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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Statement by Juan Somavia

Director-General of the International Labour Office on the occasion ofInternational Migrants Day 18 December 2008

Today we recognize the 200 million international migrants, 50 per centof whom are women and men migrant workers, who have left their homes andcommunities to find work and better opportunities elsewhere in the worldto support their families and communities. They make huge but oftenunrecognized contributions to growth and development of both their hostcountries and home communities. The principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are wellreflected in the two ILO Conventions on migrant workers - Migration forEmployment Convention, 1949 (No. 97), and the Migrant WorkersConvention, 1975 (No. 143) - as well as in the International Conventionon the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and TheirFamilies (1990), all landmarks in the international protection ofmigrant workers. Equality of treatment and non-discrimination areuniversal principles enshrined in these instruments which provide thefoundation for a rights based approach to labour migration in aglobalizing world. It is encouraging that 80 countries have ratified oneor more of these instruments.
The current global financial and economic crises have seriousimplications for migrant workers worldwide. Past experience makes uspainfully aware that migrant workers, especially women workers and thosein irregular status, are among the hardest hit and most vulnerableduring crisis situations. While the full impact of the crisis onmigrant workers is yet to unfold, there are reports of direct layoffs,worsening working conditions including wage cuts, increasing returns,and reductions in immigrant intakes. Yet all sectors may not be equallyaffected, and destination countries should assess their labour marketneeds before resorting to general layoffs of migrant workers. It isimportant that migrant workers do not become scapegoats for the currentfinancial and economic crisis.
Source countries are already grappling with the challenges ofemployment creation for their citizens including increasing numbers ofreturn migrants and falling remittances. The integrated strategy fordecent work contained in the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice fora Fair Globalization provides us with a solid foundation in addressingthe current crisis. Availability of decent work opportunities at homewould also pave the way for migration by choice, not by necessity. A growing global mobilization involving, among others, global andregional trade union federations, employers* organizations andnational associations will be critical in advancing migrant workerconcerns.
On this International Migrants Day, the ILO renews its commitment topromote decent work for all women and men migrant workers worldwide inclose collaboration with the United Nations family.

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