On behalf of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), I would like to thank Ambassador Osmar Chohfi and the Committee on Judicial and Political Affairs for the invitation to present IOM’s best practices and activities at this forum today.
Over the years, IOM has accumulated an important amount of material and knowledge on the international legal norms and principles that protect the human rights of migrants and regulate migration. Both sets of norms are jointly referred to as international migration law (IML).
So far, the normative approach to migration has put emphasis on the rights of persons involved in migration. Reference is also frequently made to principles and standards deriving from State sovereignty and having a direct bearing on the management of migration: right to protect borders, to confer nationality, to admit and expel foreigners, to combat trafficking and smuggling, to safeguard national security. States’ rights and obligations in their mutual relationship (duty to cooperate, to readmit nationals) are less well defined and are treated in isolation.
Many conventions exist at the universal and regional levels on rights of migrants, but these instruments are spread across various branches of law (human rights, humanitarian law, migrant workers, and refugee law). This dispersion of norms contributes to the widespread belief that there are important gaps in the set of norms protecting migrants and/or regulating migration. Moreover, there is sometimes uncertainty about the exact content or intent of these instruments and lack of knowledge as to the status of their ratification and implementation by States. A further related issue is the still insufficient dissemination of information about the rights and duties to be enjoyed or respected by all migrants and, at all levels in national administrations, of the international norms to be applied by migration officials. IOM believes that the Inter-American Program could be a good vehicle to disseminate that information and make a difference.
In the past year, IOM has been involved in a number of technical cooperation projects that are geared towards a de factoprotection of the human rights of migrants and members of their families:
Return Assistance to Migrants73 In 2005, 18,941 Honduran migrants were voluntarily assisted to return from the United States, and 20,318 migrants (16,937 men 2,860 women and 521 minors) being returned so far this year. IOM and its partners meet the returning migrants at Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula Airports and provide initial assistance such as shelter or onward transport to their places of origin, food, medical care, clothing, as well as legal and psychosocial counseling. Those migrants who wish to return to school or to join vocational training programs and micro-credit schemes are supported, and assisted in their job search.
In Mexico, irregular migrants from outside of the Americas (primarily from Asia) are assisted to go back home, if they so wish.
Counter-Trafficking We all know that in the migration process, migrants are exposed to exploitation, in the form of trafficking in persons. Indeed, the complexity of human trafficking requires targeted training and capacity building at a variety of levels, from victim service providers to government officials and law enforcement. A series of four counter-trafficking training modules were published in English, and they have been translated into Spanish. I have brought some brochures in both languages for you to look at the information more in detail. The next three topics in the series currently under development are: Children, Direct Assistance, and Victim Identification and Interviewing Techniques. They all are adaptable to the group’s specific context, and participants obtain an excellent introduction to each topic, which is essential to a comprehensive, rights-based approach to counter-trafficking.
In Argentina, the second phase of a counter-trafficking Capacity Building project is being implemented (FOINTRA -Fortalecimiento Institucional en la Lucha contra la Trata de Personas en Argentina), in order to expand its scope to four additional provinces (Córdoba, Tucumán, Entre Ríos and Neuquén), in addition to the previous four (Jujuy, Misiones, Santa Cruz provinces and the City of Buenos Aires), which reached over 2,000 beneficiaries. The capacity-building component promotes the creation and institutionalization of regional/provincial counter trafficking inter-institutional boards (including parliamentary representatives, judicial and assistance operators) and provides technical assistance on prevention, prosecution and policy making related to trafficking. The training component targets governmental and non-governmental organizations and provides tools for planning, assessing and implementing counter trafficking actions and assistance to victims of trafficking, including the “Train the trainers” program to ensure the independent replication of training activities for federal government agencies. The public information component is designed to sensitize the public as regards the causes and risks of trafficking, as well as to strengthen the knowledge of trafficking as a crime which requires urgent action.
In the MERCOSUR countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), Bolivia and Chile, IOM is implementing a counter-trafficking project with a twofold approach at the national and regional level. It has two components entailing better understanding of trafficking by means of a Regional Training Workshop and the development of specific research focusing on Maldonado (Punta del Este, Uruguay). The beneficiaries will be key stakeholders working with the prevention, protection and prosecution of trafficking in persons, especially women and children for sexual exploitation purposes and child pornography issues.
In the Southern Cone, the Assistance to Victims of Trafficking Programme (AVOT) aims to assist victims through a multipronged strategy including: the protection, return and reintegration of victims of trafficking. To this end, the AVOT Programme employs a mechanism to promptly identify victims, after which the assistance component is implemented. This component was conceived as a flexible tool to be adjusted to the peculiarities of each case; as such it comprises medical assistance, psychological support, social assistance (basic consumption needs, food, and clothing), temporary shelter, legal advice, and assistance in personal documentation procedures, voluntary return to places of origin in safe conditions and the formulation of a social reintegration plan.
Regarding referral of cases and in the absence of an assistance program at the national level to victims of trafficking, a wide range of Argentine authorities, diplomatic delegations and civil society organizations have requested IOM intervention.
