The United Nations' Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (MWC) both extends, reinforces and in some cases, limits, the human rights of migrants that are found in the other instruments.
It explicitly protects the rights of undocumented migrant workers, although this is also combined with measures to combat illegal immigration. Another innovation is that the MWC guarantees rights to migrant workers directly against their employers as well as against the state. It also extends the rights of migrants through provisions on the right to transfer earnings, savings and belongings, protection against the unauthorized destruction of documents and the right to be informed of rights under the Convention.
In addition to the MWC, migrants benefit from a broad range of human rights protections, enshrined in customary international law and also in the following instruments, amongst others:
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966)
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966)
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD, 1965)
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1979)
- The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT, 1984)
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
Each of these instruments is overseen by supervisory bodies that can provide interpretive guidance and, in some cases, consider individual complaints. The MWC is itself supervised by a Committee. The Committee, made up of 10 independent experts, will examine reports considered by each state party and potentially has the ability to hear individual complaints.
A number of other mechanisms based on the UN Charter exist which can be useful to migrants and their advocates. Most notably, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on Racism, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, and a recently established Special Rapporteur on the issue of Trafficking.
ILO Standards, which predate UN codification, are also important in this area and are complementary to human rights protections Ð ILO Conventions 97 concerning Migration for Employment and 143, concerning Migration in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and treatment of Migrant Workers, are particularly worthy of note, as is the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which binds all ILO members.
In addition to these universal instruments, there are also a variety of regional human rights instruments that have been adopted over the years that are of use to migrants, including the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights, and the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.