New migration pact highlights key role of business in protecting migrants, say UN experts

ILO/Deloche P Migrant workers prepare fish at a market in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. (file)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

A group of UN experts welcomed a call for Member States and businesses to join forces in protecting the rights of migrants on Thursday, following the recent adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) on 10 December.

The freshly-adopted compact places emphasis on genuine public-private partnerships, to ensure migrants see the economic benefits generated by their work, and are protected from human rights abuses.

“Migrant workers all over the world are too often subjected to unethical recruitment processes, indecent work conditions and lack of social protection,” the experts said. “In fact, these challenges are among the most critical that our societies face”

The International Labour Organization’s Director-General, Guy Ryder echoed this statement earlier this year: “Many migrant workers end up trapped in jobs with low pay and unsafe and unhealth working conditions, often in the informal economy…this makes them highly vulnerable to forced labour and child labour.”

The ILO reports that approximately 164 million people left home in search of work between 2013 and 2017, a jump from 150 million, where the number stood in 2013.

“For the first time, the vast majority of UN Member States recognize that a cooperative approach is essential to facilitate the overall benefits of migration, while addressing its human rights risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination. It could not be more timely,” the experts said in reference to the GCM.

The expert group urged Member States to strengthen labour inspections, and take measures to ensure employers do not confiscate migrant workers’ identity documents, while private sector employers must do their part in ensuring migrant workers receive proper contracts.

The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provides a framework of what is expected of States and business enterprises in a “protect, respect, and remedy” strategy that contributes to sustainable globalization. This outline, the experts noted, is reiterated in the compact, as it applies to situations affecting migrant workers, and “must be implemented” to protect these individuals against exploitation and abuse in their countries of origin, and destination.

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