Title: Equal rights for migrants kit
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00089483/00001
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Title: Equal rights for migrants kit
Series Title: Equal rights for migrants kit
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Language: English
Publisher: International Labor Organization
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Equal rights



Men and women working or enjoying their leisure
together, irrespective of race, nationality, language
or creed ... This is the kind of picture that is offered
more and more nowadays to back up the idea of a world
without discrimination in which different national
origins are no obstacle to equality of rights and
And yet every day, in many countries, thousands of
foreign workers of both sexes suffer incomprehension,
inequality and injustice. Promoting and guaranteeing
equality of opportunity and treatment for migrant
workers is a perennial problem that is as complex
as it is topical.
The International Labour Organisation has for years
been actively engaged in this struggle for greater
justice. It has adopted a series of international
standards to which, in 1975, were added a new
Convention and a new Recommendation that can do
a great deal to help all its member States guarantee
migrants the exercise of the rights they are entitled to.

-.-!X ftu&' .
'~j j"jaW l W

S"Each Member... undertakes
to respect the basic human rights of al migrant workers."
(Convention No. 143, 1975, Article 1.)

Flom Pamrr~rn~zria~an

r e~



Convention arid Recommendation

Ah international la r vention is gal instrument which regulates
some aspect of working conditions, labour a ministration, social welfare or
h human rights. Its ratification by a member State involves a dual obligation:
it is both a f9yiacQjrmiaxe ioto apply the provisions of the Convention and an
indication of willingness to acce t a measure interationa pe
At the beginning 1 7, i Conventions a been aoptedby t e, LO
Sand the number of ratifications stood at over 4,300.
A Recommendation is not subject to ratification. It is intended essentially
Sto provide guidelines at the national level.
These two types of instrument define labour standards that have been
framed jointly by governments, employers and workers in the International
Labour Conference. They provide a model and an enc uragement for the
legislation and practice of all member States of the ILO. \
Both types of instrument must be submitted by the governments to the
national authorities that are competent to decide on measures to be taken
within one year (or exceptionally 18 months) following their adoption by the
SILO Conference. In the case of a Convention, this procedure normally allows
the government to consider whether or not it can ratify the instrument formally.
Convention No. 143 (like certain other Conventions) authorises States to
restrict their ratification to part of the provisions it contains: those of Part I
on migrations in abusive conditions, or those of Part II on equality of oppor-
tunity and treatment. This option is aimed at facilitating initial steps towards

Migrations and their implications 1

Changing international standards 2

Promoting effective equality 3

Attention to specific needs 4

Guaranteeing fundamental rights 5

This kit deals exclusively with the elimination of the
discrimination that migrant workers may suffer, with
ensuring their right to equality of opportunity, and
with the influence that International Labour Organi-
sation standards (and particularly the most recent-
Convention No. 143 and Recommendation No. 151,
of 1975) can have in this respect.
The ILO's programme of activities on behalf of
migrants also covers the range of other problems
posed by international migration for employment.
This programme, which was recently revised and
updated, is part of a strategy whose prime objective
is to avoid excessive and uncontrolled increases in
migration movements, by offering workers more
attractive solutions in their country of origin. The
World Employment Conference, which was held in
Geneva in June 1976, drew particular attention to the
importance of this objective by inviting the ILO to
provide the countries and organizations concerned
with technical co-operation.

The following are the main ILO activities that are
already under way or planned in this field:
* struggle against clandestine movements of man-
power (this is the subject of Part I of Convention
No. 143) and a better understanding of the problems
relating to illegal employment of workers;
* survey of migration flows and analysis of their
principal causes at the regional level;
* studies on the economic and social repercussions
of the various types of migration for employment;
* study of the employment opportunities that are
available, in certain sectors and for certain categories
of employment, to persons willing to emigrate or to
return to their country of origin;
* strengthening of public employment services and
of co-operation in this sphere between the country of
employment and the country of origin.

