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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (
Wed, 2 Dec 1998 14:48:48 -0800 (PST)


GENEVA, (Nov. 30) InterPress Service - A United Nations working group
accused governments of double talk on the issue of human rights of
immigrants worldwide.

Jorge Bustamente, head of the intergovernmental working group of experts on
the human rights of migrants, said there is a contrast between "what the
countries say and what they do" on the issue.

Bustamente said the States do not understand the risk posed to
international stability by the violation of the human rights of immigrants.

The working group, created by the United Nations Human Rights Commission,
is charged with examining the increasing incidences of racism, xenophobia
and discrimination against immigrants.

Figures supplied by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated the number
of emigrants around the world at 120 million.

Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migrations (IOM), put the
figure of migrant workers at some 85 million.

Bustamente, a Mexican-born academic, stated the violation of the
fundamental human rights of immigrants occurs as a result of their
structural vulnerability.

The immigrants, like indigenous populations and minorities, lack
protection, said Bustamente during sessions by the working group recently
in Geneva.

In an effort to better protect migrants, the U.N. General Assembly approved
an International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all
Migratory Workers and their Families.

But the Convention has not yet come into effect, as it has only gained the
ratification of 10 countries, when 20 are needed to make it binding.

The ratifying countries are: Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cape Verde,
Colombia, Egypt, the Phillipines, Morocco, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka and

"We will witness a persistent lack of respect for migrant rights" until the
Convention is implemented, warned U.S.-born Patrick Taran, chair of the
board of directors of the world campaign for ratification.

The governments recognize they are facing human rights problems with
immigrants, but they do nothing, as can be seen in nations' responses to a
questionnaire from the U.N. working group, added Bustamente.

"We are up against an underlying hypocrisy between statements of concern
over the human rights of migrants and resistance to ratifying the
convention," said the expert.

This attitude shows the governments are unaware the problem has another
dimension, he said, explaining interest in the human rights of migrants is
not simply a matter of charity.

On the contrary, the question of the human rights of these groups has the
potential to affect the stability of international relations over the next
10 years.

Protecting the human rights of migrants would contain the growth of this
possible destabilisation element, said Bustamente.

Ignorance of the true nature of the problem can seen "in our societies,"
where many families benefit from the help of foreign au pairs allowing
housewives and mothers to rejoin the workforce." At the same time,
immigrants are widely labelled as "criminals," he said.

Taran, representing the World Council of Churches mentioned that attacks,
brutalities and violation of the human rights of immigrants occur with
increasing frequency "not only in the Western industrialized countries, but
in all parts of the world."

Speaking of his own experience, Taran cited abuse committed in the
Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Argentina, South Africa, the Ivory Coast,
Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The working group identified three especially vulnerable migrant groups,
with women and children ranking as those whose rights are most in need of

Women and children have often been submitted to enforced prostitution or
activities bordering on slavery, stated Bustamente.

Another at-risk group is the domestic workers, due to their isolation, and
the gender issue also intervenes here, he said.

Meanwhile, the third group consists of rural migrant workers, living in
conditions violating basic human rights worldwide.

Bimal Gosh, of India, one of the working group's leading experts, said the
countries of the industrial North are seeing an alarming boom of their
"black economy."

The informal sector's share of Europe's Gross Domestic Product rose to five
percent in 1970, but hit 17 percent this year, said Gosh.

This sector uses the work of immigrants and is beyond the control of the
State agencies responsible for getting labor regulations fulfilled, he

Data received by the working group state the Philippines is the biggest
source of emigrants (11 percent), followed by Mexico (eight percent) and
then two industrialized countries, Spain (seven) and Italy (five percent).

Meanwhile, the countries with the highest percentages of non nationalized
citizens authorized to work are, Germany, Argentina, Denmark, Lebanon and

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