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Friday, October 30, 2009

Linking Human Rights and Migrant Empowerment for Development

There is a linkage between human rights, migrant empowerment and development. UNDP Report 2009 makes this point, defining empowerment as “the freedom to act in pursuit of personal goals and well-being”.  It suggests that migrants through movement can enhance development. “However, the reception of the host country obviously matters, especially when migrants face local hostility.” In this way, one of the key obstacles is persistent anti-migrant sentiments and discriminatory practices, enforced by beliefs, policies, ect., which can criminalize migrants. This has been exacerbated by the global economic crisis and rampant unemployment. Migrants are viewed as a second-class work force, against whom the local workers must compete. This perspective must be addressed, whether real or imagined. Migrants can be more productive and contribute more if they are not excluded. To this effect, international treaties must provide guidance and the rights respective to migrant status (to education, health, right to work, and such) must be respected. It is the duty of national human rights institutions to ensure that the rights of migrants are implemented as they are currently neither implemented nor respected.  

At the Palais des Nations in Geneva, we had the pleasure of attending an Expert Seminar on Linking Human Rights and Migrant Empowerment for Development.
One of the panelists was Mr. Abdelhamid El Jamri,Committee on Protection of Rights of Migrant Workers. He spoke of the need for migrants to be supported at the socio-economic level. There is currently a dual approach, a compromise between the political and economic position in a host country, to temporary/secular migration; the political, which wants to reduce migration inflows, versus the economic, which seeks to develop to fill in gaps of manpower. This is a natural phenomenon, which needs to be taken into account. Migrants need to have access to their rights, and these rights must be strengthened. Those who wish to return temporarily to their country of origin should be able to do so without fear of losing residence if they are outside the country for too long; they should be able to go back. We need to help create a balance as well as assist countries in better managing migration. Mr. El Jamri recommended that host countries work together with other countries for a positive impact on development. He calls on states to form a partnership on migrants and to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers as well as the two ILO treaties and conventions; we need to spread good practices. Strengthening rights is the best way to tackle illegal migration.  

Another panelist was Mr. Ibrahim Awad, the Director of the International Migration Programme, International Labour Office (ILO). He spoke about the legal framework and how this process has resulted in integration, as well as the need for provisions in conventions, conventions specific to migrants, and gender conventions specific to migrants.
A third panelist was Ms. Angela Li Rosi,voluntary repatriation, integration in first country of asylum, and resettlement. She stated that there is a need to focus on integration because integration starts when a person arrives; they need access to social and economic rights. In this way some key challenges currently faced are the reception and integration of refugees, and the integration of 3rd nationals, including refugees, as a priority. Moreover, some key obstacles facing migrants are the lack of knowledge of local language and culture, and discriminatory and negative attitudes within host communities; refugees are excluded from bilateral arrangements with third countries on access to the labor market and asylum seeks have limited access to rights. Ms. Li Rosi recommended that the media be used as a tool for positive social integration. the Senior Policy Adviser for Policy Development and Evaluation Service, Executive Office, UNHCR. She spoke of the inclusion, protection, and acceptance of refugees and others of concern in the host society, who have a long journey to full enjoyment of rights. She mentioned three lasting solutions: 

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