limited to 3 minutes.

Is there anyone else that would like to take the floor? We have time for perhaps 2 or 3 more interventions.

Madam/Sir……. I see that we are almost out of time and so would like to firstly thank all of our distinguished speakers, in particular, Ms. Michelle Leighton from ILO for providing the keynote address and for the participation of the Deputy High Commissioner.

We have heard a lot today about workplace exploitation and workplace protection. It is clear that on the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families progress has been made with respect to the recognition of the human rights of migrant workers, although much work remains to be done.

One of the challenges is the deadlock with respect to the ratification of the CMW Convention, which provides minimum standards of protection of human rights for all migrant workers and members of their families. Until more States become party, especially States of employment, treaty bodies have sought to expand the coverage of human rights protection through the other core human rights treaties with respect to migrant workers and members of their families in the context of their respective Conventions.

This is the case with both Covenants, the Convention against Torture, The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, all of which have much higher levels of ratification. In addition, although the Committee on Migrant Workers has issued general comments on domestic migrant workers, and on the human rights of migrant workers in an irregular situation, treaty bodies have elaborated general comments relating to migrant workers.

For example, The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women elaborated a general comment on domestic migrant workers and the Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights is currently drafting a general comment on the right to work which will address the situation of migrant workers.

In addition to strengthening the international treaty framework for the protection of migrant workers and members of their families, what else can be done?

First and foremost, States should ensure protection through the proper legal and policy framework, including ratification of the principle international instruments on migrants’ rights – the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the relevant ILO Conventions, including Nos. 97 and 143.

States of origin should also raise awareness about labour recruitment and migration, regulate labour recruitment, and sanction labour recruiters who engage in fraudulent practices or charge excessive fees. They should also ensure that consular services are made available to provide assistance to nationals working abroad to ensure that their human rights are protected.

States of employment should additionally provide workplace protection to migrant workers, both documented and undocumented, through appropriate domestic legislation, including through monitoring of local recruitment agencies and places of employment. States of employment should also raise awareness amongst migrant workers of their rights and encourage reporting of violations through various channels. States of employment should also hold abusive employers and employment agencies accountable through fines and criminal prosecution in cases of fraud, coercion, exploitation and abuse.

States should work together to ensure safe and legal migration options. Agreements between countries of origin and employment should seek to protect migrant workers from labour exploitation, smuggling and trafficking.

States also should work closely with the United Nations system, civil society, unions and employer associations to protect and promote the human rights of migrant workers, to combat all forms of discrimination and xenophobia and to promote tolerance.

In closing, migration is a world-wide phenomenon that is here to stay. With over 230 million migrant workers worldwide, migrant workers make significant and essential contributions to the economic, social and cultural development of their host countries and their communities back home.

We must, however, keep in mind that migrant workers are first and foremost human beings with human rights and human rights should always remain at the heart of all discussions regarding migrant workers and members of their families.

Thank you.