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RP pushes ratification of U.N. treaty on migrant workers

THE Philippines, with 8 million overseas workers, will intensify its campaign to ratify the United Nations treaty that protects the rights of migrant workers after Arab countries adopted the Manila Declaration at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) meeting that seeks “to safeguard and protect” the rights of migrant workers against illegal acts, hostility, violence and crimes.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said the adoption of the Manila Declaration containing a provision protecting migrant workers abroad will provide the government a platform “to follow up on these [Arab] countries.”

The Manila Declaration was adopted by some 118 members of the NAM at the conclusion on Thursday of the Special NAM Ministerial Meeting held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

The Philippines is the world’s third-largest source of migrant workers, next to China and India. Their remittances reaching $18 billion this year also continue to buoy the ailing local economy, which is marred with rampant corruption and lack of effective governance.

However, half of the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are domestic helpers but they do not provide the biggest bulk of OFW remittances because they are mostly underpaid and suffer from various forms of physical and sexual abuses.

The NAM document stressed on “the positive contributions of migration and increased people-to-people contacts in increasing understanding and fostering tolerance and cooperation among cultures and religions.”

The provision also reiterated the “responsibility of the [NAM] governments to safeguard and protect the rights of all migrants against illegal acts, in particular, acts of incitement to ethnic, racial and religious discrimination, hostility or violence and crimes perpetrated with racist or xenophobic motivation by individuals or groups.”

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio admitted that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families “is not universally signed and ratified.”

This, she said prompted the Philippines to push for the creation of a global platform at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to campaign for the ratification of the treaty.

The Philippines has more than 2 million migrant workers in the Middle East countries, half of them in Saudi Arabia.

The treaty on migrant workers was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1990. The Philippines ratified the treaty in 1995 following the death sentence by hanging on Filipino domestic helper Flor Contemplacion in Singapore.

Most of the countries in the Middle East and Europe which are host to migrant workers refuse to ratify the UN treaty as it allows for the equal social protection of undocumented workers.

Of the 192 UN member countries, the ratification of the UN treaty has not even reached 50 despite the global campaigns for the protection of the rights of migrant workers. Most of the countries that ratified the treaty are sending migrant workers like the Philippines and other developing countries in Asia and poorer states in Africa.

Meanwhile, the Manila Declaration highlighted the importance of continuing interfaith dialogue “to prevent cultural homogenization and domination or incitement to hatred and discrimination, combat defamation of religions and develop better ways of promoting tolerance, respect for and protection of the freedom of religion and belief.”

The declaration also provides for the respect of the NAM member countries on their “right to preserve one’s cultural identity, stressing the role which the [UN] General Assembly and the relevant UN organs can play in that respect in particular through furthering the much-needed dialogue on those important and sensitive issues.”

Written by Estrella Torres / Reporter
First published in Business Mirror Online Space, 19th March, 2010

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Posted in News and updates, OFW, Philipine Migration, Philippine Updates.

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