KNOMAD  > Thematic working groups >  Migrant rights and social aspects of migration

Migrant rights and social aspects of migration


  • Seminar
    Indicators of Human Rights for Migrants and Their Families in Tunisia
    Tunis, March 16-17, 2016
  • Consultation on Human Rights Indicators for Migrants in Mexico
    Mexico City, May 7, 2015
  • Expert Meeting
    Indicators on the Human Rights of Migrants
    Geneva, April 8-9, 2014
    Summary | Meeting Agenda | List of Participants | Leaflet


Migration has important social implications that cannot be evaluated purely in economic terms. These include rights of migrants, effects of migration on gender roles, family cohesion, and health. Recent migration flows have included a larger number of women. Migration provides women with new economic opportunities, but at the same time, it imposes a cost on children left behind. Even temporary circular migration increases the risk of family breakdown, fragmentation of social networks, and psychosocial stress. Migrants may lack health insurance coverage and access to health care systems in sending and destination countries.  As a result, migration can be accompanied by violence and exploitation, as well as extreme risks from unauthorized crossings of desert or sea borders.  Irregular migrants are often at the mercy of traffickers or exploitative employers, with little legal recourse.  Regular migrants can also be vulnerable to exploitation due to poor language skills, unfamiliarity with social mores and laws in destination countries, as well as limited arrangements in destination countries to cater to their needs. 

The rights of migrants are protected by all international human rights instruments and labor standards and are specifically recognized in the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which came into force in 2003, and in the ILO Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97) and the ILO Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143), which are complemented by the non-binding ILO Multilateral Framework on Labor Migration (2006) containing principles, guidelines and good practices for a rights-based approach to labor migration.  However, the 1990 Convention has not been ratified by any major high-income destination country.  One way to promote the protection of migrants is to bring pressure to bear on governments by publicizing examples of abuse and conducting research on the types and prevalence of exploitative practices, as well as on racism and xenophobia more generally. The goal of this thematic working group is to foster effective discussions on migrants’ rights.

Key Questions

  1. How does the protection of migrant rights vary across the world?  How are migrants being treated in different countries?  Are there examples of exploitation, effective recourse, and / or pending court cases worth highlighting?
  2. What are the barriers to enjoyment of rights by migrant, including social and economic rights?
  3. How is immigration policy in the host country impacting migrant rights?               
  4. What are the obligations of sending and receiving country governments in protecting the rights of migrants?
  5. How do bilateral agreements affect migration flows and development outcomes? 

Planned Activities

Year 1:

  • Identify experts and the expected audience.
  • Initiate contact with policy makers, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and appropriate NGOs in receiving countries.
  • Develop a database of relevant international and regional conventions that have been ratified and compare existing laws on migrant rights.  Highlight those countries that have fully implemented the relevant conventions.
  • Set up a database on the rights enjoyed by migrants in different countries – a 3-4 year project.
    • Establish a multidisciplinary project team to construct and analyze longitudinal indices that measure the rights of migrants in different countries.
    • Identify the range of rights offered to various categories of migrants in different countries and regions; assess rights and barriers to rights.
    • Capture both legal frameworks (national and international legal frameworks) as well as their actual implementation.
    • Conceptualize and develop indicators, starting with a subset of countries.
    • Conduct a pilot study involving 5 countries to test the indicators.
    • Engage country experts who will collect and process the data and information necessary to score indicators of the rights of migrants.
    • Aanalyze the data and publish them in the KNOMAD website.

Year 2:

  • Commission a study on rights-based migration policies, including compiling good practices on the rights of migrants, analyzing the impact of the rights-based approach, assessing how the protection of migrants’ rights is being implemented, and reviewing how rights are functioning. 
  • Collect data, and analyze and disseminate the findings, such as periodic reports after conventions have been ratified. Set up a database of such reports.
  • Identify best practices by sending states (based on the extent to which migrants are informed and educated about their rights before they leave, as done in the Philippines.
  • Establish a peer-review process.
  • Organize meetings with prospective audience.
  • Pilot indicators.
    • Identify country experts and pilot countries to test the proposed indicators.
    • Make data available and publish it on the KNOMAD Web page.
    • Research how rights are being implemented and what is the value added of the rights-based approach to migration.
    • Engage governments on the application of a rights-based approach to migration.

Year 3:

  • Produce policy briefs with a comparative / global focus.
  • Prepare an evaluation of the impact of extensions of migrant rights on various outcomes, including assimilation, and the reduction on gender related abuse.