Migrations and their implications 1

* The scale and diversity. Difficult
though it is to obtain accurate statistics,
the following figures may give some idea
of the scale, extent and variety of migra-
tion movements:
- In Europe, about 8 million migrant
workers (often accompanied by their
family) were estimated in 1974 to have
left the Mediterranean countries in the
course of preceding years for the indus-
trialised nations of the north: Belgium,
France, Federal Republic of Germany,
Netherlands, Switzerland and the Scandi-
navian countries.
- In 1973, some 4.6 million foreigners
were thought to be legally domiciled in
the United States, not to mention 3 to
4 million people living there with no legal
status, i.e. between 7 and 8 million for-
- There are an estimated 5 million
"continental" migrants in South Ameri-
ca: 3 million actual workers (men, wom-
en and young people), 1.5 million mem-
bers of their families and 400,000 border
workers. Argentina alone employs
1,620,000 foreigners and Venezuela over
- In Saudi Arabia, the number of for-
eigners is thought to have increased
sevenfold between 1962 and 1972; in
Kuwait, between 1965 and 1970, the
national population was lower than the
foreign population (53 per cent of the
total), which mainly consisted of mi-
grants from neighboring Arab coun-
- In western Africa, there is a steady
flow of migration from the interior to-
wards the coastal countries, particularly
Ghana and the Ivory Coast. These two
States employ respectively 900,000 and
1,400,000 foreigners, mostly from Upper
Volta, Togo and Mali.
- In southern Africa, about 300,000
foreigners work in South Africa and
Rhodesia, particularly in the mining

* Needs, hopes... and facts. These
different migration flows all have one
thing in common: they result from a
need for manpower in the country of
immigration, on the one hand, and from
the hopes of workers who usually come
from a background of unemployment and
- The needs of the employing countries
vary according to the economic situation
of the moment: their main concern is to
maintain the rate of economic growth and
ensure the performance of certain un-
pleasant, dangerous or badly paid jobs
that their own nationals are increasingly
unwilling to carry out.

- Migrants leave their own country
to look for a properly paid job-in other
words, higher earnings and a better
standard of living for themselves and for
their family, the certainty of being able to
eat their fill every day, and the possibility
of saving for their future return to their
home country. Most migrants do not
necessarily plan to stay away for a long
- For the countries of origin, the depar-
ture of migrants is a means of alleviating
their unemployment problem. Moreover,
they hope that the money their nationals
working abroad send home will increase
the country's foreign currency reserves
and when the migrants return, the na-
tional economy will benefit from the
experience and skills they have acquired.
- Migrant labour is essential for the
smooth running of a great many indus-
trial activities and certain services. For
* on French public works sites, eight
manual workers out of ten are North
African, Portuguese or Spanish;
* Belgium owes almost half its coal
output to foreign manpower;
* in Sweden, workers from 40 different
countries work in the major motor vehicle
* plantations in Ghana and in the Ivory
Coast could not cope with the demand for
seasonal workers without the assistance
of workers from Upper Volta;
* if it were not for Mexican workers,
Californian crops would often not be
* in the Federal Republic of Germany,
the Olympic stadium in Munich where the

1972 Olympic games took place could not
have been completed before 1980 with-
out the help of foreign manpower;
* in Switzerland, most of the hotel per-
sonnel consists of Italians and Spaniards.

* Inequalities and discrimination. Al-
though some of his hopes may be
realized, the new arrival often ends up
disappointed, bitter and resentful. Dif-
ficulties pile up and the threat of dis-
crimination is always present.
- In work, to begin with, there are dif-
ferences in the legal status of nationals
and foreigners: the migrant has less free-
dom to choose his employment; the
qualifications he has obtained at home
are not always recognized. In practice,
this inequality before the law is com-
pounded by prejudice against foreigners
or other negative attitudes. More often
than not, the migrant only really has
access to jobs that are regarded as
inferior or disagreeable: dustman, miner,
dishwasher, hotel porter, etc. In certain
western European factories, Turkish en-
gineers can be found doing manual work.
Sometimes, there may be differences in
the remuneration for identical jobs, and
certain practices actually exclude foreign
workers from social or occupational
benefits. Moreover, their participation in
the trade union movement is complicated
from the start by a series of juridical or
practical obstacles, especially the lack of
familiarity with the language of the
- In everyday life, the migrant worker
suffers all the hardships of someone who
has been uprooted and is unadapted to
the new situation: it is difficult to find
decent accommodation for himself, and
for his family if they have migrated to-
gether; he is more vulnerable to illness
because of the change of climate, food
and living habits; access to medical and
social services is complicated by the lack
of information and the language barrier;
he misses the life-style of his own coun-
try and, generally speaking, finds it
impossible to provide his children with
education in their own language. Pres-
ence of foreigners, especially in large
numbers, often provokes reactions in
the "host" environment ranging from
mistrust to more or less open hostility
and xenophobia, to which the immigrant
is constantly subjected, whether on
public transport or contacts with other
people. This often leads to the creation of
genuine ghettos, a breeding ground for
poverty and social unrest.

