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

By Ryszard Cholewinski | Go to book overview

Conclusion: Towards Inclusion or Exclusion?

[A]s regards the alien, we must remember that compacts have a particular sanctity; indeed, offences by alien against alien, we may say, compared with sins against fellow- citizens, more directly draw down the vengeance of God. For the alien, being without friends or kinsmen, has the greater claim on pity, human and divine . . . What anxious care, then, should a man of any foresight take to come to the end of life's journey guiltless of offence towards aliens!1

Chapter 1 concluded with an appraisal of the link between migration for employment and the right to development. A comprehensive agenda aimed at sustainable development in regions of high emigration pressure is recognized as the way forward in reducing labour migration in the long-term. Such an agenda, however, should not be implemented at the expense of the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families already residing and working in many developed countries of employment. Nor should this protection be merely viewed as a means of serving another end. For example, UN and ILO standards recognize that safeguarding the rights of irregular migrants can serve as a means of deterring clandestine labour. Although this is a valid consideration, it should not inform the overall approach. Migrant workers and their families, simply as human beings and as those who make an economic and social contribution to the society in which they live, are entitled to both national and international protection of their rights in the country of employment independent of any development agenda and the weight to be attached to other policies concerned with migration.

The plethora of international standards concerned with the protection of migrant workers and their families examined in this study may well give the impression that international human rights law has given sufficient attention to the plight of this vulnerable group. On a global scale, general international human rights instruments, such as the International Bill of Rights and the ICERD, and regional treaties in Europe, Africa, and America have generally taken the human being as their starting-point regardless of citizenship status or nationality. Migrant workers and their families have also been the object of specific attention in the ILO since the Organization's inception in 1919. Most ILO standards concerning the protection of people in their working environment are applicable to migrant workers. In addition, specific instruments were adopted for their protection by the International Labour Conference in 1949 and 1975. Since the early 1970s, migrant workers and their families have also been the focus of UN concern which recently generated a lengthy and complex instrument dedicated to their complete protection.

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1
Plato, The Laws ( London: Dent, 1966) para. 729.

-407-

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