International migrants tribunal declares 37 states guilty of violating migrants’ rights

“Governments look at remittances as a tool for development and a means to repay global debt. They have actually put a positive spin on massive forced migration and commodification of workers. They have the gall to call it a ‘tool for development’ when it fact it results in the decimation and break-up of families, the exploitation of millions of workers and the uneven distribution of wealth and power in the world.” – Irene Fernandez, migrants’ rights activist


MANILA — Guilty of massive crimes against migrant workers.

An international tribunal, the first on the theme of migrants, has declared 37 governments guilty of using migration to advance neoliberal globalization policies and of violations of the economic, social, cultural and political rights of migrants by sending and receiving states.

Organized by the International Migrants Alliance, International League of Peoples Struggle, International Women’s Alliance and the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, the two-day tribunal proceedings was held to try the Global Forum on Migration and Development and its Steering Committee comprised of 37 governments.

Held at the University of the Philippines College of Law from November 28-29, the trial was presided over by a panel of judges who heard testimonies given by experts on migration and migrant workers, from various countries, who have suffered from migrants’ rights violations. The jurists were Osamu Niikura, from Japan, of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Bp. Soritua Nababan, from Indonesia, of the World Council of Churches, renowned theatre actress and Filipino women’s rights activist Monique Wilson, Mexican human rights lawyer Ana Lorena Delgadillo Perez, and UP College of Mass Communications Dean Roland Tolentino.

The 37 States found guilty are Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States of America. They were found guilty on three charges, namely:

1. Violation of the Complainants’ human rights.

2. Criminal neglect of Complainants’ economic rights and violations of their political, economic, social and cultural rights by the Sending States.

3. Violation of the Complainants’ political, economic, social and cultural rights by the Receiving States.

They were also found guilty of violating provisions and principles embodied, among others, in the:

a. 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

b. 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;

c. 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

d. 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families;

e. The 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol;

f. 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;

g. 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination;

h. 1984 Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

i. 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child;

j. 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its protocols;

k. ILO Migration for Employment Convention (Revised); and

l. ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (C189).

The verdict will be submitted to the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, which will convene in New York, USA in 2013.

The witnesses gave testimonies on themes such as migration for development, condition of migrants, human rights violations of migrants from Latin America, on the labor export program and the violations of rights of undocumented migrants, refugees, temporary migrants especially women migrants, and seafarers.

Among the witnesses who gave their testimonies were Malaysian migrant and human rights activist Irene Fernandez who founded the migrants rights advocacy group Tenagita; and Jose Jacques Medina, coordinator and co-founder of the Meoamerican Migrant Movement (M3). The M3 campaigns for the full rights of Central-American migrants in Mexico and their right to free and safe transit to the United States.

Human rights violations in global migration policies

In her testimony, Fernandez said the international community and governments should address the issue of migration as it has become one of the defining global issues. She said over 300 million people, including 10.4 million refugees, live and work outside of their home countries.

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