Founding of Asia Alliance on Migration, Development and Human Rights (AAMDHR)

In preparation for the High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development, which was held at UN Headquarters in New York on the 14th and the 15th of September, 2006, various regional networks working on migration and development issues in Asia had come together to form the Asia Alliance on Migration, Development and Human Rights (AAMDHR). This statement was adopted as a result of the AAMDHR founding meeting, held on the 16th -17th of August, 2006, Bankok, Thailand.

Although the AAMDHR does no longer exists as a formal network, Asian civil society preparing for the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in October 2008, uses this statement as a basic reference point for their advocacy.

Adopted at the AAMDHR founding meeting, 16-17 August 2006, Bangkok, Thailand

Migration policy must be created within a human rights framework, respecting the needs and choices of people migrating. People who move, whether they are forced, non-forced or voluntary, must have some control over their own choices and manage their own migration. The right of all people to determine the course of their lives should not be taken away simply because they move.

1. Migrants Are Protected By Human Rights,
All migrants are entitled to protection of their human rights by the States that they originate from, transit through, and reside and seek employment in. Migrants are human beings and not commodities.

Migrants’ rights are human rights and no human being should be considered as illegal. The most comprehensive framework of protection for the rights of migrants and their families remains the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (the Migrant Workers Convention).

The other core human rights conventions and related instruments also protect the rights and promote the wellbeing of migrants and their families including: Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and UNGASS.

States are obligated to adhere to the international human rights law framework and should centre human rights in all discussions and policies that affect migrants.

Whether they are documented or undocumented, migrants are entitled to the same fundamental human rights as nationals of any state, including the right to health, equal access to justice, to freedom of movement and to freedom from abuse and exploitation including torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

2. Migrant workers are protected by Core Labour Rights And Decent Work Standards
Core labor rights and fundamental standards are set out in the ILO conventions and related human rights instruments including ILO Conventions 97 and143 and the ILO multilateral framework on migration.

These are applicable to all workers, including all migrant workers, regardless of their status in the country of employment.

Rights include: the right to work and rights at work, such as the rights to fair wages, safe and healthy working conditions and reasonable limitation of working hours; the rights to liberty and security of the person that protect the migrant from illegal confinement by her employer; and the right to freedom of association and
assembly, whether in trade unions or informal associations. Access to decent work is essential to protecting the human rights of migrant workers and to realizing the right to development.

3. Development Must Be Centered On Human Rights And Social Justice
The right to development is a universal and inalienable right, as stated in the UN Declaration on the Right to Development (1986). It is recognized that protection of human rights should be both the means and the end of development, and that development must be:

• People-centered – place the human person at the center of development and be aimed at improving the quality of life and dignity of all people and their environment

• Comprehensive – work for balance of social, cultural, political and economic progress

• Respectful of all human rights – assert the indivisibility and interdependence of human rights; failure to protect, respect and fulfill these rights constitutes an obstacle to development;

• Participatory – should ensure participation of key stakeholders including migrants and their families, especially women migrants and excluded, vulnerable or marginalized groups within the migrant community

• Promote social justice

• Affirming of the right of peoples to self-determination.

• Gender sensitive; ensuring the gender sensitive approach to development and in the management of migration is mandatory. Through the gender sensitive lens, the rights of migrant workers include: (1) the right to integrity of body and soul, in particular the right to be free from of all physical, psychological, and sexual violence; (2) the rights to be free from gender-based discrimination; (3) the right to obtain reproductive health services and to obtain appropriate assistance in the event of sexual and gender based violence.

We reject models of development based on the free-market and neo-liberalism, which result in the commodification of workers by prioritizing capital and profits over the rights and dignity of persons. Economic development cannot be positioned as a trade-off for civil and political, economic, social and cultural rights or be prioritized over human dignity.

4. Development must not justify or result in the exploitation migrants
Accordingly, development strategies must be directed at protecting the rights of all persons, including migrants, and must not exploit the vulnerabilities of any person, including migrants. In particular:

(a) Governments must acknowledge that migrants play a central role in development. Migrants are an integral part of diverse, global communities who make valuable social, cultural, economic and political contributions in their countries of origin, transit and destination. They must be
respected and valued.

No development strategy will succeed without the meaningful participation of the people.

(b) Governments should recognise domestic work (household work) as work. The increased demand of migrant domestic workers is in cooperation with development process both in country of origin and country of destination.

Without legal recognition and protection, domestic workers are vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination.

Migrant domestic workers have been unfairly convicted of crimes such as theft, murder, or adultery, arbitrarily detained, and sentenced to punishments such as stoning and lashes which could constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and even to the death penalty.

(c) The Diversity of Migrant Populations Must be Respected. Migrants are individual people, are families, are communities. A sizeable proportion of the world’s population will be a migrant at some point in her/his life.

This diversity must be respected and reflected in policy responses to migration and services for migrants. Development policies must recognize and respect the broad range of migrants and migrant needs.

