Updated June 7, 2001

Second Summit of the Americas

MIGRANT WORKERS
 

Virtual Secretariat Regional Conference on Migration

As part of the plan for Education, the Santiago Plan of Action committed governments to:

  • "Strengthen preparation, education and training for the world of work so that an increasing number of workers can improve their standard of living and, together with employers, have the opportunity to benefit from hemispheric integration." This incorporated new technology, occupational training, changes in the labor market, enhancement of entrepreneurial skills and employability prospects.
  • Reaffirm that the promotion and protection of human rights and the fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction by reasons of race, gender, language, nationality, or religion, is a priority for the international community and is the responsibility of every state.

With respect to migrant workers, governments made numerous commitments in Santiago, including:

  • Compliance with the applicable international human rights instruments and domestic labour and human rights laws, and protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families.
  • Strengthening of public awareness, to prevent and eradicate violations of human rights and eliminate all forms of discrimination against migrant workers, particularly racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.
  • Reaffirmation of the sovereign right of each State to formulate and apply its own legal framework and policies for migration, including the granting of permission to migrants to enter, stay, or exercise economic activity.  All of this must compy with the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which gives nationals the right to communicate with a consular officer of their own State in case of detention regardless of their immigration status.
  • Assure domestic workers fair legal treatment such that member states:

    1.  Ensure the same working conditions that national workers receive.

2.  Guarantee that all outstanding wages are paid, and the transfer of personal items are permitted, upon return to the worker’s country.

3.  Honor rights of citizenship and nationality, among others, to which children of migrant workers are entitled.

4.  Encourage the negotiation of bilateral or multilateral agreements such as migrant worker's social security benefits.

5.  Protect all migrant workers and their families, through law enforcement and information campaigns, from becoming victims of exploitation and abuse caused by alien smuggling.

6.  Prevent abuse and mistreatment of all migrant workers by employers or any authorities entrusted with the task of enforcing migration policies and border control.

7.  Encourage and promote respect for the cultural identity of all migrants.

Special Rapporteur for Migrant Workers

Mr. Juan Mendez has been named as the Special Rapporteur in the area of Migrant Workers. The function is one of the cornerstones of the area of "Preserving And Strengthening Democracy, Justice And Human Rights", which inter alia states: 

"...we will intensify our efforts to promote democratic reforms at the regional and local level, [and] protect the rights of migrant workers and their families..."

While the mandate for the Rapporteur comes from the section of the Santiago Plan of Action dedicated to "Migrant workers", the Rapporteur falls under the rubic of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

At its 92nd special session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights decided to begin studying the issue of migrant workers and their families in the Hemisphere, with a view toward drawing up a report on the question.

Principal activities of Rapporteur:

  • Questionnaire: A questionnaire was sent out to all member nations in May 1998, with numerous inquiries about all facets relating to the subject of migrant workers. So far, only 6 countries have responded. The Rapporteur is awaiting remaining questionnaires, and will then begin the process of compiling the data and investigating any areas of concern.
  • Site visits: The Rapporteur and his staff are currently in the process of visiting various facilities in the United States. Sites visited include factories, border posts, and detention facilities. Authorities and relevant individuals are interviewed in order to present findings to the Commission. Site visits will continue over the next year in various countries. In addition, special attention will be given to the issue of migrant workers during upcoming human rights visits to member nations.
  • Independent Research: The Special Rapporteur and his staff are actively involved in research touching upon all areas that concern the migrant workers and their rights.

The OAS General Secretariat, acting in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), helped organize the Subregional Seminar on International Migration in the Caribbean, held in Kingston, Jamaica, in October 1998. The main issues addressed were migration policies, the migratory situation in the Caribbean, the governance of migrations, international migrations and human rights, migration law in the Caribbean subregion, and information on migrations.

In order to continue with the preparation of the report on migrant workers and their families, the Commission decided:

a. To continue analyzing the situation of migrant workers during its future on-site visits.

b. To continue organizing working visits to study centers that pay priority attention to migrant workers’ issues, in order to ensure that more information on the subject is available.

c. To begin assessing the results of the questionnaires that have been returned, with a view toward writing up the final report.

d. To further its ties with intergovernmental agencies that study the phenomenon of migrant workers, particularly the International Organization for Migration and the International Labour Organisation.

e. To improve its ties with the Puebla Group in order to attend its meetings as an observer and to keep informed on how the question of migrant workers evolves within this important group.

At the invitation of the Government of the United States of America, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted an on-site visit to El Paso, Texas, USA, from July 7 to 9, 1999. The purpose of the visit was to observe and gather information concerning immigration and asylum processes in that region. During its stay, the Commission interviewed various public officials and representatives of civil society in order to learn about the immigration situation in the area. The Commission also visited detention centers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), as well as different ports of entry.

XXIX OAS General Assembly

In June, 1999, the XXIX OAS General Assembly adopted resolution AG/RES. 1611 (XXIX-O/99), which urges member States to protect the rights of all migrant workers and their families.

