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Debate: UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families

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*'''Migrant rights are already protected under human rights law.''' If a nation violates existing international human rights law against a migrant, perhaps with exploitative working conditions, wrongful imprisonment, seizure of property, discrimination, or violence, existing international law already adequately protects them. There is no need to expand human rights law to create a separate category and separate protections for migrants. *'''Migrant rights are already protected under human rights law.''' If a nation violates existing international human rights law against a migrant, perhaps with exploitative working conditions, wrongful imprisonment, seizure of property, discrimination, or violence, existing international law already adequately protects them. There is no need to expand human rights law to create a separate category and separate protections for migrants.
-*'''International laws protecting migrants will still lack enforcement.''' Even if the international community decided it wanted to better protect the human rights of migrants, an international treaty will not necessarily advance that cause, as international law has proven to be very difficult to enforce. This will continue to be a problem into the forceable future.+*'''International laws protecting migrants will still lack enforcement.''' Even if the international community decided it wanted to better protect the human rights of migrants, an international treaty will not necessarily advance that cause, as international law has proven to be very difficult to enforce. This will continue to be a problem into the foreseeable future.
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 +[[Category:United Nations]]
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Revision as of 13:44, 9 February 2011

Background and context

This pro/con article was created for the Spring 2011 topic of the The Global Debates: "All states should immediately ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families." We've created this pro/con article and the broader Global Debates International Migration Portal to help contestants develop their cases.

International law: Does migration deserve protections of international law, bodies?

Pro


Con

  • Signing the Migrant Workers Convention is a liability and burden "Finland and the UN Convention on Migrant Workers Rights: What would ratification mean?" On the Road to Success. May 8th, 2010: "Ratification would mean that Finland has willingly assumed the obligations laid down in the Convention and can be held liable under international law for failure to fulfill its obligations. Besides the obligation to respect the rights of migrant workers enshrined in the Convention, Finland would be obligated to submit reports to the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW), as stipulated in Article 73 of the Convention. Finland would be expected to report on legislative, judicial, administrative and 'other measures' taken to guarantee the rights of migrant workers and members of their families. The Committee would examine the reports and make recommendations to Finland - on what should be done to adequately protect migrant workers within its borders." [It should be noted that the author of this quote still advocates for Finland and other countries to sign the Migrant Workers Convention, but simply acknowledges the above burdens and liabilities].


Economics: Are migrant rights good for economics?

Pro

Con

  • Migration can cause damaging "brain drain" in countries of origin. Immigration deprives countries of origin of badly needed skills. This is known as "brain drain". This is one of a number of consequences from migration, and may give pause to efforts to increase protections for migrants in such a way that further incentivizes migration.

Social welfare: Should migrants receive equal treatment on social welfare?

Pro

  • Migrants should have equal rights to social welfare as nationals Article 27 of the United Nations Migrant Workers Convention stipulates: "With respect to social security, migrant workers and members of their families shall enjoy in the State of employment the same treatment granted to nationals in so far as they fulfil the requirements provided for by the applicable legislation of that State and the applicable bilateral and multilateral treaties."[1]


Con

  • Welfare systems need protecting from "freeriding" migrants. Immigrants make heavy use of social welfare systems, and often overload public education, while frequently not fully pulling their weight in taxes. Increasing social and economic protections and rights for migrants could certainly mean increasing migration and increasing the benefits migrants receive from societies. This could be a burden that a state's welfare system is not capable of handling.


Family reunification: Should a right to family reunification exist?

Pro

  • Migrant Rights Convention aims to facilitate family reunification Article 44.2 of the Migrant Workers Convention stipulates: "States Parties shall take measures that they deem appropriate and that fall within their competence to facilitate the reunification of migrant workers with their spouses or persons who have with the migrant worker a relationship that, according to applicable law, produces effects equivalent to marriage, as well as with their minor dependent unmarried children."[2]
  • Migrant Workers Convention protects sovereignty on family reunification UNESCO: "The Migrant Workers Convention in Europe: Obstacles to Ratification." 2007: "Article 79 of the treaty provides that '[n]othing in the present Convention shall affect the right of each State Party to establish the criteria governing admission of migrant workers and members of their families'; whereas state’s responsibilities in terms of family reunification under Article 44 are limited to taking such measures 'as they deem appropriate to facilitate the reunification of migrant workers with their spouses… as well with their minor dependent unmarried children.' In language as heavily qualifi ed as this, leaving such a wide discretion open to states, it is difficult to see any obligation of any sort, let alone one that could present a serious obstacle to ratification."[3]