Intervention strategies have been designed to take into account the particular situation of each case. Thus all individuals receive medical and psychological attention, in terms of a personalized assessment and acting with the victims themselves. Concerning the component linked to voluntary return, it implies facilitating the safe travel of victims of trafficking to their locations of origin. Prior to departure, a reintegration plan is coordinated with each individual covering the particular needs of the individual and a sum of money is allocated as a partial resettlement subsidy. In general the AVOT team assists the individuals before departure and reception is organized with IOM counterparts.
In terms of reinsertion actions for victims of trafficking in their countries of origin, these are coordinated by the AVOT-team and implemented by the several counterparts. Among the reinsertion actions, the following can be mentioned:
- Regarding the return of victims of sexual exploitation, mostly Paraguayan women, the formulation and implementation of reintegration plans were jointly managed with the Childhood and Adolescence Secretariat of Paraguay and the Women Secretariat.
- Regarding the return of victims of labour exploitation, articulation was mainly carried out with the IOM Office in La Paz, in charge of corresponding contacts with governmental and/or civil society counterparts which will be responsible for monitoring reinsertion. Similarly, but dealing with child victims of trafficking, activities were generally implemented with the Technical Coordination of the Ombudsman Offices for Children and Adolescents in La Paz which gives support and refers cases to relevant courts.
In the Triple Border (the confluence of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina in the general area of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay) efforts are under way to raise public awareness and increase knowledge on the risks and consequences of trafficking through dissemination of information. In this sense, an initial database with key stakeholders involved in counter-trafficking measures has been processed in order to ensure a common approach and to ensure sustainability once the completion of the project has been achieved. The support of the Secretariat of Children’s Rights of the Paraguayan Ministry of Education was obtained in the form of facilities to set up the project’s office in Ciudad del Este.
The IOM Regional Office in Lima, along with its partners the Inter American Development Bank and the offices of the First Ladies of Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador and Paraguay, are implementing the project “Regional Prevention of Trafficking and Smuggling in Children and Reinforcing their Knowledge About Sexual Reproductive Health”. It aims at combating the trafficking of children and raising awareness and educating on sexual and reproductive health issues. Related subjects, such as domestic violence, unwanted pregnancies, and sexual and reproductive health are included.
The 15 month project will make use of best practices of previous counter trafficking experiences in Peru. More than 100 teachers from each participating country will be trained on the subject of human trafficking. The training is expected to have a multiplying effect, as this information will trickle down to more than 4,000 students in primary and secondary schools.
All participating schools will take part in a contest with the winner in each country becoming the national representative in charge of transferring the acquired knowledge. The project also aims to place the subject of human trafficking in school programs and on the public’s agenda.
Migration Dialogues The Caribbean Regional Seminar on Migration74 The sixth Regional Caribbean Seminar was organized by IOM, with the participation and support of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles, the United States State Department, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, as well as other regional and international organizations and expert institutions, such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the World Bank (WB), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).
The participants discussed the migration and development link, including migrant remittances and migration data; brain drain of health professionals and migrant’s access to health, and facilitating the movement of persons while strengthening border security and preventing irregular migration and trafficking in persons.
The 6th South-American Conference on Migration – Asunción May 2006 The 6th South American Conference on Migration (SCM) was hosted by Paraguay in Asunción in the month of May 2006. The participating South American states discussed and agreed to co-operate on a number of themes related to migration and development, including the promotion and respect for the human rights of migrants and measures to combat smuggling and trafficking of persons.
The Conference was convened by the Paraguayan Government during its pro-tempore Presidency and followed through with the collaboration of the IOM’s regional office in Buenos Aires, in its role of Technical Secretariat of the Conference. The outcome of the Conference was formally agreed in the Declaration of Asuncion and formed part of the region’s contribution to the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development that took place in September 2006.
In view of the relevance the Sixth Conference attached to Human Rights and in accordance with the Declaration of Asuncion, IOM Buenos Aires arranged a seminar on “The Human Rights of Migrants – the Main Challenges in Argentina” under the auspices of the National Human Rights Secretariat and the Lower Chamber’s Commission on Human Rights. The objective of the Seminar was to analyze Argentina’s international commitments regarding the protection of human rights and migrants and to provide a space for reflection. Representatives from national and international agencies and civil society organizations attended the event.
Among the consolidation actions of the South American Conference process, the revision of the Plan of Action is set to proceed. Regarding the permanent activities of the Technical Secretariat, work continues on the re-formulation and improvement of the website of the South American Observatory on Migration (OSUMI).
The next and 7th South-American Conference is scheduled to take place in Venezuela in 2007. The Technical Secretariat, which functions under the auspices of the IOM’s regional office in Buenos Aires, looks forward to co-operating with the current Paraguayan and the up-coming Venezuelan pro-tempore presidencies of the Conference to convene a successful 7th Conference that can further develop and strengthen South America’s response to the challenges facing the region in the area of migration.
The 16th Iberoamerican Summit of Heads of State and Government – Montevideo November 2006 The 16th Iberoamerican Summit of Heads of State and Government was hosted by the Uruguay in Montevideo in November 2006. The theme of the summit was “Migration and Development”. In the Declaration of Montevideo the participating States agreed to intensify their interregional cooperation in the area of migration. They further agreed to promote and strengthen human rights as a central component of the migration policies and practices of states of origin, transit and destination.
