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Racism against migrants: a key question at the Durban Review Conference

There are an estimated 200 million international migrants in the world today who are frequently treated like second-class citizens; their rights are often denied and they are exposed to xenophobia and racism. The 2001 World Conference on Racism highlighted the magnitude of the challenges posed by migration and their impact on human rights in general. The Review Conference may help to address this challenge and to change this reality.

Immigrants in Tenerife, Spain, June 2007
Immigrants in Tenerife, Spain, June 2007
Credit: © UN Photo

About half of all international migration takes place from developing countries to developed countries; this means that South-South migration is as important as South – North migration. There have been recently numerous reports in media across the world of xenophobic and violent racist incidents. The sad reality, as the High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out, is that the notion that non-nationals enjoy human rights on an equal basis with nationals has still not been accepted by the vast majority of States: “Migrants are still discriminated against in an unacceptable manner in almost all societies, and are usually subject to working conditions and pay far below the standards enjoyed by citizens. Migrants are consistently denied entitlements to social security or housing, and excluded from employment and other opportunities”, deplored High Commissioner Pillay at the International Migrants Day, 18 December 2008. She also pointed out the dangerous “increasing tendency to criminalize irregular migration in many countries” fuelled by xenophobic sentiments and leading to “violations of the human rights of the migrants”.

In order to change that reality, High Commissioner Pillay will ensure that attention is paid to the issue of racism against migrants in the upcoming Durban Review Conference. Advocating for a human rights approach to migration, she will not only call for renewed attention to implementation of the DDPA in this area, but will also ask States to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Adopted in 1990, the Convention entered into force in 2003. To date, the Convention has been ratified by 40 countries (3 from Europe, 9 from Asia, 13 from Africa and 15 from Latin America and the Caribbean).