Con

  • Family reunification right is obstacle to migrant rights treaty. States have leveled as an argument against the Migrant Workers Convention, and against other possible international migrant treaties, concerns about a robust right of family reunification to all migrant workers present in migrant-receiving countries. This could offer family members a right to migrate into the state in question, resulting in large increases in population size. And, there is no doubt that the text of the Migrant Workers Convention aims to create a "right" to family reunification. Even if it provides flexibility on how a nation attempts to facilitate re-unification, it still requires that states reunite families in some way. Under this treaty, therefore, any migrant could sue the state for not allowing their family (and perhaps extended family) to immigrate as well. In overpopulated and strained migrant-receiving countries - particularly in Wester Europe - such a proposition is untenable, which is why so many migrant-receiving nations oppose the treaty.


Sovereignty: Is Migrant Rights treaty consistent with national sovereignty?

Pro

  • Migrant Rights Convention allows for sovereign control of migration Article 79 of The United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families provides that “[n]othing in the present Convention shall affect the right of each State Party to establish the criteria governing admission of migrant workers and members of their families”.[4] Such a broad statement allows for the robust exercise of sovereign decision-making on the criteria for immigration. Migrant-receiving states should rest assured that they will have the flexibility necessary to adjust their policies to deal with their specific migration issues.


Con

  • International migration treaty limits sovereign migration policy. The United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families would limit the sovereign rights of states to decide upon who can enter their territory and for how long they can remain. While this might not be a problem for countries of origin of migrants, it is certainly a central concern for migrant-receiving nations like the United States, Australia, in Europe, India, and Indonesia. Every state has its own set of issues to deal with as they relate to migration (ie, overpopulation, crime, deficits, national identity, etc.), and many believe they must have the independent flexibility to tailor their immigration policies to meet these issues. That's why an international treaty is seen as a potential liability to states that feel immigration policy must be fully within their own control.


Diplomacy: Is signing the treaty good for diplomacy?

Pro


Con

  • Increasing migrant rights can cause international tensions Stanley Pignal. "EU faces threat to migration principle." Financial Times. September 28 2010: "Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, is looking to reprimand a clutch of member states, perhaps as many as a dozen, for failing to implement fully the 2004 European law guaranteeing free movement for citizens, but on technical grounds – such as for failing to ensure full legal rights for migrants – rather than for fundamental breaches. In dealing with this dossier, there are worries that Brussels may open a Pandora’s box as it seeks to enhance the working of the rules in favour of migrants. These are turbulent political waters for the European Commission, which as an unelected supranational body has steered clear of immigration issues, among the most sensitive topics in any of its 27 member states. Indeed, officials worry her actions could spark an adverse reaction from some member states, for example by tying intra-EU migration with the more contentious debate regarding new arrivals from outside the EU. 'If the European Commission pushes too hard on this, and rubs member states the wrong way, you could easily see a politicisation of the internal migration debate, which has so far benefited hugely from not being a political debate at all,' said one national diplomat."

General trends: Are migrants generally in need of greater protections?