Labor Migration In Haiti, a labor migration project is looking into strengthening the capacity of the Government of Haiti (GoH) to provide support and protection to Haitian migrants that regularly take up short-term wage labor opportunities in neighbouring countries, and provide technical support to the GoH in understanding the internal processes that would need to be the basis for the formulation of bilateral labor migration agreements with neighbouring countries that are host to significant and growing numbers of Haitian labor migrants.
IOM is working with ministries and other governmental entities having migration management functions to deliberate on a national policy to guide labor migration from Haiti to the countries of region. We are making recommendations for the establishment of an institutional framework to guide the exportation of unskilled Haitian labor, taking account of both pre-departure and post-return needs, as well as addressing the process of migrant labor recruitment in Haiti and the regulatory options. Finally, such a framework will also look into the needs of these migrant workers in the countries of destination. These would best be responded to by having trained labor attachés at the GoH representations in these countries.
In Venezuela, through the Ministry of Labor, the Government of Venezuela asked IOM to develop a media campaign to address human rights of migrant workers and their families. As result of the lack knowledge of their rights, migrant workers and their families are often the victims of exploitation, trafficking, smuggling and other violations of their human rights. The objective of this project is to design, in coordination with the Venezuelan Ministry of Labor a mass education campaign on the labor rights and duties of the migrants workers and their families, including human rights. This mass information campaign would inform migrant workers on their rights and duties as well as to the Institutions obligated to guarantee their rights.
The general objective of the project is to assist in the improvement of working conditions and life style of migrant workers and their families in Venezuela. The benefits of this project will go far beyond its original targets. We expect some of the main beneficiaries to include other social and political actors whose mission is to improve the living and working conditions for Venezuela’s migrant workers.
In Ecuador, IOM is strengthening the capacity of the Ecuadorian Government in managing migration to Spain and enhance the capacity of the Technical Selection Unit of Migratory Workers (TSUMW) to prepare those workers selected for positions in Spain for their personal and professional lives there. The long-term sustainability of this highly successful Unit was assured through the signing of a cooperative agreement between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IOM in which the former commits to finance and assign the necessary funds to guarantee the operation of the Unit in the future.
The TSUMW registers and evaluates the background and work histories of those people75 who aspire to immigrate to Spain in possession of a verified work position. The responsibility of the TSUMW is to interview the candidates, determine their aptitudes and qualifications, verify the certificates they present, and assign them an occupation code.
The TSUMW provides an essential service to Spanish companies by providing them with workers whose profiles meet the requirements of the positions offered. The database is not only filled by workers who present their curriculum vitae, but also by information broadcast through the media regarding those occupations most in demand, public and private trade unions and professional associations, and Ecuadorian workers registered with the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources.
In October 2003, the TSUMW began a process of conducting interviews using a video conference format with candidates that the Spanish businesses had pre-selected after receiving their curriculum vitae and background checks electronically. This allows businesses who only have a few work offers to interview workers without having to travel to Ecuador to interview the candidates.
The project designed and put into action a computerized system of shifts or turns that organizes the attention for workers throughout the entire selection process, which includes entering background information into the system, interviews, updating of information, signing of contracts, obtaining necessary documentation and/or arranging travel. Thus, the selection process has obtained a high level of security, transparency and control.
The selection process is an important step, but it does not guarantee the effective coverage of the job vacancies. IOM’s work, as the original agreement indicates, does not end with the selection of the worker, but continues with the support to the workers in obtaining the proper documentation (work and residence permission), signing of contracts, and arranging travel and reception in Spain.
Another important aspect of the support offered by IOM involves obtaining travel loans (through an operative agreement with the Banco Solidario), coordinating reservations, and the daily maintenance of lists of travelers and the process of transactions in which each one finds himself. These activities are important given that there are constant changes – both on the part of the workers as well as the businesses – which must be communicated and agreed upon by all parties involved, including the airlines, in order to avoid any penalties.
The project will add several new activities designed to lower costs, ensure future sustainability of the TSUMW, and contribute to preparing Ecuadorian workers for their personal and professional lives in Spain.
In Costa Rica, IOM is providing support to a program managed by the National University in Costa Rica aimed at improving the health of temporary migrant workers in Los Santos, Costa Rica by carrying out literacy classes for the indigenous Ngobe tribe who travel from Panama every year to work in the coffee harvest. The classes, which are funded by the US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), include a handbook in Ngobe, created by a professor who has been working with the population for years. The class also includes information on health and human rights.
Conclusion Our various undertakings try to address the many facets of migration. Be it facilitating regular migration, managing the inflows and outflows of irregular migration, preventing and reducing potential exploitation of migrant workers and the families and counter-trafficking. IOM is encouraged by the OAS Secretary General’s interests in this topic and double its efforts to bring about successful program in that sector. Mr. Ambassador, IOM would like to thank you again for the invitation and we are looking forward to working with the Committee on Judicial and Political Affairs to advance our goals and programs.