Shining new light on the UN Migrant Workers Convention by Alan D. Desmond

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The urgent need to recognise migrants’ rights and dignity

Migrants in a precarious situation are voiceless in any host society, North and South, be they undocumented or temporary migrant workers with very restrictive visas or contracts.

They constantly exercise agency and make life-altering decisions on a regular basis – for some, simply taking the subway is a choice that can have huge consequences on the course of their life and that of people who depend on them for sustenance – but they have no access to the political stage in any host society.

And they rarely protest, contest, organise, unionise. Sticking their neck out to defend their rights may mean being detected as undocumented or identified as a trouble maker by the employer, and the consequence of either may be detention and deportation.

Migrants and their family and community have most often invested beyond their means in the migration project, in time, energy, money and physical or mental health. And migrants often undertake this migration project guided by a sense of duty or simply by love for their family: they must not fail them.

Anything that threatens this central objective in their lives is considered dangerous. Speaking up, protesting, fighting for their rights is dangerous. “Moving on” is most often a preferred strategy.

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