Pro

  • Massive growth of migration demands greater protections Jason Deparle. "Global Migration: A World Ever More on the Move." New York Times. June 26th, 2010: "One reason migration seems so potent is that it arose unexpectedly. As recently as the 1970s, immigration seemed of such little importance that the United States Census Bureau decided to stop asking people where their parents were born. Now, a quarter of the residents of the United States under 18 are immigrants or immigrants’ children. The United Nations estimates that there are 214 million migrants across the globe, an increase of about 37 percent in two decades. Their ranks grew by 41 percent in Europe and 80 percent in North America. 'There’s more mobility at this moment than at any time in world history,' said Gary P. Freeman, a political scientist at the University of Texas. The most famous source countries in Europe — Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain — are suddenly migrant destinations, with Ireland electing a Nigerian-born man as its first black mayor in 2007."
  • Increasing migrant rights can cause international tensions Stanley Pignal. "EU faces threat to migration principle." Financial Times. September 28 2010: "Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, is looking to reprimand a clutch of member states, perhaps as many as a dozen, for failing to implement fully the 2004 European law guaranteeing free movement for citizens, but on technical grounds – such as for failing to ensure full legal rights for migrants – rather than for fundamental breaches. In dealing with this dossier, there are worries that Brussels may open a Pandora’s box as it seeks to enhance the working of the rules in favour of migrants. These are turbulent political waters for the European Commission, which as an unelected supranational body has steered clear of immigration issues, among the most sensitive topics in any of its 27 member states. Indeed, officials worry her actions could spark an adverse reaction from some member states, for example by tying intra-EU migration with the more contentious debate regarding new arrivals from outside the EU. 'If the European Commission pushes too hard on this, and rubs member states the wrong way, you could easily see a politicisation of the internal migration debate, which has so far benefited hugely from not being a political debate at all,' said one national diplomat."


Con

  • Migration policy should be crafted on a state-by-state basis. Every state has different issues and problems related to migration. There is no monolithic economic and social crisis facing migrants around the globe. It is inappropriate, therefore, to call for all nations to improve their protections in some standard manner. Instead, immigration policy and even rights need to be approached on a case-by-case, nation-by-nation basis.
  • Global immigration is a problem; solution: reduce immigration Victor Davis Hanson. "The Global Immigration Problem." Real Clear Politics. May 31, 2007: "In Germany, Turkish workers - both legal and illegal - are desperate to find either permanent residence or citizenship. 'Londonstan' is slang for a new London of thousands of unassimilated Pakistani nationals. In France, there were riots in 2005 because many children of North African immigrants are unemployed - and unhappy. Albanians flock to Greece to do farm work, and then are regularly deported for doing so illegally. The list could go on. [...] The lasting solution is not the status quo - or even walls, fines, deportation, amnesty or guest-worker programs. Instead, failed societies in Latin America, Africa and much of the Middle East must encourage family planning and get smarter about using their plentiful natural wealth to keep more of their own people home."
  • More migrant protections means more migration; a potential problem. Increasing protections of migrant rights has the general effect of increasing migration. Indeed, one policy goal of many migrant rights activists is for open borders and free and unrestricted migration across them. A right to family reunification would also increase migration. This can be problematic in many countries. It may worsen overpopulation problems, increase tensions between ethnic and/or religious groups, or simply devalue the cultural identity of a state. This is why migration policy should exist state-by-state.
  • More migrant "rights" means more immigration, overpopulations Migrants can cause overpopulation in certain countries and in large concentrated urban areas. This can have a variety of negative consequences, worsening overpopulation in these areas, air pollution, traffic, sanitation, and quality of life. Again, this is a potential negative consequence of migration that needs to be considered when approaching the topic of expanding migrant rights.
  • Expanding migrant rights can damage national identity Maintaining an original ethnic and cultural structure, government, and overall citizenship is the base argument of many opponents of immigration and expanding migrant rights. This ethno-cultural type of thinking is an accepted practice in many countries that are populated by one ethnic group. Is Israel, for example, wrong to term itself a "Jewish state"? Is there something inherently wrong with its efforts to maintain this identity? Probably not, and it certainly constrains how far migrant rights can be expanded.



Human rights: Are migrant rights key to human rights?

Pro

  • Long-term migrants should have equal rights to nationals.


Con

  • Migrant rights are already protected under human rights law. If a nation violates existing international human rights law against a migrant, perhaps with exploitative working conditions, wrongful imprisonment, seizure of property, discrimination, or violence, existing international law already adequately protects them. There is no need to expand human rights law to create a separate category and separate protections for migrants.
  • International laws protecting migrants will still lack enforcement. Even if the international community decided it wanted to better protect the human rights of migrants, an international treaty will not necessarily advance that cause, as international law has proven to be very difficult to enforce. This will continue to be a problem into the foreseeable future.


See also

External links and resources:

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