Migrant Rights

Freedom of movement is one of the most basic human rights. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948) stipulates:

Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country.

United Nations human rights documents define migrant as “a person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national.” Unlike refugees or asylum seekers, who are forced to flee to leave their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution, a migrant is someone who chooses to migrate. However, many migrants feel compelled to migrate because of political, economic, social, cultural, religious, and environmental factors.

Migrant Rights as Human Rights

The main document defining the rights of migrants is the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (Migrant Convention, 2003). The Convention does not create new rights for migrants but aims at guaranteeing equality of treatment and the same working conditions for migrants and nationals. It addresses not only the individual migrant but also members of his or her family. “Members of the family” are identified as persons married to migrant workers, as well as their dependent children, and other dependent persons who are recognized as members of the family (e.g., elderly parents). 

Traffickers are those who transport migrants and profit economically or otherwise from their relocation. Human trafficking has been recognized as a gross human rights violation.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, Entered into force 1990) offers many protections and provisions that apply to migrant children, including the right to protection from abuse (Article 19), trafficking (Articles 11, 35), exploitation (Articles 32, 34, 36), and provisions for the child’s health (Article 24), social security and standard of living (Articles 26, 27), education (Article 28). The child’s right to a family is clearly defined (Articles 9, 10), as well as protection for a child separated from his or her family (Article 20).

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