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States parties and signatories to the treaty:      Signed and ratified      Acceded or succeeded      Only signed

The United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families is an international agreement governing the matters described in the title. It was signed on 18 December 1990.


A Priority: The Human Rights of Migrants

On 1 July 2003, the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families [1] entered into force, after the threshold of 20 ratifying States was reached in March 2003. The Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) monitors implementation of the convention, and is one of the seven UN-linked Human rights treaty bodies.

In 2005, the number of international migrants is between 185 and 192 million. This represents approximately three per cent of the world population, and is comparable to the population of Brazil. Nearly all countries are concerned by migration, whether as sending, transit, or receiving countries, or as a combination of these. International migration has become an intrinsic feature of globalization.[citation needed]

"It is time to take a more comprehensive look at the various dimensions of the migration issue, which now involves hundreds of millions of people, and affects countries of origin, transit and destination. We need to understand better the causes of international flows of people and their complex interrelationship with development." United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, from his report on strengthening the Organization, 9 November 2002 [2].

The United Nations Convention constitutes a comprehensive international treaty regarding the protection of migrant workers’ rights. It emphasizes the connection between migration and human rights, which is increasingly becoming a crucial policy topic worldwide. The Convention aims at protecting migrant workers and members of their families; its existence sets a moral standard, and serves as a guide and stimulus for the promotion of migrant rights in each country.

The primary objective of the Convention is to foster respect for migrants’ human rights. Migrants are not only workers, they are also human beings. 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. The Convention innovates because it relies on the fundamental notion that all migrants should have access to a minimum degree of protection. The Convention recognizes that legal migrants have the legitimacy to claim more rights than undocumented migrants, but it stresses that undocumented migrants must see their fundamental human rights respected, like all human beings.

In the meantime, the Convention proposes that actions be taken to eradicate clandestine movements, notably through the fight against misleading information inciting people to migrate irregularly, and through sanctions against traffickers and employers of undocumented migrants.

State of Ratifications and Signatures

The Convention required a minimum of 20 ratifications before it could enter into force. When El Salvador and Guatemala ratified it on 14 March 2003, this threshold was reached.

The following countries have ratified the Convention as of March 2007: Argentina, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda and Uruguay.

In addition, several countries have signed the Convention. This means that their government has expressed the intention of adhering to the Convention. These are: Bangladesh (in 1998), Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Paraguay, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone (in 2000), Togo (in 2001), Cambodia, Gabon, Indonesia, Liberia, and Serbia and Montenegro (in 2004).

So far, countries that have ratified the Convention are primarily countries of origin of migrants (such as Mexico, Morocco and the Philippines). For these countries, the Convention is an important vehicle to protect their citizens living abroad. In the Philippines, for example, ratification of the Convention took place in a context characterized by several cases of Filipino workers being mistreated abroad: such cases hurt the Filipino population and prompted the ratification of the Convention. However, these countries are also transit and destination countries, and the Convention delineates their responsibility to protect the rights of migrants on their territory.

No Western migrant-receiving State has ratified the Convention, even though the majority of migrants live in Europe and North America.[1] Other important receiving countries, such as Australia, Arab states of the Persian Gulf and India have not ratified the Convention either.


  1. ^ "Sixty per cent of the world 's migrants currently reside in the more developed regions and 40 per cent in the less developed regions." International Migration 2002, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, 2002.

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