Changing international standards 2

Through its standard-setting activities,
its studies and research and its opera-
tional activities, the ILO hasfor more than
50 years worked to improve the condi-
tions of migrant workers. It has adopted
several international instruments on the
subject, one of the most important of
which is the Migration for Employment
Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97),
which calls for the elimination of all forms
of unequal treatment arising from laws
and regulations relating to remuneration,
working conditions, vocational training,
membership of trade union organisa-
tions, accommodation, taxation and
social security (subject to certain limita-
tions in the latter respect). This Conven-
tion is applied in more than 30 countries.
It is in fact often difficult to distinguish
what is a natural handicap for migrant
workers from what is an act of discrimina-
tion, which injustices are attributable to
inadequate legislation from those that are
the outcome of national attitudes and
practice. In some cases, the indiscrimi-
nate application of regulations to nation-
als and immigrants alike actually repre-
sents an injustice vis-a-vis the latter.
For this reason, the Migrant Workers

(Supplementary Provisions) Convention,
1975 (No. 143), and the Migrant Workers'
Recommendation, 1975 (No. 151), are
based on an all-embracing concept of de

Stopping of migrations in abusive or illicit conditions

Migrants who are moved into countries
secretly and illicitly are the ones exposed
to the worst forms of exploitation and dis-
crimination. Because these migrants are
generally the victims of unscrupulous
traffickers, their outward journey, arrival,
residence and employment usually take
place in abusive conditions that are an
affront to humanity.
In order to put a stop to such practices,
the new ILO standards provide for ener-
getic action at the national level, active
international co-operation and the appli-
cation of sanctions on the authors of
manpower trafficking and on those who
knowingly take advantage of it.
The victims of these practices must also
be protected vis-a-vis those who have
profited from them. For the first time,
international instruments refer to the
recognition of the rights of migrant
workers, even when they are "illegal"
migrants. At the very least, they and their
families are expected to enjoy equality of
treatment in respect of rights arising out

of past employment as regards remu-
neration, social security and other bene-
fits. They should moreover have the
possibility of presenting their case to a
competent body, in the event of a dispute
about these rights.
The Convention advocates the regulari-
sation of their situation. However, when
this is not possible, the cost of their
expulsion is not to be borne by the
migrants themselves. Finally, nothing in
the Convention should prevent States
from granting them the right to stay in the
country and to take up legal employment.
As to those residing lawfully in the
country as migrant workers, they must
also be protected against the danger of
being automatically regarded as in an
illegal or irregular situation by the mere
fact they have lost their jobs. This should
not in itself imply the withdrawal of their
authorisation of residence or work per-
mit. They should also enjoy the same
guarantees as nationals in the event of
loss of employment.

jure and de facto protection of migrant
workers and their families.
The Convention deals separately with
two types of problem: the suppression of
migration in abusive, illicit or clandestine
conditions, which is responsible for the
most serious inequalities, on the one
hand; and, on the other hand, the general
problem of the promotion of equality of
opportunity and treatment for lawfully
admitted migrants.
The main object is to eliminate in law
and in practice all forms of discrimination
against migrant workers and their fami-
lies (in respect of employment and occu-
pation, social security, trade union and
cultural rights, and individual and collec-
tive liberties) and to create the necessary
conditions for them to enjoy genuine
equality of opportunity, particularly as
regards their adaptation to the society of
the country of employment and their
cultural rights.
The Recommendation contains more
detailed provisions regarding the steps to
be taken in these various respects, and
also from the standpoint of social policy
and of the relationship between their
rights to residence and their right to
(The complete texts of the instruments
adopted in 1975 and the main provisions
of Convention No. 97 and Recommenda-
tion No. 86, adopted in 1949, are con-
tained in the Appendix.)