International Labour Conference

The International Labour Conference took place from June 1 - 17, 1999 at the headquarters of the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. At the Conference, the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations presented a report on Migrant Workers.

In the Santiago Plan of Action, the Member States agreed to "seek full respect for, and compliance with, the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, especially as it relates to the right of nationals, regardless of their immigration status, to communicate with a consular officer of their own State in case of detention". In this regard, it is important to highlight advisory opinion OC-16/99 issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on October 1, 1999, in which a number of individual rights under the Convention were clarified.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has requested that the Temporary Secretariat of the Regional Conference on Migrations (the "Puebla Group" or the "Puebla Process") grant the Commission observer status in order for it to learn more about this important regional forum on migration.

 Best Practices Workshops

As the Responsible Coordinator for the Migrant Workers mandate, the U.S. Government, through its Department of State (PRM Bureau), plans to carry out two interrelated activities in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the U.S. - based Migration Dialogue Project during year the year 2000.

The first activity involves convening a two- day workshop in Sacramento, California in late April.  The objective is to bring together a group of up to forty U.S. experts from various sectors (public, private, advocacy, migrants, labor, NGOs) to develop a suggested set of "best practices" for implementation, within the U.S., of items specified in the Summit of the Americas Plan of Action. These best practices can then be given wider domestic (and possibly international) dissemination.  Philip Martin, a recognized expert on migration and development, is a co-director of the "Migration Dialogue" project which (as one of its program facets) organizes periodic meetings and field trips on selected topics focusing on Migrants and Migrant labor.

The PRM Bureau and IOM plan to organize and hold a companion workshop for international experts in June at the CEPAL/CELADE headquarters in Santiago, Chile. The purpose will be to discuss and develop a set of suggested "best practices" for use within the Hemisphere in implementing the Migrant Worker section of the OAS Plan of Action.   IOM is serving as the primary organizer of the event by providing assistance in selecting the experts, guiding workshop discussions and producing an after-action report containing suggested sets of "best practices."

Agricultural Migrant Labor in North America

A conference on "Agricultural Migrant Labor in North America" organized by the governments of the United States, Mexico and Canada under the auspices of NAFTA's North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), took place February  7-9, 2000.  The trilateral conference enabled experts from government, business, labor, non-governmental organizations, and academia to examine legal, social, and economic issues facing agricultural migrant workers in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  For more information, please see:  Trilateral Conference.

Helping to ensure that the rights of migrant workers and their families will be better protected, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the International Migration Organization (IMO) signed an agreement on March 22, 2000 at the OAS headquarters in Washington D.C. Under the terms of the agreement, the IACHR and the IMO will work on joint endeavors to promote respect for and effective promotion of migrant's rights in the Americas.

XXX OAS General Assembly

In June, 2000, at the XXX OAS General Assembly in Windsor, Canada, Governments adopted a resolution  which reaffirms the duty of member States to ensure full respect of the rights of all migrant workers and their families and requests the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to present the Report on the Status of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families before the next General Assembly.

Symposium on International Migration in Latin American and Caribbean

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), with the backing of the Latin American Demographic Center (CELADE- Population Division) and the International Migration Organization (IMO), organized a "Symposium on International Migration in Latin American and Caribbean"  which took place in San Josť, Costa Rica, September 4 to 6, 2000.  This event was also sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

The Symposium brings together decision makers, experts, international agencies, non-governmental and  other civil society organizations, allowing them to interact and exchange concerns and experiences related to  international migration in the Hemisphere.  The Symposium addressed the following subjects: 

  • Increasing information and knowledge about the tendencies and patterns of international migration in the region.
  • Exploring interrelation between international migration and development including the impact of globalization and the introduction of new technologies.
  • Analyzing the economic, political, and social consequences of migration on migrants and on countries of origin and destination.
  • Analyzing and evaluating current initiatives on multilateral migratory diplomacy established.
  • International Migration and the Summit of the Americas
  • Migrants' human rights

One of the most important aspects of the meeting was to present consensus proposals regarding the theme of International Migration for the next Summit of the Americas.

The Technical Support group of UNFPA for Latin America and the Caribbean came to the following conclusion regarding preliminary considerations for international migration: the majority of the socio-economic consequences of migration are two-fold or contradictory. The mobility of the work force capacity, professionals and students from a country contributes, without a doubt, to the loss of capable personnel in that country. At the same time, however, this type of migration generates significant remittances, promotes new links between countries, stimulates technology transfer and helps to create new types of communities. Migration can cause the disintegration of existing communities, but it can also generate new forms of solidarity that promote the social, cultural and economic development of those communities.

For more information, see: Latin American and Caribbean Symposium for International Migration

The mandates and initiatives for migration and migrant workers were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas, as a part of two larger mandates: human rights and fundamental freedoms and growth with equity.  For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities in this area, please see the following pages:

Updated June 7, 2001 

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