Palais des Nations, Room XXIV
Wednesday 16 September, 11:00-13:00
Colleagues and friends,
Thank you for your attention, and I am sorry that I was not able to attend the whole of this side event, due to a number of other pressing commitments in this first week of the Human Rights Council.
Thank you also for coming to our side event, and for joining us to highlight the short documentary film that OHCHR has launched today in collaboration with Alipur Films and Ashvin Kumar. At the outset I would like to pay tribute to Fany, who is here with us today, to Jennifer and to the young girl who cannot be identified for her own security. I thank them for their courage in sharing their stories, their struggles and their strength with us. I am also grateful to the Government of Switzerland and the European Union for their generous support to the film.
Our intention in making this film was to give a voice to those who are too often silenced, and to provide a platform for those who do not dare to come out of hiding. Around the world, millions of undocumented migrant domestic workers – women, men and even children – live their lives in the shadows, unable to access services that we take for granted, and afraid to complain when they are ill-treated.
Yet the work that they do is indispensable. They care for older persons, they manage households, they provide home healthcare, they care for children, and make it possible for many parents to remain in the workforce. Despite being in an irregular situation, they contribute enormously to our economies through their labour and their taxes. In addition to these economic benefits they contribute in many other ways to the societies in which they live and work; they tutor children, they make it possible for persons with disabilities to live with dignity at home, and they enrich societies with new ideas and cultures.
Today, at the borders of Europe, and at many other borders around the world, a crisis of migration governance is unfolding before our eyes. Alongside refugees fleeing persecution and conflict, are migrants fleeing poverty, discrimination and despair. And many of these migrants are coming to take up jobs in sectors such as domestic work where they know that they are needed. They are not in search of charity.
In the next 50 years, Europe will need an additional 50 million workers. Demographic trends tell us that these people will not be born in Europe. Care needs will increase, and there will be fewer young people to look after the growing elderly population; fewer active workers contributing to social security, retirement funds and the tax base. At the same time, migrant workers are unable to enter in a legal manner to fill this market demand. Legal or regular avenues for domestic work are generally insufficient, and in some European countries there is literally no legal entry channel for domestic workers from outside Europe.
This picture is repeated in high and middle income countries around the world. In other words, there is something systemically wrong with the way in which migration is governed. Today, we are seeing situations where migrants who are coming to do jobs that no one else wants to do, are being forced to put their lives and dignity on the line to access this employment.
At the opening of this session of the Human Rights Council, I called on Member States to put in place an architecture of migration governance that is far more comprehensive, thoughtful, principled and effective.
Today, I reiterate that call. We need a more honest, a more rights-based, and a more sustainable conversation on migration, throughout Europe and around the world. We cannot continue to gamble with the lives and the rights of migrant domestic workers.
My hope for this film is that it will help us to shine a light on the courage and strength of migrants, and to persuade decision-makers that there is another way to make migration policy, which is not premised on exclusion and fear.