Group tackles migrants’ rights in UN rights review body

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International, as part of the human right civil society group Philippine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Watch, tackled issues of migrants’ rights abuses and government neglect in the 13th session of UPR of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Switzerland.

According to Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez, one of the civil society representatives in attendance in Geneva, “Migrants’ rights are human rights.  We are here to bring to the international community highlight cases of Philippine government neglect, as well as to appeal to migrant-receiving countries to respect and uphold migrants’ rights’ in compliance to international instruments and standards.”

Martinez said that he brought to foreign missions’ attention the cases of more than 122 Filipinos on death row and at least 7,000 in jails abroad who have lacked legal assistance from government, hundreds of thousands of victims of human, drug and sex trafficking, cases of mysterious deaths of OFWs, abuses on household service workers, violent crackdowns on undocumented migrants and government neglect of OFWs in distress, especially those in wars and conflict situations.

“In all of these cases, both the Philippine government and some host countries are accountable in that there are no clear-set mechanisms for OFWs’ access to justice and in their non-compliance of international human rights instruments and standards,” he said.

Martinez cited as an example the failure of the countries to ratify the International Labor Organization Convention on Domestic Work which recognizes household workers as regular workers and bestowing upon them equal rights and recognition as other workers.

In 2010, the number of Filipino domestic workers deployed were 154,535 which accounted for 45% of deploys for that year, according to government statistics. Remittances of Filipino domestic workers are therefore a significant portion of the total number of total remittances that support the Philippine economy.

“Yet their rights are persistently ignored. The Convention provides an opportunity to ensure that their rights are respected.  The provisions in the Convention set a standard which all states should follow and the recognition of which would protect DW around the world,” said Martinez.

Martinez said that for so long, domestic workers have been denied equal rights and recognition while facing harsh conditions at work and in society.

“They are most vulnerable to abuse and often mistreated by employers. Many are beaten and raped, and many are murdered. They are lowly-paid and do not enjoy social protection, isolated and discriminated against and without legal recourse because their work is not considered as work and not covered by any existing legal frameworks. Worse, their marginalization is implicitly condoned by the State as the principal agent peddling domestic workers like ordinary commodities without guarantee of protection or avenues for redress of grievance,” he said.

Martinez said that Migrante International also extended an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants to come to the Philippines and make an assessment on real state of OFWs and their families.###