70th Session of theGeneral Assembly Agenda Item 72: Human Rights

Published Date: 
Friday, October 30, 2015
Ashraf El Nour, Permanent Observer to the United Nations




Chair, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

IOM would like to make a few brief comments on the Secretary-General’s Report on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Including Ways and Means to Promote the Human Rights of Migrants.

For most migrants, the act of migrating means the opportunity for a better life for them and their families. For some, however, the search for such opportunity comes at an extremely high cost. Many migrants face unimaginable dangers at the hands of unscrupulous recruiters, smugglers, or traffickers along their journeys. Many others experience abuse and exploitation at their places of transit or destination, including by employers. These costs tend to affect poorer and lower skilled migrants the most. These people also tend to be more heavily deployed in low-skilled service sector jobs such as domestic work. 

According to the Secretary-General’s report, a significant portion of domestic workers worldwide are women (83%) with many being migrants, working in a sector which is rarely covered by labour legislation.  The act of performing domestic work in the privacy of the home can have an impact on the vulnerability of workers, as they are often perceived as being “part of the family”, and therefore not as workers with rights protected by law.  Domestic work is also often considered a temporary job with few prospects for permanent residence, naturalization or family reunification. This has consequences on the right to a family life for the workers, and undermines their access to social protection.  Employer restrictions may also increase the vulnerability of workers, especially when they are dependent on their employer to renew residence or work permits.  Millions of migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to human rights abuses, often being exposed to sexual and gender based violence, subject to living in confined quarters with little or no privacy, and with limited or non-existent access to healthcare. 

ILO’s Convention No. 189 on decent work for domestic workers was able to give international recognition to this issue but only 22 governments have ratified this Convention.  In many cases, the proper application of those rights is undermined by the degree of informality of the employment and can hinge on the relationship between worker and employer. We must continue to make breakthroughs in terms of how we think of and treat migrant domestic workers whose work is often hidden.  We must recognize their status as professional workers with labour rights and they must have access to justice and remedies in the case of human rights violations.  Migrant domestic workers play a crucial role in enabling others to achieve their goals and at the same time counter the impact of ageing and out-migration in many countries. 

In closing, let me recall our commitment in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in which we collectively agreed to “promote full and productive employment and decent work”, and to “ensure safe, orderly and regular migration involving full respect for human rights and the humane treatment of migrants regardless of migration status”.  We urge all governments and stakeholders to take these commitments seriously, to ratify all relevant labor conventions and to adopt policies that fully protect and respect the fundamental rights of migrant workers. IOM stands ready to help develop and implement such policies.

Thank you.