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Of migrants and rights

Mar 07,2016 - Last updated at Mar 07,2016

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN CESCR) has started discussing the scope of socio-economic rights that migrants could be entitled to in hosting countries.

It also determined that “migrants”, as distinguished from “migrant workers”, is the correct term to use when referring to refugees, asylum seekers, etc., and that the word can be rightfully applied to all people, including the recent waves of Syrians and Iraqis, who crossed the borders of European nations and of neighbouring countries, in the case of Syrians and Iraqis, into Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey.

It is no easy task to determine the rights that should be accorded to these groups of people. Of help could be a closer look at the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and complementary human rights treaties, the likes of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

The rule of thumb in international norms is that all individuals living in any given state should enjoy basic rights, generally referred to as core human rights, irrespective of their status, nationality, gender, religion or any other element that could be taken as a reason to discriminate.

What remains to be agreed upon are exactly these core rights that cannot be denied to migrants.

States have main obligations towards all individuals once they enter their borders, including providing them with their basic needs for shelter, health, food, water and primary education for their children, up to the maximum of their resources.

Beyond these basic rights, what other privileges need to be accorded to migrants becomes more nuanced.


This issue is scheduled for consideration at the next session of the UN CESCR, and should then serve as the basis for settling this complex human rights issue.

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