Declaration on Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance Against Migrants and Trafficked Persons

Recognizing that racism is an ideological construct that assigns a certain race and/ or ethnic group to a position of power over others on the basis of physical and cultural attributes, as well as economic wealth, involving hierarchical relations where the "superior" race exercises domination and control over others;

Recognizing further that xenophobia describes attitudes, prejudices and behaviour that reject, exclude and often villify persons based on the perception that they are outsiders or foreigners to the community, society or national identity;

Noting with deep concern that racism, discrimination and xenophobia against migrant workers and trafficked persons are structural in character, reflected in legislation, policies and social attitudes and practices, and manifested in both subtle and overt acts of hostility and violence against specific groups based on color, gender, class, ethnicity, nationality, and position in the international power relations ;

Underscoring that globalization widens economic inequalities within and between countries in the Asia-Pacific region, further impoverishing masses of people, specially women, and place them at risk to the demand for cheap and informal labour in labour-importing countries;

Stressing that migration, particularly labour migration, has not been a choice but a necessity for migrants and their families to survive massive poverty, racial, ethnic and gender-based discrimination and internal conflicts in their home countries;

Acknowledging that patriarchal and sexist ideology framing the current international division of labour intensifies women's subordination, undervalues women's work, and contributes to the feminisation of poverty, labour migration and trafficking, perpetuates gender stereotypes, and restricts women to reproductive work, entertainment, and jobs that require "feminine" attributes in labour-importing countries. These make migrant and trafficked women even more at risk than men to xenophobic, racist, discriminatory and exploitative treatment;

Stressing that in the pursuit for profit, the movement of capital across national borders is promoted and facilitated, but that of labor is restricted and controlled. The belief that migrants are economically necessary but socially undesirable puts premium to economic gains while migrants' human rights are grossly compromised and violated;

Recognizing that trafficking in persons, specially women and children, is growing in alarming proportions as a form of modern day slavery, caused by racial stereotypes, gender inequality and economic exploitation, victimizing mainly Asian women and children from rural areas, lower castes, religious minorities and indigenous peoples ;

We hereby state the following manifestations of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and related intolerance in the experience of migrant workers and trafficked persons:

1. Restrictive and exclusionary immigration and labor laws and policies

2. Discriminatory and xenophobic laws and practices which violate women's rights

3. Xenophobic attitudes

4. Laws , policies and practices which discriminate against the rights of the children of migrants in the receiving countries because their parents are not nationals or because of fear of their social integration into the receiving country

5. Laws, policies and practices which deny migrant workers their right to social services

6. Informalisation of migrant labour , e.g. no clear terms of employment, absence of laws and policies that recognize and protect the rights of migrants in domestic work and entertainment, as well as trafficked persons

7. Various forms of violence committed against migrant and trafficked women

8. State policy to summarily deport victims of trafficking

9. Victimization of primarily Asian women in the mail-order bride business

10. Denial of the right to suffrage in absentia in the migrant's home country.

Undocumented migrants are doubly at risk to racial discrimination and xenophobia. Their lack of legal status is often used to justify denial of basic human rights, of access to redress mechanisms. Under the "trainee" system in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, for instance, there is no option to remain in the country at the end of the tenure. Clandestine entry becomes the only recourse.

On this occasion, we wish to call the attention of the international community to the pressing need to give serious and urgent attention to the violation of migrant rights in certain countries in Western Asia. Some of the laws, policies and practices which totally disregard the rights of migrants in said region are:

In light of the aforementioned manifestations and roots of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against migrants and trafficked persons, we strongly urge governments in the Asia-Pacific region to consider for adoption the following recommendations:

1. Formulate an alternative development agenda that is self-sustaining, respectful of multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies; gender-sensitive and recognizes human dignity and human rights for all, where migration is no longer the only option to survive.
  1. 2. Ratify the UN Convention for the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, and all other pertinent international instruments for the protection of fundamental human rights to ensure non-discrimination towards and protection of basic rights and dignity of all persons.

    3. Recognize the positive political, economic and social roles and contributions of migrant workers by ensuring their full political, economic, social and cultural participation as an essential element in eliminating all forms of discrimination, acknowledging and validating multi-racial, multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious participation in society and encouraging mutual respect among different groups and identities.

    4. Investigate and address the root causes of migration and trafficking including poverty, political and social oppression, ethnic, religious, gender and caste-based discrimination and situations of violence and armed conflict.

    5. Create and institutionalise national and regional intergovernmental mechanisms, in cooperation with NGOs and migrants' organizations to monitor and act on cases of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and gender-based violence committed against migrants and trafficked persons in host and transit countries.

    6. Stop deregulation of the labor export industry as it will further erode accountability of sending countries to migrants and give more power to non-state agencies such private recruitment agencies and trafficking syndicates to perpetuate the racial divide to the detriment migrant workers and trafficked persons. In fact, mechanisms should be established to closely monitor the recruitment procedures of these agencies.

    7. Grant absentee voting rights to migrants.

    8. Harmonize and standardize health policies among members states to ensure migrants' access to health care and treatment and afford them global health rights.

    9. Institute and strengthen laws protecting victims of trafficking , and discourage the demand side that fosters sexual exploitation of women and children . Recognize victims' rights to seek refuge and be given comprehensive support services.

    10. Enter into bilateral and multi-lateral regional and international cooperation to stop trafficking, prosecute traffickers and provide full protection to victims.

    11. Develop preventive action through consciousness raising and dialogue among communities, institutions and between countries. UN member states and agencies should sensitize national institutions like the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, community leaders and other stakeholders in migration.

    12. Address the reported increase in violation of migrants' human rights in Western Asia the Middle East through the creation of a mission/commission to investigate such allegations and ensure justice to victims.

    13. Develop strategies for economically and socially productive reintegration programs for migrant returnees.

    14. Urge cooperation among concerned international agencies, particularly the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and the Office of the High Commisioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and with NGOs to promote protection of migrants' human rights and dignity, to prevent discrimination and promote migrant well-being.

Prepared by the Workshop Group on Migration and Trafficking and adopted by
The Asia-Pacific NGO Meeting for the
World Conference Against Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
18 February 2001