Promoting effective equality 3

* Security of employment and resi-
dence. Extra manpower, a buffer against
unemployment... Various expressions
are used to make the same point: namely,
that although their presence is indis-
pensable during times of economic ex-
pansion and full employment, migrant
workers are likely to become expendable
with threat of recession. An estimated
2 million migrants, for example-about
three out of ten-have lost their employ-
ment in western Europe since 1973.
As already mentioned, the principle of
equality in this field should apply fully to
workers who have been regularly ad-
mitted into the country, particularly as
regards security of employment, the
provision of alternative employment, re-
lief work and retraining.
According to Recommendation No. 151
a migrant who has lost his employment
should be allowed sufficient time to find
alternative employment, at least for a
period corresponding to that during
which he may be entitled to unemploy-
ment benefit.
A migrant worker who has lodged an
appeal againsttermination of his employ-
ment should be allowed sufficient time to
obtain a final decision thereon. If it is
established that the termination of em-
ployment was not justified, he should be
entitled, on the same terms as national
workers, to reinstatement and to com-
pensation for loss of wages or of other
payment which results from unjustified
termination. A migrant worker who is
threatened with expulsion should have
a right of appeal before an administrative
or judicial instance, with all the guaran-
tees that this implies.
Finally, a migrant worker who leaves
the country of employment should be
entitled-irrespective of the legality of his
stay therein-to any remuneration, bene-
fits or compensation in respect of the
work performed.
The application of these provisions
should protect migrant workers from the
"sword of Damocles" which termination
of employment represents for them and
which far too frequently leads them to
accept inferior conditions of employment
or to renounce some of their rights.

* Choice of employment. A general
policy of equality of opportunity in res-
pect of the employment of migrants
regularly admitted into a country is
inseparable from a comprehensive mi-
gration policy. This policy should be
based on the economic and social needs
of both the countries of origin and
countries of employment. It should take
account notonly of short-term manpower
needs and resources but also of the long-
term economic consequences of migra-
tion for migrants as well as for the com-
munities concerned (Recommendation
No. 151, Paragraph 1).
The fact that migrant workers are often
concentrated in certain occupations or
categories of employment that have no
prestige, are physically arduous and
badly paid immediately raises a series of
questions on vocational training and
guidance, placement services, freedom
of choice of employment and recognition
of diplomas and qualifications.
Migrant workers should enjoy effective
equality of opportunity and treatment in
respect of access to vocational guidance
and placement services, access to voca-
tional training and employment of their
own choice on the basis of individual
suitability for such training or employ-
ment, account being taken of qualifica-
tions acquired outside the territory and in
the country of employment, and advance-
ment in accordance with their individual
There are a number of other ways in
which migrants can be helped effectively
to exercise their rights: organisation of
courses in the language of the country of
employment before the departure of the
migrant or during the first month imme-
diately following his arrival; presence in
placement and occupational guidance
services of personnel who are sufficiently
familiar with the languages and specific
problems of the migrant workers; close
co-operation between the country of
origin and the country of employment in
respect of the assessment and mutual
recognition of occupational skills.
Recommendation No. 151 recognizes
the right of States to impose certain
restrictions on the freedom of choice of
employment by foreigners but this
should normally be limited to an initial

period of residence not exceeding two
years. As to jobs in respect of which
conditions of nationality can in any case
be imposed, States are authorised to
restrict access of foreigners to limited
categories of employment or functions
"where this is necessary in the interests
of the State".
The intention, therefore, is to provide
migrants with the widest possible choice
of employment and possibilities of ad-

