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Global Compact on Migration - Policy Paper
September 9, 2017, 3:53 pm

Renowned social activist among the Indian expatriate community in the Middle East Thomas Mathew Kadavil recently visited the Chief Minister of Kerala State, Pinarayi Vijayan, and submitted a memorandum seeking his urgent intervention to bring the Indian External Affairs Ministry’s attention to protect the rights and welfare of the Indian migrants during the intergovernmental discussions on a Global Compact on Migration, for safe, orderly and regular migration, which is slated to take place at the UN General Assembly next September.

As the Union Government of India, the rightful constitutional authority on migration and Non Resident Indians, had been taking a cold-hearted attitude towards the Global Compact on Mmigration (GCM) which would be detrimental to protect the interest of Indian migrants at a time when many national governments and regional groupings are making serious consultations with various stake holders to take a consensus position in the UN, Thomas Mathew Kadavil pointed out to the Chief Minister.

The Global Compact will become a Magna Carta of the immigrants the world over and it is imperative and obligatory that the Indian Government should rise to the occasion to protect the rights and welfare of the Indian migrants by bringing in the most needed elements into the global compact, Mr. Kadavil explained to the Chief Minister. He lauded the Kerala government for the introduction of many welfare measures for the safe repatriation and reintegration of the migrant returnees, but pointed out the need for ensuring the welfare of the immigrants at their countries of destinations. 

The very basic element of the GCM should focus on implementing, not simply restating, the hitherto accepted UN and ILO conventions and treaties, multilateral commitments to migrants human rights, to labor rights, that are signed and binding, and apply to migrants across the board. The GCM and national plans should include goals, timelines, and means for implementation that are ambitious, achievable, and accountable. 

The memorandum points out yet another important element of the GCM is that it should address the urgent need for ethical recruitment, decent jobs and labor mobility with the protection of the labor rights of migrants. Recruitment fees should be borne by the employer, not the migrant worker. To end the large scale exploitation, migrant worker visas or residency permits should never be tied to one employer. There can be no question about the rights of workers to join and form trade unions and workers organizations. Much more investments are needed in decent work and jobs at home and abroad, as well as more efforts to harmonize qualifications and invest in skills and training for example through vocational partnerships.

Regularization and regular pathways for human mobility across the plank should be core to the drive for implementation and thus for the GCM should be the facilitation of human mobility with human rights for all. More and better regular pathways for refugees and migrants need to be created, including increases in resettlement places, humanitarian visa, private sponsorship programs, family reunification, student visa, labor mobility and matching at all skill levels. Such regular pathways reduce the vulnerabilities of migrants and refugees at the origin, in transit and at the destination. 

The GCM should develop principles on regularization - a pathway to secure residency after having lived in the country of immigration for a certain number of years, in the interest of social cohesion and lifts people out of vulnerable and exploitative situations. Portability of salary, social security benefits, indemnities, pensions etc should be given to the migrant worker without any hindrance both from the destination countries and the employers. 

On migrant women, the memorandum urges for their protection and emphasized that "women are not by nature vulnerable population" in need of rescue but too often find themselves in vulnerable situations due to (migration) policies, values and the denial of rights. Hence the memorandum urges upon all national governments that they should draw from the UN recommendations on addressing the human rights of women in the Global Compact on Migration. 

The Global Compact on Migration should not become a Global Compact for Deportation. Unambiguous and clear principles and policy recommendations related to the circular or economic migrants return and reintegration with their societies should be laid out. The voluntary return should be tailor-made and context specific, and involve a process with true choices, including choosing the moment of return. There should be no deportation of children in no circumstances and they should not be separated from their families. 

Policies are needed that put an end to the criminalization of migrants, and those who help them. Migrants need to implement practical, available alternatives to detention. Citizens and organizations that help undocumented migrants in need should be admired and protected, not criminalized.

The GCM and national policies should include the concept of ‘firewalls’ that allow all migrants, regardless of status, to access justice, essential services, and complaint mechanisms without fear that will result in their detention or deportation on the basis of their migration status. 

Migrants themselves should be meaningfully engaged through consultation and decision-making processes.  To change the narrative and perceptions on migration, the migrant's voices need to be uplifted and audible. Civil society has an important role to play in mobilizing people and wider solidarity movements on the ground – to stand firm against xenophobia and discrimination, and for equality, justice, and dignity for all.

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