India yet to ratify the Convention on Migrant workers

As the migrant numbers in India have tripled over the years, it is yet to accede to the international treaty  


The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families is a United Nations multilateral treaty governing the protection of migrant workers and families that was signed on December 18, 1990 and entered into force on July 1, 2003. December 18 is also observed as International Migrants Day. India, which is a major migrant receiving country has yet not ratified the Convention.  

As of December 2019, the following 55 states have ratified the Convention: Albania, Argentina, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Congo-Brazzaville, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The UN Network on Migration was established by the UN Secretary-General to ensure coordinated UN system-wide support to States in implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). It comprises 38 entities of the UN system working collectively to support states in addressing their migration priorities, including as regards upholding the rights and wellbeing of migrants and their communities. 

United Nations Human Rights (Asia) has appealed to countries to join them in standing up for the human rights of migrants and building human rights-based narratives on migration. On December 18, the Asia Pacific Migration Report 2020 was released, assessing the implementation of the Global Compact for migration.



The report states that the migrant numbers from India almost tripled from 6.6 million to 17.5 million over the years. China, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines also saw significant growth. The main migration corridors for migrants from Asia-Pacific countries and territories have also increased. Corridors between Asia Pacific countries and countries beyond the region have grown significantly, with the India-Oman; Bangladesh-India and Pakistan-Saudi Arabia; India-United Arab Emirates; and China and India-United States corridors have been experiencing major increases.

The report also highlights that migration for education is becoming more important in the Asia Pacific region due to settled populations of international migrants in destination countries seeking higher levels of education, large and growing university-age populations, greater wealth and development, increased educational aspirations among young people. This is particularly evident in China and India, where large student populations and expanding aspirations of young people and their families have driven growth in migration for education in recent years.

Highly-skilled migrants, with education and skills perceived as valuable, follow different migration paths to low-skilled migrants, the report states. Compared to the restrictive policies for migrants in low-status occupations, destination countries actively aim to attract highly skilled migrants, generally classified as migrants with tertiary education and/or engaged in high level positions or ones requiring specific technical skills, such as medicine. India and China supplied the largest groups of highly-skilled migrants in 2019, 3.1 million and 2.0 million respectively.  

Migration of health workers is an important subset of highly-skilled migration. Health workers, including doctors, nurses and others, are in particular demand globally, due to human resource shortages in many countries. These workers provide crucial services in destination countries, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asia-Pacific countries are important contributors of migrant health workers. In the United Kingdom and the United States, the two largest countries of destination for migrant health workers, India- and Pakistan trained doctors made up the largest share of foreign-trained doctors in 2017. China, the Philippines, the Russian Federation and Sri Lanka also constituted major countries of training of migrant doctors working in these two countries.

The report further mentions that India has also housed a total of 1,95,000 refugees and newly displaced due to disasters, with the largest numbers of such displacements taking place in India (over 5.0 million). Internal displacement due to disasters included around 5,90,000 Indians and 4,70,000 were displaced due to conflict and violence.

The mixed migration movement in India includes the one of Rohingya refugees’ overland from Bangladesh to India, and across the Andaman Sea to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Around 18,000 Rohingya refugees had registered with UNHCR in India in January 2019. Trafficked persons from Bangladesh and India have been detected in South-East Asia.

As a result of the impact of COVID-19, over 2 million Indians have returned through the government repatriation programme, “Vande Bharath Mission”. Since many returning migrant workers have lost their jobs, the Government of India introduced the Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support to identify and record their skills profile. But this has not been a promising practice as lakhs remain unemployed and unequipped to navigate their way through such databases.

The report also mentions that in 2019, the exclusion of nearly 2 million people in the state of Assam from the National Register of Citizens, put them at risk of statelessness and indefinite detention. Citizens for Justice and Peace’s campaign that helps the excluded people to defend their citizenship before Foreign Tribunals, recently witnessed the institutional murder of one Gopesh Das who is the 109th person to die in connection with the citizenship crisis in Assam. His wife, Amala was declared a ‘foreigner’ and is lodged at the Kokrajhar detention camp.

Recently, 104-year-old Chandrahar Das died in Cachar district. He was a registered refugee who was declared foreigner only because the dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and heart condition afflicted man could not recollect the year in which he crossed over into India. The New Citizenship Amendment Law, 2019 that discriminates on the basis of religion is set to increase the plight of poor minorities who could be forced to migrate. Labelling, reductionism and categorising such groups is what the United Nations stands against and calls for unity.

The next step forward is to inform the first International Migration Review Forum by 2022 to further reiterated their commitment to joint advocacy on migration-related issues, with a view to highlighting how upholding the rights and wellbeing of migrants and their communities, and building on best practice in accordance with internationally agreed standards.


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