Migrant Workers in International Human Rights Law: Their Protection in Countries of Employment

By Ryszard Cholewinski | Go to book overview

Introduction

The focus of this work is on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families in countries of employment under international human rights law. The rights under examination are economic, social, cultural, political, and residence rights, which are arguably of most concern to migrants once they are in the host country. For the purpose of this study, economic and social rights are defined as follows: employment rights, which incorporate the right to equal treatment with nationals in respect of work and employment conditions and the right of access to employment; trade union rights; social security rights; the right to health, which covers rights to healthcare and occupational health and safety; the right to housing, including private ownership of property; the right to family reunion; and the right to education, which comprises both the education of migrant children and workers' education, such as vocational training and language instruction. The cultural rights of migrant workers and their families embrace the right to retain and develop their culture and language as well as the right of the children of migrants to be taught their culture and language or to be educated in their language. The political rights of migrants encompass a right to political activity and a general right to participate in the decision-making process concerning their interests, including the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in local elections. The study also considers the residence rights of migrants, broadly defined as: the right to remain in the host country while in work and for some time after the termination of employment; rights to permanent residence and naturalization; and protection against arbitrary or unfair expulsion. Clearly, residence rights are integral to the enjoyment of the other enumerated rights.

The protection of migrants before they leave their country of origin, whilst in transit, and during their reception in the state of employment is not discussed. Rights pertaining mainly to the migration process, such as the right to information,1 are therefore excluded. So-called basic or fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion are not discussed in any depth. Because of the interdependence of all rights, however, these fundamental rights and freedoms clearly interact with some of the rights under consideration and references are therefore made

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1
For a synopsis of what is understood by the right of migrant workers to information, see generally T. Hujanen, "'The Role of Information in the Realization of the Human Rights of Migrant Workers'" (Conference Report of the Final Conference of the Joint Study held at Crêt-Bérard, Lausanne, 23-27 Oct. 1988) (1989) 23 IMR105. See also T. Hujanen, (ed.), Role of Information in the Realization of the Human Rights of Migrant Workers, Report of International Conference, Tampere, 19- 22 June 1983 ( Tampere: University of Tampere, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, 1984).

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