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Colombo Declaration

EMPOWERING MIGRANTS AGAINST HIV/AIDS TOGETHER

We, the 132 participants from 24 countries, representing foreign migrant domestic workers, governments, trade unions, NGOs and international organizations met at the Regional Summit on Foreign Migrant Domestic Workers from 26 to 28 August, 2002, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. 

The right to stay and the right to move within and across borders with dignity are fundamental to human civilization. Foreign migrant domestic workers contribute to the socio-economic development of societies and economies.

The summit aimed at developing a framework for dialogue at various levels to ensure appropriate recognition, protection and dignity of foreign migrant domestic workers. The main principles defining the dialogue included the principles of human rights for all without discrimination, and the values of freedom, equality and justice.

The experiences of foreign migrant domestic workers in the migration process reveal that domestic work is still to be recognized as a socio-economic activity and valued accordingly. This leads to a serious lack of protection, vulnerability and exploitation.  Multiple discriminations based on gender, race and class within the family, the community and nations and the isolated and individualized conditions of work, and lack of protection and appropriate services and information increases their vulnerabilities to exploitation and violence.  It also compromises their health and human security.  

The different stakeholders (recruiters, employers, agencies, states, societies and economies) work together in benefiting from foreign migrant domestic workers' social and economic contribution.

From the testimonies and voices of foreign migrant domestic workers and other stakeholders at the summit, it was apparent that the isolation and unequal dependency on the employer for the fulfillment of the foreign migrant domestic workers' basic human needs, and the absence of access to own documents, restricted mobility and captivity within the household makes them, especially women, vulnerable.  We have heard accounts of foreign migrant domestic workers being further victimized, accused, blamed and punished as consequences of sexual abuse, assault and exploitation which even ended in death.  Lack of access to free and fair trial, appeal, judicial and immigration procedures and decisions, gender biased policies, regulations and practices further increase risks to their human security and rights. 

It is only when socio-economic value and contribution and due respect are given to domestic work, dignity, justice and rights of foreign migrant domestic workers will be guaranteed.  Legal recognition and protection of their rights, including fair and decent wage, freedom of expression, association, unionization, religion, privacy, rest and recreation and right to vote should be ensured. Free access to health care services, social security systems, communication and information, services including training, legal aid and counseling, socio-economic benefits to the foreign migrant domestic workers and their families are also essential components for a successful and safe migration process.  This should empower and improve the quality of lives of foreign migrant domestic workers and their families as well as enhancing the quality of life of the societies where they live and work.

We recognize the various positive actions and developments undertaken by governments, international organizations and civil society to address the growing issues and concerns affecting the life of foreign migrant domestic workers.  However, we need to build on these initiatives to further strengthen the mechanisms, measures and create new and innovative interventions and services through an expanding partnership. 

Protecting the rights of foreign migrant domestic workers necessitates the inclusion of domestic work in national labor legislation in accordance with international labor standards and human rights principles and practices including gender justice.  We also need to define domestic work in the context of human rights principles specially for developing and implementing work contracts. 

The following strategies, policies, plans and development interventions should be established to address the issue of recognition, protection and dignity of foreign migrant domestic workers:

Rights

1. Origin countries should ensure that overseas employment opportunities are not achieved at the expense of compromising the protection and welfare of migrants especially foreign migrant domestic workers.

2. Foreign migrant domestic worker should be recognized as a migrant and as a worker.

3. Documented and undocumented foreign migrant domestic workers should be treated as per existing international labor and human rights standards.

4. Accurate and realistic information concerning economic and social costs and benefits of overseas employment, including health vulnerabilities

should be provided at all stages of migration to facilitate successful integration.

5. Foreign migrant domestic workers should be able to enjoy physical and mental health, reproductive health and sexual health rights at all stages of migration, including the right to marry, bear children and enjoy family life.

6. Foreign migrant domestic workers should enjoy equal rights of all workers including the right to change their place and nature of work.

