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Annan urges cooperation in ending rights abuses of migrant workers

[JURIST] UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families [text] in order "to provide all migrants with the rights and protection they need and deserve." In a message [text] marking International Migrants Day [UN materials] Monday, Annan decried the "rising numbers of migrants [who] are being exploited and abused by smugglers and traffickers" and stressed the importance of safeguards found in the Migrant Workers Convention.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in her own statement [text]:

The reality for many migrants is one of exploitation, exclusion, discrimination, abuse and violence amounting to widespread human rights violations. They frequently find themselves accepting dangerous or unhealthy employment with few avenues to seek redress when abuses occur.

Organized crime and smuggling networks target irregular migrants and lead them into such high-risk situations as perilous border crossings and trafficking. The news media is full of stories of migrants perishing at sea, suffocating in cargo holds or being subjected to rape and abuse while in transit.

This must change. We must spare no effort to eradicate human trafficking, protect those who may fall prey to smugglers and hold those profiting from human misery accountable for their crimes. We have to ensure that migrants enjoy the rights they are entitled to, regardless of their regular or irregular status. Migrants have the right not only to protection, but also to equal treatment and non-discrimination; to access to proper information so that migration will be the result of an informed choice; and to be integrated in receiving countries as opposed to excluded.
Saying the convention was built "to protect the human rights of migrants as a matter of duty, of justice and of dignity," Arbour called on all countries to "join our efforts to ensure that its provisions are implemented, so that each future commemoration of international migrants day will be an occasion to measure accelerating progress."Only 34 countries are currently party to the convention [OHCHR materials], which entered into force in 2003. The UN News Service has more.

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