International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

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International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

Resolution

By: United Nations General Assembly

Date: July 1, 2003

Source: United Nations General Assembly. "International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families." General Assembly Resolution 45/158, July 1, 2003.

About the Author: The phrase "United Nations" was used during World War II (1939–1945) to describe the dozens of nations allied together to fight Germany and Japan, most notably including China, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States of America. These allies decided to develop a new organization to facilitate international cooperation and help prevent future wars. It would replace the League of Nations, which had failed to prevent World War II. They called it the United Nations (UN). The UN Charter was ratified on October 24, 1945. In the years since the UN has served as a forum for international negotiation and cooperation on many issues, including international security, human rights, trade and economics, and the environment.

INTRODUCTION

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, illegal immigration and a growing population of non-nationals have become serious problems for many countries. While greater restrictions are necessary to increase security, the backlash and fallout from these measures can hinder economic growth and infringe upon human rights. Debates concerning illegal immigration and migrant workers often lump the two categories together because both groups enter countries without official documentation.

Unlike illegal immigrants, migrant workers generally come for seasonal work such as harvesting crops and often return home after the work is done. Immigrants desire to relocate to a new nation, and the decision to move from their original country stems from reasons of economic hardship, religious intolerance, political suppression, to wanting to experience a new lifestyle. The International Organization for Migration estimates that about 175 million people worldwide live outside their country of birth.

Even though advocacy groups also maintain that the United States was founded by immigrants, many sectors of society fear unrestricted immigration into the United States. Hence, recent increased border patrols have brought the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States, estimated at eleven million people, into a heightened media spotlight. The added security measures aimed at preventing another terrorist attack have caused many immigrants and non-nationals to be detained at borders or within the United States for extended periods. Often their immigration hearings have been held in secret, they have been deported, and some detainees have testified to unacceptable conditions in their holding cells. Many of these detainees have been of Arab or Asian decent.

The United States is not the only country to have taken such extensive measures to curb illegal immigration and the flux of migrant workers. The European Union mandated that asylum seekers and political refugees will not be returned to places where their lives will be at risk, although after a large influx of refugees from Northern Africa in the 1990s, some European countries such as Italy and France are struggling to incorporate the new residents into their economies. A few wealthier countries like the Netherlands and Spain have not given all refugees security from harm. Thus, the European Union is challenged in maintaining its own directive.

These continual struggles with immigration rights and the question of the rights of the undocumented laborer caused the United Nations to examine the issue in 2003. On July 1, 2003, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families treaty went into force. Over twenty years in its making, this treaty requires states to prevent and stop illegal migration and to inform migrants and employers of their rights.

PRIMARY SOURCE

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SIGNIFICANCE

The 2003 migrant worker treaty only began the process toward global cooperation and understanding for the rights of migrants and other immigrants. As of this publication, no major Western nation has ratified the treaty. Smaller countries, and several developing countries, have signed the treaty. Some of these countries are Egypt, Mexico, and the Philippines. The countries that have signed the treaty are also those that see the highest number of individuals leave their nation every year.

The treaty is a major step in acknowledging the rights of migrants, but recent world events have also shown that there is more work to be done. In April 2006, intense Congressional debates, public protests (for and against), and media scrutiny concerned a proposal to provide amnesty for nearly eleven million undocumented illegal aliens in the United States. Advocacy groups remarked that this program would ease hostilities with targeted groups. Arab immigrants and Arab Americans have frequently stated that they are targeted in immigration investigations because of racist assumptions that they are terrorists. Also, advocates of the amnesty program claim that it would force employers to offer fair wages—instead of the lower wages that are traditionally given to undocumented individuals—, thus encouraging future immigrants to come to the United States legally. Opponents to the plan contend that amnesty could give terrorists an opportunity to infiltrate the United States—and that the plan would cause welfare and public assistance roles to swell.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Cholewinski, Ryszard. Migrant Workers in the International Human Rights Law: Their Protection in Countries of Employment. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Mitchell, Don. The Lie of the Land: Migrant Workers and the California Landscape. Saint Paul: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Periodicals

Cleveland, Sarah H. "Legal Status and Rights of Undocumented Workers: Advisory Opinion." The American Journal of International Law. 99:2 (April 2005): 460-465.

Helton, Arthur C. "The new convention from the perspective of a country of employment: the U.S. case. (Special Issue—U.N. International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families)." International Migration Review. 25.n4 (Winter 1991): 848-858.

Web sites

International Labor Organization. "General Activities: Social Protection." May 5, 2005. 〈http://www.ilo.org/public/english/dialogue/actrav/genact/socprot/migrant/〉 (accessed April 28, 2006).

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