7. Migrant workers, particularly, foreign migrant domestic workers and their children should have access to education at all stages of migration.

8. Origin countries should facilitate the exercise by migrant domestic workers' of their right to vote in elections in their home countries. 

Policies & Mechanisms

9. Migration should be incorporated in the development policy and planning in the origin and destination countries as well as in the international social and economic institutions. 

10. Ratification of the 1990 UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and other relevant international instruments to ensure a rights based approach for protection, both in origin and destination countries is imperative.

11. The ban and restriction on female migration and all types of migrants should be removed to uphold core human rights principles.

12. Concerns about security must not turn into xenophobic actions against migrants especially foreign migrant domestic workers.

13. Bilateral and multilateral agreements and arrangements between the origin and destination countries should be established to protect the rights of migrants including foreign migrant domestic workers. The agreements should reflect accountability and transparency in regulating recruiting and employment agencies. They must be accompanied by implementing guidelines and action plans. The agreements should also include the definition and clear enunciation of terms of contracts for upholding international labor standards.

14. Regional processes both at government and civil society levels should be initiated to evolve consensus to address regional migration challenges.

15. Mechanism needs to be established at national and regional levels for effective development, independent monitoring and implementation of support services for foreign migrant domestic workers. Rights of access to consular services should be guaranteed. The consular services should be further strengthened and made effective especially in providing legal and health services.

16. Mechanisms and policies must be established to enable greater involvement of foreign migrant domestic workers in the development and implementation of programs addressing their issues and concerns.

Interventions

17. Programs should be put in place to effectively address trafficking and smuggling that may occur during the process of migration.

18. Provisions and arrangements should be made available to foreign migrant domestic workers for safe and secured transfer of remittances and their productive utilization.

19. In cases of serious human rights violations or serious injuries such as death, arbitrary detention, crimes, unfair trials, sexual violence and abuse, States must undertake full and transparent investigation and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

20. Interventions should be developed by the State and civil society for enhancing skill and empowerment of foreign migrant domestic workers.

21. The Durban Declaration and Program of Action of the World Conference Against Racism seeks to eliminate racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and other forms of related intolerance. As part of this process public awareness to build positive attitudes to recognize and value domestic work is imperative.  Responsible media and civil society advocacy must be engaged.

22. We the participants agreed to continue this process of dialogue through existing structure and non-traditional regional cooperation.  The dialogue should be based on a mechanism to reconcile contradictory priorities, concerns and interests of all stakeholders.

Institutions

23. Member States of the UN should implement the recommendations in the resolutions in the UN Commission on Human Rights relating to migrants and their families.

24. The Commission on Human Rights should also act on the recommendations made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and give special attention to the reports which refer to the situation of foreign migrant domestic workers. Member states of the UN should also implement the recommendations in the Secretary General's reports on migrants and foreign migrant domestic workers.

25. National human rights commissions should integrate into their agenda foreign migrant domestic workers.

26. The IOM, ILO and UN agencies, including the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNIFEM, UNDP, UNICEF, UNAIDS and WHO, should coordinate and work together to strengthen the protection of foreign migrant domestic workers.

Foreign migrant domestic workers are human beings. They have life, rights and dignity.  They have also feelings, need warmth, respect, care and love.  They are not just individuals and cannot live in isolation. They are as part of families, communities, cultures and civilizations. Their work must be considered as such according to the universal values of human rights and internationally recognized labor standards. The kind of work they do should not be used as a reason for their discrimination and an excuse for violating their rights as human beings and as workers.

Violations of foreign migrant domestic workers rights, including fundamental principles and rights at work, must be stopped, in order to ensure decent work and life of dignity for them and their families. It is only when the foreign migrant domestic workers can enjoy their rights and universal values, can we then realize a just and democratic society. Towards this end we will build international solidarity by making August 28 the International Solidarity Day with Foreign Migrant Domestic Workers.

Adopted on August 28, 2002 in Colombo, Sri Lanka


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