(d) Both origin and destination countries cannot subordinate the human rights of migrant to economic development goals.
We condemn the practice of origin countries of exporting migrants en masse without any protection of their human rights as rights as workers, merely to increase migrant remittances or profit from fees.

We further condemn the exploitative policies and practices of destination countries such as the use of cheap and unprotected labor in the guise of “trainees”, “cultural exchange/au pair schemes” or “seasonal workers”.

Such methods are not a viable “development plan” and make migrants vulnerable to serious abuses and violations of their human rights.

(e) Destination countries must not exploit the vulnerabilities of migrant populations in the name of development. Many migrants are leaving situations of distress or crisis, including violence, natural disaster or economic desperation.

These migrants must not be exploited as cheap and pliable labor because of their limited negotiating power.

(f) Origin countries must not use the mass export of labour as a primary development strategy.

Every government has a responsibility to provide decent work. Sustainable development should be premised on job creation and economic opportunities in the home country and not on the export of labor.

In particular:
• Remittances: Remittances are the private money of migrants often earned at a high personal cost to the individual migrant. Governments should not use migrants and remittances to keep afloat their mismanaged economies or to finance their “national development” requirements. This opportunistic practice merely transfers the burden of economic development onto the migrants, and to the next generation. Any use of remittances for economic development can only happen with the full and prior engagement of migrants in the entire development process.

• GATS Mode 4: Including GATS Mode 4 in the migration discourse is unacceptable; Mode 4 further deepens the class-oriented exploitation of various types of migrants, and is a tool of neo-liberal trade that benefits global corporations and capital and undermine the labor and human rights of workers.

(g) Both origin and destination countries are responsible for the wellbeing of migrants. The recent war in Lebanon is a distressing illustration of the vulnerabilities and risks that migrants are subjected to. Thousands of migrant workers and their families were abandoned by their employers and governments and people within the migrant community were killed. In such times of crisis, origin countries must care for the wellbeing of their nationals in times of crisis and destination countries must be concerned for the protection of the migrants within their borders.

(h) Development policies based on migration must take into account the social costs of migration e.g. the separation of families, brain drain, rehabilitation and care of returning sick, injured, or victimized migrants, need to be factored into their development strategies and programs.

(i) Development policies must not encourage irregular migration: Neo-liberal economic globalizing processes that give rise to trafficking, irregularization and informalization of labor, and forced labor and slavery-like conditions are unacceptable. Exploitation of vulnerable workers must not be dismissed as an unavoidable side-effect of development or globalization.

(j) Governments should recognize domestic work (household work) as work. The increased demand of migrant domestic workers is in cooperation with development process both in country of origin and country of destination. Without legal recognition and protection, domestic workers are vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination. In some cases domestic workers have been

unfairly convicted of various crimes such as theft, murder, or adultery leading to unjust imprisonment, stoning, lashes, and even death penalty.

(k) Schemes for managing migration must be people-centered and non-discriminatory: The categorization of people through “safe” or “managed migration” approaches must not result in undermining their human rights and dignity.

Governments must ensure that systems of classification do not delay the provision of essential services, prioritize bureaucratic interests over people, or further marginalize, exploit and exclude migrants. It should also not be used to entrench power structures and vulnerabilities, for example by creating dualistic systems which restrict so-called “unskilled” or lower paid migrants, but give favors and incentives for “highskilled”, expatriate and business migrants.

Human rights are universal; they cannot favor certain “preferred” categories of people only; Classification of migrants, where necessary, should be in the spirit of protecting the rights and dignity of migrants and responding to their needs and specific circumstances. These should be reviewed regularly for effectiveness, transparency and accountability.

(l) Migrants must be engaged in the creation of development plans and policies as they affect migrants. As primary stakeholders in national development, migrants must be engaged at all levels and all stages of development. They must not be treated merely as “agents of development”, and encouraged or even coerced to migrate in the absence of protection of their human rights.

5. Migrants Must be Engaged in International Dialogues that Affect Migrants.
We are alarmed by the extensive restrictions on civil society participation in the 2006 UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development. The right to participation is a fundamental principle of the international human rights architecture. Accordingly, the UN should prioritize the participation of all relevant stakeholders, including migrants, in any UN meeting organized to discuss migration.

Further, the participation of migrants and civil society is needed to ensure that any actions emerging from the meeting are rights-respecting and non-discriminatory.

Civil society organisations promote a people-centered approach and provide a critical analysis of the actions of government and non-state actors. Dialogue between governments alone is insufficient to ensure discourse and action respectful of human rights and human dignity in the spirit of the Right to Development and related standards. No development strategy will succeed without the meaningful participation of the people.

1. Asian countries have among the lowest levels of ratifications of international treaties. These treaties provide a uniform and clear statement of the human rights of all peoples and are the basis for protecting, promoting and respecting the rights of migrants.

We call on all governments present at the High Level Dialogue, particularly the governments of Asian States and including in the context of creating development policies related to migration to ratify and implement without delay:
(a) The 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, in particular among countries of destination.

