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Statement from the Asia Pacific Consultation and Strategy Meeting on the Global Compact on Migration

by Pervez Siddiqui


Towards a compact to end forced migration and commodification of migrants; uphold human rights, and recognize migrants as active actors for genuine development

 Statement from the Asia Pacific Consultation and Strategy Meeting on the Global Compact on Migration

 10 September 2017

Chiang Mai, Thailand


The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants resulting from United Nations General Assembly in September 2016 pledged to come up with a Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that will “set out a range of principles, commitments and understandings among Member States regarding international migration in all its dimensions (…) and deal with all aspects of international migration, including the humanitarian, developmental, human rights-related and other aspects of migration.”

That governments need to come up with actions and cooperate to address problems on migration and of migrant workers is an undeniable reality. Unfortunately, intergovernmental discussions and agreements – whether in the Agenda 2030, the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) and negotiations on financing development – put much stock on revenues including remittances instead of tackling the exploitation, threats to rights, and oppression that migrants experience.

As civil society organizations of migrants, we believe that in crafting, negotiating and approving a global compact for migrants, governments must:

  1. Reframe migration and development discussion towards addressing migration more as a concern of underdevelopment than an opportunity for development.

The so-called benefits – economic and social – of migration is far outweighed by the fact that current migration is forced by neoliberal policies, poverty, lack of decent work, land grabbing, rural isolation, climate change-induced displacement, and wars and conflict including ethnic purges. For women migrants, global demands for cheap labour in care economy and patriarchy also contributes to their forced migration.

The inordinate attention given to remittances in all its forms obscures the reality that current migration is both a result of and perpetuates neoliberal prescriptions that value profits over people, heighten flexibility of labor, erode social services and promote the systematization of labor export policies that treat migrants as mere “assets” for profit-making by governments and the private sector.

The neoliberal framework of development that creates widespread inequalities among countries, within countries and between men and women should be shifted towards a framework that delivers Development Justice.

The paradigm of migration management should be changed. Reducing the conversation on migrants and migration into mere “managing” devalues the humanity and rights of migrants as human beings and as workers. Remittances and increasing remittances should not be the central narrative on migration and development.

  1. Place human rights in the front and center of the global compact.

Existing human rights instruments by the United Nations including the International Labour Organization (ILO) should serve as the minimum standard of measure for the global compact. It must not regress from the human rights standard already identified in these instruments. Ratification of these instruments must be advanced and should not be substituted by the global compact agreement.

To this end, urgent issues that impinge on the comprehensive human rights of migrants must be addressed including, but not limited to: lack of decent work and living wage, the prevalence of contract substitution, criminalization of undocumented (and even documented) migrants, absence of or discrimination in provision of social protections, widespread trafficking for labour in all its various forms, obstacles to reintegration and family reunification, prohibition on marriages and settlement, xenophobia, social stigma in both countries and discrimination.

The rights of migrants to the following must be ensured: labour rights, occupation health and safety rights, ensure workers working hour esp for contractual labor, citizenship rights, the right to organize and freedom of assembly, right to education of migrants and their children, early child care for migrants workers, right against forced separation, right to health including sexual and reproductive health rights.

Particular mention on concerns of migrant workers in various  sectors, some of which are considered as informal work, including those working in domestic work, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, entertainment, sex work, and construction must also be made.

  1. Desist from the promotion of circular migration as it panders to the whole neoliberal dogma of keeping labour that includes migrant labour flexible and insecure. Circular migration and return keep migrant labour disposable and heightens the vulnerability of migrants to various rights violations.

Circular migration also legitimizes the increasing securitization of migration where policies that govern migration and migrant workers are based on security concerns – justified by the global “war on terror” as well as prevalent trafficking – and not on human rights standards.

Securitization promotes heightened border control that take different forms such as construction of visible walls, investing in the security forces of other countries as their safety net, mandatory exit of migrants upon loss of job, denial of citizenship, and hinging the rights of migrants on visa conditionalities. States should ensure open and accessible pathways for migrants to have legal stay/permit to reduce their vulnerability and chances of being exploited.

  1. Improve on the process relating to the creation of the global compact to ensure that the voice of grassroots migrants, grassroot migrant organizations, civil society organizations as well as trade unions are recognized, accounted in the negotiations, and included in the actual global compact document and its later implementation.

The current process falls short in recognizing the importance of grassroots migrants and migrant CSOs as important actors and not passive recipients in the global compact. Grassroots migrants especially are the ones experiencing the realities on the ground and it is their aspirations that the global compact must work for and ensure their participation in mainstream of national, regional and international processes.

There is also an urgent need to democratize information on the process that should involve ground-level information sharing and solicitation of views of the grassroots. Beyond the global compact process, migrants should be recognized as a permanent constituency in UN-level engagement similar to workers, women, or indigenous people’s constituency to ensure grassroots migrants can represent their own issues.

  1. Identify clear indicators and mechanism for monitoring and review of the Compact. States must be bound by the agreements that will be made and inputs from grassroots migrants and civil society organizations must be ensured as part of an open, transparent and inclusive monitoring and review process.

Accountability of  governments to migrants must be put in place and the undue role that private businesses are given in the migration process must be checked and effectively regulated. Accountability of the private sector involved in the migration process including recruitment agencies must be clearly set out.

  1. Ensure that the Global Compact on Refugees is based on existing human rights agreements and upholds rights of refugees similar to migrants.

Refugee concerns in Asia and Pacific are rising including refugees due to climate change and those displaced by various conflicts. The exodus of the Rohingyas exhibit deep-rooted problems deriving from militarism, fundamentalism and economic exploitation that states in the region must address.

It is also a concern for CSOs that the two planned global compacts are processed distinctly despite that there are many similarities of concerns.

Grassroots migrants and advocate CSOs aspire for a global compact that reflects the realities of migration, is responsive to the concrete needs and concerns of migrants, and contributes to ending systemic causes of forced migration and the exploitation of migrant workers.

Endorsed by:

Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK)

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants

Awaj Foundation

IMA Research Foundation

International Migrants Alliance

MAP Foundation

Migrant Workers Federation

Migrante International

Mission for Migrant Workers

Shobujer Ovijan Foundation (SOF)


Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG)

Films 4 Peace Foundation



About the Author

Pervez Siddiqui

Pervez Siddiqui, is a peace activist film maker and former Peace Research fellow of University of Oslo, Norway. Mr. Siddiqui studied in Film at University of South Wales in the United Kingdom and also graduated from Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has 10 years professional experience on advocacy, communication, campaign, media relations, networking and film making activities and advising on and driving the implementation of communications and media strategies tailored to specific audiences. I worked on advocacy project management, project planning, networking, media relation, television, strategic planning, social media, video editing, community development, participatory video, human rights films etc. He is also the founding member of the advocacy film-making organisation in Bangladesh called WITNESS Bangladesh ( and became president for Films4Peace Foundation.