Qatar :First inter-regional conference in Asian migrant workers in the Arab world.

Press release
ar en fr

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in cooperation with the National Human Rights Committee of Qatar (NHRC), has organized and successfully concluded an inter-regional conference to discuss the situation of migrant workers in Asia and the Arab world.

This conference, held in Doha, Qatar on 10 and 11 June 2007, was the first one to gather 50 participants, among which Qatari Officials and representatives of the civil society, human rights NGOs and trade unions from several Arab and Asian origin and host countries. These included NGOs from Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong-Kong, Sri-Lanka and Bahrain, specialized in migrant workers issues, as well as human rights associations from North Africa and the Middle-East that needed to get information on the situation of and be trained on the rights of migrants workers; embassies from Asian sending countries, and trade unions from Arab receiving countries.
The participants reviewed the abuses suffered by migrant workers in their countries of origin as well as in host countries, including their exploitation by recruiting agencies, fake contracts, double contracts, visa-trafficking, being shouldered with travel expenses, and employment in jobs that are not in conformity with those stipulated in the contract, including non-decent jobs. These abuses lead many migrants to flee and sometimes commit suicide.

The final declaration of the conference namely reaffirmed the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention, the right not to be deported without prior review of their cases by an independent judiciary, the right to be free from torture, slavery and slavery-like conditions and the right to freedom of belief and religion.

In order to facilitate the continuation of pro-active dialogue, by encouraging NGOs to cooperate with national human rights institutions in the countries involved, based on tolerance and a spirit of mutual understanding and cultural exchange, the participants formulated a comprehensive set of recommendations, among which:

 FIDH, NHRC of Qatar and other actors involved should produce a progress review, twice a year, on legislation and on the social situation of foreign workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council;
 FIDH should facilitate the establishment of an inter-regional network, between Arab and Asian organizations interested in the issues related to the situation of migrant workers, through regular meetings and exchange of information;
 All countries must publish national action plans and policies to protect the rights of all workers, including migrant workers, without discrimination;
 The adoption of capacity-building activities and training for government, police, parliamentarians, civil society and other stakeholders;
 All countries shall recognise the International Day of Migrants on December 18th and work to promote and protect the rights of migrants;
 Campaigning and lobbying for the ratification and monitoring of the implementation of international and regional human rights instruments at a national level (including the International Convention on Migrant Workers, International Labour Organisation conventions, the International covenants of 1966, the Arab Charter of Human Rights and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Declaration to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers and others);
 Campaigning for the conclusion of bilateral agreements between origin and host countries on the regulation of migration;
 Formulating contracts which are ratified by the ministries of labour in both origin and host countries and for the sponsor to be legally registered with the ministries of labour so that migrant workers can have access to that information;
 Requests the States to treat migrant workers, including domestic workers, as equal before the law;
 Domestic work should be legislated for within national labour laws;
 Raising awareness among migrant workers through legal protection/information campaigns by NGOs (both specialized and with a general mandate), Embassies, national human rights institutions, and trade unions;
 NGOs should publish a booklet on migrants’ rights translated into the origin countries’ languages, and a directory of organizations in origin and host countries in order for migrants to learn about their rights. Migrant workers should be involved in trade unions and have access to counselling and advice bureaus;
 Women’s rights NGOs should link with female migrant workers and offer socio-legal assistance;
 Human rights NGOs with a general mandate in the Arab region should engage with the issue of migrant workers;
 Address the serious problem of trafficking of human beings, through the adoption of comprehensive national legislation and policies, including the establishment of National bodies in order to enforce the effective implementation of national policies.

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