Muscat: The contributions of migrants are multifaceted. With their hard work they have been supporting the social, economic and cultural foundations of societies across the world.
Many countries have prospered with their help and yet a majority of these migrants — out of some 214 million people living, working, raising families — are struggling for survival.
While most of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) observed International Migrants Day (December 18) with calls and programmes on the achievements of and for migrant workers, it should not be forgotten that the persistent challenge of the global economic downturn creates a climate of instability, which has doubled their woes. It can be seen that migrant workers are the most vulnerable group as they are strongly affected by economic shocks. In normal conditions too they are discriminated against because of their status. However, this treatment worsens in times of major crises. Often, they are blamed for causing instability to economy and society.
This state of apathy calls for a comprehensive approach that not only addresses the working conditions of migrant workers but also of local workers in migrant-receiving countries. Instead of pitting migrant and local workers against each other, it is time to strike at the systemic roots of inequality that promote social and economic injustice.
Although migrant domestic workers are still part of a system of invisible workers — either mostly women or members of minority groups — they are becoming more empowered and breaking free from the bounded labour. They are fighting for fair wages, rest days, freedom of association and simply to be treated as human beings. But, still, we can see that only Uruguay, Philippines and Mauritius have ratified International Labour Organisation C89 R201, which is a significant milestone in the formal recognition for labour rights of domestic workers as the initial initiative was taken over 50 years ago.
As per recent media reports, migrants all across the world, particularly irregular migrants, are increasingly becoming targets of strict border controls, detention and deportation practices.
They are detained on administrative grounds, which include lack of required employment and residency permits, identity documents and the like.
"We echo the calls of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants for access to justice, strong procedural safeguards, attention to the special needs of vulnerable migrants, denunciation of detention as a punitive measure, and the authoritative declaration that detention of migrants should be the last resort," representatives of Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) secretariat, a regional network of non-government organisations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers, wrote to Times of Oman in a email.
MFA believes migrants' rights are human rights. Documented or undocumented, irrespective of race, gender, class, age and religious belief, migrant workers' rights are guaranteed by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and other international conventions.
"We call on the global community to recognise and protect the rights of migrants in irregular situations. Resolution 3499 of the UN General Assembly (1975) affirms that no human being is illegal. Regardless of their immigration status or nationality, all migrants have inalienable human rights that States are required to respect and uphold in the exercise of their sovereignty over all who reside within their geographical jurisdiction," the MFA added.
"The initiative of the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in drafting the general comment on the rights of migrant workers in irregular situation was a commendable move, which provides the normative fr