On the 7th-14th February 2014, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue conducted a human rights training course for fifteen students from the United Arab Emirates University. We believe human rights training is an important investment in the endeavour to achieve a just society in which all people are valued and respected, and our course was designed to promote awareness of human rights and the mechanisms used to uphold them.

As an integral component of the programme, our students conducted group research into a thematic human rights issue of relevance to their region and community, and Saeed Ahmed Binsafwan and Maitha Al Tamini developed a strategy for promoting the rights of migrant workers.

Saeed, a 4th year law student who is planning to work for the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Labour, wrote, “the course not only fulfilled my expectations in learning about human rights, but it exceeded them in many ways”. Maitha, also a law student at UAE University, said “the course opened my eyes to a whole new sector…there are lots of people in human rights but few are known, and I hope to be one of them one day”.

The Geneva Centre is proud to be able to share the thoughts and ideas of our ambitious graduates on this important initiative. We welcome all thoughts and comments on ways to promote and protect the rights of the vulnerable migrant workers in the region.

Protecting the Rights of Migrant Workers: A Plan of Action

The group identified the multiple and systematic human rights violations to which migrant workers are subjected, including labour coercion, unpaid or poorly paid workers, wage theft, hazardous working conditions, substandard housing, and physical and sexual assault. As Maitha observed, “Everyone needs to work for a decent life, and the dignity of workers should be respected and protected”.

The students reported that in 2010 the International Organization of Migration estimated the number of the migrants worldwide at 214 million, or 31 per cent of the world’s population. They emphasised the problematic and widespread perception of migrant workers as temporary guests, who will eventually go back ‘home’, when in reality they settle and become permanent members of society, entitled to all the same rights as other citizens. The group also highlighted the importance of migrant workers’ rights in their own communities, and reported “Foreigners account for more than 88.5 percent of UAE residents, many of them migrant workers [who] have no right to organize or bargain collectively and face penalties for going on strike.”

Their strategy for addressing these violations focussed on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families:

What is the aim of our project?

We can summarise our aims in three words: Protect, Respect, and Awareness.

1.            Protect migrant workers from violations of their rights.

2.            Respect migrant’s workers’ rights by singing all international Conventions related to their status.

3.            Promote Awareness of migrant worker’s rights among different groups in society, especially the workers and employees themselves.

What needs to happen in order to achieve this aim?

1.            Sign the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

2.            Apply the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

3.            Set a minimum wage for all workers.

Who has to react and what should they do?

1.            Governmental Level

  • Develop Laws: By making the national law compatible with the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights and All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
  • Spread Awareness: Using the media, internet, and brochures to ensure rights are not violated.
  • Establish a Monitoring System: As many countries in the world do, they make an easy way for the worker to get his or her salary under supervision of the government.
  • Human Rights Education: Set a mandatory course for human rights, and study worker’s rights, according to the International Convention and national law.
  • Fines and Penalties: Any employer who violates workers’ rights should be fined, and this law should be applied to all employers without discrimination.
  • Training Courses: Training courses in schools, universities, and in the Ministry of Labour on worker’s rights.

2.            International Level

  • Ratify conventions dealing with the rights of migrant workers, and respect and implement them.

3.            Community Level

  • Spread Awareness: Spread awareness through conferences, publications, and training courses.

4.            Individual Level

  • Respect the rights of the worker if you are employer, and be aware of your rights as a worker.
  • Give Advice to workers on how to defend their rights.

Click here to read the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in full.

Click here for information on the Ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, January 2013

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