Diplomats Should Keep their Own Houses in Order, Advocates for Domestic Workers Say

April 7, 2005 12:00 am

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Migrant Domestic Workers Protections Proposed

GENEVA — Andolan, Global Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union are convening a panel in Geneva today to address specific concerns about migrant domestic workers employed by international organizations, including the United Nations and the broader diplomatic community.

“Domestic workers are entitled to basic human rights protections,” said Nahar Alam, the Director of Andolan, an organization dedicated to organizing South Asian workers. “Diplomats and U.N. staff are working to promote peace and human rights around the world. How can we stop them from breaking the law in their own homes?”

The panel, “Treated with Dignity and Respect? Protecting the Human Rights of Migrant Domestic Workers Employed by the Diplomatic Community,” will include Ms. Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Nahar Alam from Andolan, Lani Fe Jalando-on with the Geneva Forum for Philippine Concerns, Claudia Flores, a staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and Margaret Huang, the Director of the United States Racial Discrimination Program at Global Rights. The panel will be held from 14:00 – 15:30 at the Palais des Nations, Room XXII.

According to the convening organizations, migrant domestic workers are extremely vulnerable to exploitation for a variety of reasons including unfamiliarity with their domestic and international rights, cultural and language barriers, and in many cases work long hours in isolation from their peers. The problems are compounded when the employers can claim immunity from civil and criminal jurisdiction due to their status as diplomats.

“There are ways to ensure that the human rights of domestic workers are being respected,” said Claudia Flores, a staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “As the leading global forum on human rights, the United Nations should not only institute reforms but apply pressure to other international institutions to do so as well.”

International organizations as well as individual countries can institute “watchdog mechanisms” that allow for close monitoring of employment conditions and provide for educational opportunities so domestic workers know their rights and are familiar with how to access systems of redress, the groups said.

The advocates propose a series of recommendations including:

  • Calling on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to address the issue of migrant domestic workers employed by U.N. diplomats and staff in its resolution on migrant workers and call for appropriate measures to be adopted in order to protect the rights of these workers;
  • Urging the ratification of the international Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families by member states; and
  • Ensuring that international organizations, embassies and consulates adopt codes of conduct for recruitment and employment of migrant domestic workers, establish a complaint procedure and take disciplinary action when these codes are violated.

“We’re here before the Commission because it is the appropriate body to address the abuse of domestic workers by diplomats and U.N. personnel,” said Margaret Huang, Director of the U.S. Racial Discrimination Program at Global Rights. “We hope that Member States will adopt our recommendations to protect the rights of these workers.”

For a full list of recommendations please see the written statement submitted by Andolan, the ACLU and Global Rights. It is available on line at www.aclu.org/International/International.cfm?ID=17894&c=36.

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