International Migrants Day: UN Compact Must Deliver Equal Rights and Decent Work for Migrants

photo: Photo UN

With some 244 million migrants living outside their country of birth, the highest number in history, the international trade union movement is calling for the UN Global Compact on Migration to deliver equal rights and decent work for migrants, two-thirds of whom are workers.

Along with those who have voluntarily moved, mostly to seek jobs, 60 million people have been permanently displaced by war and conflict. There are 400,000 displaced Somalis living in Kenya, and three million displaced Syrians are spread across the Middle East and Europe. Tens of thousands of migrants are exposed to slavery in Libya. Over the past two decades, over 60,000 adults and children have died in the course of migration journeys across dangerous land and sea routes. In 2016, an estimated 5,000 people drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa in perilous boats. Families have been fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. In 2017 there has been a 17% increase in recorded deaths of migrants along the US/Mexico border.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “The UN Global Compact offers an opportunity to provide a framework for labour migration that safeguards human and labour rights, and to coordinate action by governments to ensure that migrants and refugees are treated with dignity and have full access to decent employment and protection under the law. The withdrawal of the US Administration from the Compact, a gross abdication of responsibility, should not deter other UN member states from moving forward on common approaches which guarantee justice and equity.”

The ITUC, working with Global Union Federations in the different economic sectors, is calling for the Compact to ensure that all migrants and refugees have the right to organise in unions and bargain collectively, and to guarantee equal treatment and non-discrimination. Other core demands include an end to “tied” residence or “sponsorship” systems for employment of migrants, action in countries of origin and destination for decent work and sustainable development, attention to the rights of women migrants, access to justice and social protection, pathways to regularisation and regulation of the recruitment industry.

“Migration is one of the key issues on the international agenda today, made even more important by the escalating numbers of people displaced by conflict and increasingly by the effects of climate change. We are looking to the UN process to advance solutions, which will provide justice and assist, not impede, economic and social development. Migration has always been central to human development, and with xenophobic and racist sentiment on the rise, boosted by racist discourse from an increasing number of politicians, global solutions are vital to ending the discrimination and demonisation that so many migrants and refugees face today,” said Burrow.

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