HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS CALLS FOR INCREASED PROTECTION FOR MIGRANTS, URGES GREATER RATIFICATION OF TREATY ON MIGRANT WORKERS'S RIGHTS
15 December 2006
The following is the message of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour on the occasion of International Migrants Day, 18 December 2006:
Today I pay tribute to the millions of women and men who demonstrate courage and determination as they move beyond their borders in search of a better life for their families and themselves.
On International Migrants Day we remember the contribution migrants make to the advancement of societies around the world. Migrants form an essential part of the labor force of the countries that receive them, doing work others often disdain and demonstrating great initiative and spurring growth. They also enrich their host societies culturally, opening a window onto otherwise distant worlds and serving as bridges between peoples in an increasingly globalized world.
But this is only part of the picture. The reality for many migrants is one of exploitation, exclusion, discrimination, abuse and violence amounting to widespread human rights violations. They frequently find themselves accepting dangerous or unhealthy employment with few avenues to seek redress when abuses occur.
Organized crime and smuggling networks target irregular migrants and lead them into such high-risk situations as perilous border crossings and trafficking. The news media is full of stories of migrants perishing at sea, suffocating in cargo holds or being subjected to rape and abuse while in transit.
This must change. We must spare no effort to eradicate human trafficking, protect those who may fall prey to smugglers and hold those profiting from human misery accountable for their crimes. We have to ensure that migrants enjoy the rights they are entitled to, regardless of their regular or irregular status. Migrants have the right not only to protection, but also to equal treatment and non-discrimination; to access to proper information so that migration will be the result of an informed choice; and to be integrated in receiving countries as opposed to excluded.
These objectives represent a challenge for many societies, but much of our future in this increasingly interconnected planet depends on achieving them. And it is more than a matter of choice. We have built the international legal framework to protect the human rights of migrants as a matter of duty, of justice and of dignity. The latest block in that edifice – and the most comprehensive set of protections -- is the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. We must strongly promote the ratification of this treaty, which so far has been accepted by only 34 countries. And beyond greater ratification of the Convention, I hope we can all join our efforts to ensure that its provisions are implemented, so that each future commemoration of international migrants day will be an occasion to measure accelerating progress.