* Remuneration, working condi-
tions, social security. If for no other
reason than that they participate in the
economic life of the country of employ-
ment on the basis of regular contracts,
migrant workers should obviously enjoy
all the rights and social benefits that go
with the exercise of any occupational
activity. Although this principle is theo-
retically reflected almost everywhere in
legislation and reciprocity agreements,
migrants often find themselves at a dis-
advantage in practice.
Effective equality of treatment for
migrants in practice must therefore be
guaranteed in respect of such matters as
remuneration for work of equal value,
conditions of work (including hours of
work, rest periods, annual holidays with
pay, occupational safety and occupa-
tional health), as well as social security
measures and welfare facilities and bene-
fits provided in connection with employ-
At a more general level, social security
schemes, which were often set up before
migration developed on the present
scale, impose conditions as to the period
of residence and participation in the
scheme, for example, that migrants are
rarely able to meet. There is also the case
of workers who have left their family in
their country of origin and who do not
receive certain benefits, such as family
allowances, at the same rate as nationals.
Additional measures are therefore often
needed in this respect, as are provided
for in several other special Conventions
(Equality of Treatment (Social Security)
Convention, 1962 (No. 118), for example).

Attention to specific needs 4

* Comprehensive social action. For a
general policy of equality of opportunity
and treatment to be applied in practice, it
is not enough simply to make surethat no
measures running counter to the policy
exist laws and administrative practice.
Theremust also be potiv al d
procedural guaranty e for the protection
o the rights o the people concerned at
the practical level of industrial relations.
The collaboration of the employers' and
workers' organizations must also be
obtained, so as to promote comprehen-
sive social action capable of creating the
kind of real-life conditions that are the
only way of assuring effective equality.
In order to do this, the specific needs of
migrants must be taken into account in
order to offset the disadvantages that
may derive from their linguistic ands4
cultural peculiarities. Accordingly, ap,
proper social policy must be applied that,
enables migrants to share in advantages I
enjoyed by the nationals of the country of
employment, while taking account of
such special needs as they may have until
they are adapted to the society of the
country and respecting their cultural
rights. They should have access to such
information and education as may enable
them to be fully acquainted with the
policy, with their rights and obligations
and with activities designed to assist
them in the exercise of their rights (Con-
vention No. 143, Article 12).
The Recommendation lists the meas-
ures and conditions that are liable to help
them to enjoy genuine equality in all
these respects: identification of needs,
information, interpretation and transla-
tion services, full use of education, trans-
port and recreation facilities, collabora-
tion and co-ordination between the social
services of the country of origin and the
country of employment, and participation
of representatives of all concerned and
in particular of employers' and workers'

* Finding one's bearings. Migrant
workers feel exiled, cut off, uprooted...
but, of course, they cannot carry their
country around with them. How can the
migrant worker be guaranteed equality
respect of cultural rights, as the Conv n-
tion requires, w7nen he is far from his
family and village and cut off entirely
from his normal social and cultural sur-
roundings? Of all the problems posed by
inequality of opportunity, this is the most
dramatic since it strikes at the very ear
Sthe migrant's personality and is, as it
were, endemic to migration movements.
Generally speaking, all possible steps
should be taken to help mirantsadaptto
the society of the country of employment
while assisting and encouraging hi
preserve is national and ethnic identity
a1nd is uJIiugra ies wi tc country of
origin. T s includes specifically the
possibility for children to be given some
knowledge of their mother tongue.
Here again, the concept of equality of
opportunity and treatment is more than
just a matter of standardising living
conditions. The intention is not only to
recognize the specific needs of uprooted
workers but actually to try to satisfy those
needs. The most up-to-date research and
surveys confirm that an education in the
mother tongue which takes into account
the customs and beliefs of a child's home
environment improves his psychological
balance and proper development.
As regards family life in general, the
Recommendation advocates measuresto
facilitate the reunification of families of
migrant workers as rapidly as possible. A
prerequisite for their unification is that
the workers should have appropriate
accommodation which meets the sta-
ards normal applicable to nationals f
te country ofemployment (Recommen-
dration-No.-sT, Fparagraphs 13 and 16).
Moreover, where a migrant worker
who has been employed for at least one
year in the country of employment cannot

be joined by is family, he should be
entitled to visit his country during hispaid
annual holiday without having his em-
ployment terminated or his right to
residence withdrawn during that period.
The cost of his travel should, as far as
possible, be reduced by means of special
assistance or group travel arrangements.