(b) All of the 30 treaties presented at the Treaty Event on Human Migration which coincides with the UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.

(c) Relevant labor standards including as a priority the 8 Core ILO Conventions and other migration-related conventions of the ILO (including Conventions 97, 143, and 181).

2. We also call on all Asian governments to implement their commitments made on human rights, in particular the pledges made prior to their election to the Human Rights Council.

In creating development policies related to migration, we call on all governments to:
3. Adhere to the framework for development established by the 1986 UN Declaration on the right to Development in any discussion and strategy regarding migration and development.

4. Develop labour migration policies in accordance with the rights-based approach to labour migration contained within the ILO Multilateral Framework?

5. Amend, adopt and enforce national laws to conform, at a minimum, with international standards and regional standards where relevant;

6. Continue identifying, exposing, and challenging exploitative and discriminatory policies and laws which affect women migrant domestic workers, and to enact national laws that will provide legal protection and recognition of domestic work as work.

7. Establish services to protect individuals who have been exploited through the migration process such as victims of trafficking.

8. Provide access to justice and appropriate compensation for all migrants who are victims of abuse and crime, including for abused women migrant domestic workers, migrant rights defenders, and victims of trafficking, and prosecute effectively the perpetrators;

9. Establish a regional cooperation for “rehabilitation” (psycho-social recovery, compensation, reintegration) of abused migrant workers

10. Provide compensation and access to justice for abused women migrant domestic workers, migrant rights defenders and victims of trafficking and prosecute the perpetrators of the crime;

11. Ensure that embassies and consulates of countries of origin directly take responsibility for protecting, to the best of their abilities, the rights, welfare and well-being of all migrants, including ensuring that migrants, regardless of their status, are not subjected to indefinite or prolonged detention.

12. Provide food security, adequate housing and decent work for their citizens so that migration is not viewed as a survival strategy to escape deficits in development, extreme poverty and associated violations of fundamental human rights.

13. Develop financial regulations regarding remittances and monitor the cost of remittances and agency fees to migrants.
(a) Abolish visa trading practices.

(b) Monitor practices of recruitment and brokerage agencies to ensure protection of the rights of migrant workers.

(c) Ensure access to remedies and redress for migrants who have suffered violations of their rights. In particular, traffickers of people should be brought effectively to justice, and the protection of victims of trafficking must be ensured by states from which they originate, transit through and end up in.

In line with the UN Secretary General’s proposal to institute a global consultative process within the United Nations to discuss policy issues surrounding the international governance of migration, we emphasize the merit in establishing an arena such as a Permanent Forum, in which there can be structured, ongoing and inclusive debate on migrant issues.

Functions and scope
The Forum should be a place to stimulate new ideas, approaches, and perspectives in understanding migration
It should not be limited to migration and development bust should include other issues related to the contemporary phenomenon of migration. For example, identifying the root causes of migration, and migration and international human rights principles and standards.

Geographical location
The Forum should be based in Geneva, with the ability to convene meetings in other regions. A Geneva location would allow the Forum to benefit from engagement with proximity to bodies with expertise on migration, labour rights and human rights including: the Human Rights Council and the human rights treaty bodies; the International Labour Organisation, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

To ensure that the Forum conducts a genuine debate on migration, and to generate recommendations that are effective, all stakeholders must be involved in the entire process, starting with migrants and their networks, but also including NGOs, Civil Society and the private sector. The Forum should not only allow such participation but should actively facilitated it, for example by providing financial support ( in some ways similar to the existing UN Fund for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues).

We are disappointed to see, in the Secretary General’s report, that civil society and other stakeholders would only be invited to the meetings of the forum “when [governments] deem it desirable and necessary”.

To clarify the Forum concept, such as its scope, mandate, responsibilities and structure, we urge the Secretary General to conduct an open consultation with all stakeholders, starting with migrants and their networks.

UN institutions and mechanisms have become more bureaucratic and inaccessible to the peoples they seek to serve and have become distanced from their objective of representing ‘we the people of the United Nations’ as cited in the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations.

We call upon UN institutions and mechanisms to ensure the accessibility of participation and justice to marginalized and vulnerable groups.

Adopted on 16-17 August 2006, Bangkok, Thailand.
Action Network for Migrant Worekrs (ACTFORM) Sri Lanka
American Center for International Labour Solidarity (ACILS) Thailand
Asian Migrant Centre (AMC) – Regional
Asia-PacificWomen Law and Development (APWLD) – Regional
ASEAN Migration Working Group – Regional
CARAM Asia – Regional
(FORUM) Asia – Regional
Focus in the Global South – Regional
Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) – Regional
Grassroots Human Rights Education Burma
HopeWorkers Centre (HWC) – Taiwan
Mekong Migration Network (MMN) – Subregional – GMS
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) – Regional
Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation (Unlad) – Philippines
Welfare Association of Repatriated Bangladeshi Empoyees (WARBE) – Bangladesh