24th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

Publié: 21 mai 2015


Chair, fellow panellists, and friends,

It is a privilege to be here today and together with the UNODC put focus on A HUMAN RIGHTS APPROACH TO MIGRATION. It is obvious that around the world today people are on the move – including women who have been subject to violence in their home country, whilst on their perilous journeys and when they eventually arrive at their destination they are again subject to violence and exploitation. Today an estimated 50 million people are trapped in a state of “protracted displacement” –  and 50% of these are women.

One particular group that I would like to focus on today are migrant female workers. Many of the most vulnerable female migrant workers are hidden from our eyes, locked in domestic or other forms of servitude, living in the shadows of our societies.

Discrimination, intolerance and violence towards female labour migrants is a refusal by some in our society to accept the other’s differences, often based on fear or ignorance. We need to do more to address this issue. Meanwhile, we have also seen an increasing ‘global indifference’ about their vulnerability and the factors that force people to leave their homes in search of employment, a better future or to simply recover their human dignity.

I have just returned from a meeting in Manila with Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies from both the Gulf states and the Asia region. At this Red Cross Red Crescent “Manila Dialogue” we agreed at the end of the two day meeting to a declaration which recognized and unanimously declared that migration is not only an issue of people movement but more importantly an issue involving basic human rights and the protection of human dignity; . I quote one pertinent section:

“We reiterate and confirm our commitment to work together, undertake collective action to protect the rights of migrant workers, especially female migrant workers who are the most vulnerable, and to engage in a continuing dialogue and collaboration to ensure that the dignity and the rights of all migrant workers are respected and they can receive assistance individually and/or collectively at all times. We recognize the need to bring greater attention to the plight of vulnerable migrant workers and to mobilize collective solutions to strengthen their resilience.”

A more practical outcome of the meeting was the full support by participants to the establishment of a humanitarian lifeline/ call center for overseas migrant workers in distress. Once established, participants pledged to support the operation and development of the lifeline and to cooperate closely with the Philippine Red Cross who expressed intent in piloting this initiative.

The Philippine Red Cross has been involved in supporting Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their families for several years. In particular, hosting pre-departure orientation seminars (PDOS) with recruitment agencies on labour rights, and provide and psychosocial preparation for migrant workers. In addition to these seminars, psychosocial support is provided to OFW family members to cope with the changes brought about by family disintegration as a consequence of overseas employment.

In contrast, Swedish Red Cross Society manages five migrant centres with approximately 1,500 people. They have undertaken specific research on sexual- and gender-based violence and migrant women’s experiences of the asylum process in Sweden.
Women are often reluctant to speak on sensitive and shameful matters through interpreters, who are not sensitive to their situation, which in turn means that important evidence that may have change the course of their review or appeal do not emerge.

One of the many findings of this research was the lack of understanding among Swedish migration authorities of the impact post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have on a migrants ability to recall events in chronological order, which might lead to seeming inconsistencies in their testimonies. The Swedish Red Cross is now supporting training with Swedish migration authorities, as well as providing legal advice and rehabilitation to survivors  – both female and male – of sexual- and gender-based violence and exploitation.

I want to thank UNODC for their continued support as an active partner in combating violence against migrants and work with you all to promote the three guiding principles which must continue to inform our work. Human rights centred, focused on non-discrimination, irrespective of legal, gender, ethnic origin or any other status and people centred. Vulnerable people in need no matter where and who they are require our response.

Further reflection on how to address violence against migrants during these changing and challenging times requires a new approach. I believe that in order to make a real ‘change on the ground’, ‘change mind-set’, address policy failures and ‘create new realities’ it is essential that we focus on not only protection but also empowerment. Migrants, especially women and girls, need to be part of this dialogue, speaking with their own voices, and have access and opportunities to voice their hopes, dreams and concerns without fear.

The IFRC will continue to focus proactively on actions which ‘save lives and change minds’ consistent with our Fundamental Principles – meaning we have a shared duty to assist and protect persons in distress, irrespective of their nationality, administrative or legal status, and for as long as they need us. We provide unconditional support because the duty to humanity is above all other considerations and because the humanity of a person is not dependent upon which borders he or she crosses.

Finally, let me assure you that IFRC will remain committed to creating a stronger and wider consensus on responses to migration and continue to support the ongoing collaborative approach with UNODC and other actors in ensuring positive change on the ground.

Together, I believe we can do more, do better and reach further in protecting and empowering female labour migrants and others at risk of violence, persecution and exploitation.

Thank you