* Protection of health. Because of the
change of climate and food that are
unavoidable in an industrial environ-
ment, migrants are more exposed than
nationals to most illness an health
problems General statistics are difficult
to obtain but a survey of the town of
Bradford (United Kingdom), for example,
has revealed that the incidence of tuber-
culosis in Pakistani workers is three times
higher than in the local population..AcL-
dents are also a much more frequen
occurrence among migrant workers than
among nationals, for various reasons:
assignment to difficult jobs in high-risk
industries such as construction, lack of
skill or experience, lack of familiarity with
safety regulations, language difficulties.
All appropriate measures should be
taken to prevent any special health risks
to which migrant workers may be ex-
posed (Recommendation, Paragraphs 20
et seq.).
These measures include, specifically,
instruction in occupational safety and
hfieiJn conjunction with vocational
training, instruction during paid working
hours on the legislation and collective
agreements concerning the prevention of
accilenrts an7, were necessary, special
measures to enable migrant workers to
understand fully instructions, warnings,
symbols and other signs relating to
hazards at work.
Provisions should be made for admini-
strative, civil and penal sanctions to be
imposed, where necessary, on employers
or other persons or organizations having
responsibility in this regard who have
failed to observe the relevant legislation.

Guaranteeing fundamental rights 5
II '1"11 'l' "ll'l

Migrant workers must be guaranteed
eua y of ortunity and treatment in
respect of trade union r hts and of
individual an co elective freedom (Con-
vention, Aricle 10 This equality relates
essentially to membership of trade
uniQs exercise oftrade union rights and
eligibility for office in trade unions and in
labor -a a m nt relations bodies, in-
uing bodies representing workers in
undertakings (Recommendation, Para-
graph 2 (g)).
For migrants, participation in trade
union activities is not only a way of
defending their interests and their rights
but also a means of adapting to the
working and living conditions of the
country of employment that contributes
in general to their advancement. The
obstacles, however, are numerous:
many foreign workers come from coun-
tries where there is practically no trade
union movement, have signed work con-
tracts of limited duration and have no
desire to appear to their employer as
trouble-makers. Some people feel that
trade unions should concern themselves
above all with the interests of nationals.
Finally, and above all, most migrants
come up against a language barrier which
leaves them with virtually no hope of
A tripartite symposium on the subject
organised by the ILO considered that
literacy and language training should not
be considered as a pre-condition to
workers' education or even as one of its
objectives. Where possible, initial lan-
guage and literacy training should be
carried out in the country of origin before
the worker's departure. All trade union
organizations should take care that the
cultural identity of the migrant worker is
EM egT7edso at e retains is personal

heritage and so that he can reteraten
his own country u der the best possible
The integration of migrant workers in
the trade union movement of the country
of employment also presupposes the
development of information and training
activities aimed at the nationals in order
to acquaint them with the problems pro-
posed by migration and refute the mis-
taken ideas that are often widely held.

Special problems are raised concern-
ing enjoyment by migrants of individual
a-d co-lective freedoms. As emphasized
in a reso ution a opted by the Inter-
national Labour Conference in 1970,
these rights are essential to the normal
exercise of trade union rights and to the
ability of migrants to assert their rights
as workers. For this reason, Convention
No. 143 makes specific reference to
enjoyment of these rights as one of the
components of a general policy designed
to promote equality of opportunity and
treatment (Article 10). Migrants should be
protected against restrictions or ob-
stacles that would prevent them from
participation legitimately, for example, in
teexer ? iseT reeidom of association,
s pe r nin as it relates to their
rights as workers.
The resolution states specifically that
national laws and regulations concerning
residence should be so applied that the
lawful exercise of the rights of migrants
cannot be the reason for non-renewal of
a residence permit or for expulsion
(Recommendation No. 151, Paragraph 5).
Because they are intimately bound up
with all the activities of the ILO in the field
of international migration for employ-
ment-studies, research, meetings, sym-
posia, practical activities-Convention
No. 143 and Recommendation No. 151
are in fact an up-to-date charter of rights
of migrant workers. Not only do they take
into account all the aspects of equality of
opportunity and treatment, including cul-
tural and ethnic aspects, but also, in every
domain where migrant workers are at a
natural disadvantage, they provide the
means of making up for these disadvan-
tages, thus providing them equal oppor-
tunity both legally, and in practice.

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