John Paul II Welcomes Agreement on Rights of Migrants and Their Families

1990 International Convention Comes Into Force

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 6, 2003 ( John Paul II expressed satisfaction over the coming into force of an international convention on the rights of migrant workers and their families.

«This legislative instrument signals an important step forward, because it considers the migrant as a person united to his family,» the Pope said after paying the Angelus today with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) World Migration Report 2003 notes that 175 million people are estimated to be living outside their country of birth. Many migrate in search of education, better economic opportunities, or to flee violence or natural disasters. Separated from the protection of their home countries, migrant workers and their families have historically fallen through the cracks of the international legal system.

Recognizing the extent of the exploitation faced by many migrant workers and their families, the international community first began discussions in the 1970s.

In 1990, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. To date, 22 countries have ratified the convention.

«While I express great satisfaction for this juridical achievement,» the Pope said, «I hope that more vast adherence by the states will reinforce its efficacy so that, with the adoption of similar provisions and constant international collaboration, the complex phenomenon of migrations may develop in legality and in respect of persons and families.»

The IOM statement focused on three aspects of the convention. The first is that the convention recognizes that migrant workers are not just economic units, but human beings with families, and as such, are entitled to basic human rights.

It also clearly recognizes the reality of exploitation and abuse that many migrant workers face daily, and extends protection to them.

Third, the convention calls upon states to cooperate on migration issues and outlines the responsibilities that countries of origin, transit and destination have in protecting migrants and developing sound labor migration policies.

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