New Report Calls for the Protection of the Human Rights of Migrants

  • 23 October 2008
NEW YORK, New York—States, while exercising their sovereign right to determine who enters and remains in their territory, have an obligation to protect the human rights of migrants, according to a new report produced by the Global Migration Group, of which UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is a member. The report was produced to mark this year’s 60th anniversary of the affirmation of universal human rights.

The report, entitled International Migration and Human Rights: Challenges and Opportunities on the Threshold of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will be presented at next week’s Global Forum on Migration and Development (in Manila). The meeting, the second such forum, will focus on the protection and empowerment of migrants in the context of development.

The report examines the legal framework underpinning the human rights of migrants and highlights the importance of human rights in the migration and development discourse. A lack of respect for the human rights of migrants reduces their ability to contribute to development, according to the report, which was produced by the 14 member agencies of the Global Migration Group.

“Much of international migration is rooted in the fact that people are not able to fully exercise their human rights in their country of origin,” said Jose Miguel Guzman, Chief of UNFPA’s Population and Development branch. “Others are forced by conflict or environmental changes to leave their homes. We need to find new ways of international collaboration to protect the human rights of these individuals.”

Inability to exercise their human rights at home often propels migrants toward an uncertain future. Photo: © Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times

The report argues that despite the many positive contributions of migration to their countries of origin and destination, it is essential that migrants are seen not solely as agents of development.

Cooperation among governments in countries of origin, transit and destination, as well as non-governmental organizations, civil society and migrants themselves is essential to ensure that international human rights instruments are implemented and that migrants are aware of their rights and obligations, according to the report.

One of the main challenges in the protection of human rights of migrants is the ratification, implementation and enforcement of existing human rights instruments. The report calls for age and sex-disaggregated data to monitor and assess the effectiveness of measures to safeguard the human rights of migrants. “Detailed information can shed light on the determinants of relevant migration outcomes and on whether laws and regulations governing them are being applied fairly and consistently with universally recognized human rights,” the report notes.

The report also highlights the different categories of migrants, with particular attention to groups with special needs, including migrant children, female labour migrants in the informal sector, trafficking victims, irregular migrants, as well as refugees and asylum seekers. Each section presents the key messages to ensure the protection of migrants' human rights. Data on international migration by region is also included.

International migration has important implications for demographic dynamics and thus for the core mandate of UNFPA. The Fund’s approach towards policy and programmatic interventions in this area is rights-based and culture and gender sensitive. Among issues of particular concern are the challenges of female migration, trafficking and smuggling; migration and the spread of diseases such as AIDS; the provision of basic social services, including reproductive health care, in areas of destination; and protection of the human rights of migrants.

UNFPA seeks to improve data, research and institutional capacity for formulating and implementing migration policies and programmes. UNFPA is strongly dedicated to providing directed policy, advocacy and technical support to ensure that international migration is recognized as an important factor in development.

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