In 2009, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Convention, a global campaign was launched to promote ratification of the Convention by a number of NGOs with the support of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Australia’s human rights record at the 10th UPR session, a number of countries and the Australian Human Rights Commission urged Australia to consider ratification of the Migrant Workers Convention. Documentation from the review is available here.
Australia decided not to ratify. Australia has still not ratified. Yet migrant labour historically, and today, plays a key role in the Australian economy. Australia, more than most countries, has benefited from a strong immigration program. Based on information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and given Australia’s current population, there are around 1.5 million people living in Australia who are covered by the Convention.
Australia’s ratification would represent a significant step towards the goal of universal ratification of this important human rights treaty. Further, Australia has had a historic policy of promoting ratification of all treaties: Australian action on this convention thus has significance for international adherence to all core human rights treaties.
The officially stated reason given by Australia for deciding not to consider ratification is that Australia “views the existing protections for migrant workers as adequate.” Informal discussion with government officials suggest that this response was primarily driven by a domestic focus without consideration of the significance of ratification from an international viewpoint. There is no publicly available information that suggests a detailed analysis has been carried out of ratification.
While the primary aim of this campaign is to achieve ratification, the campaign will contribute to national and regional efforts to recognise migrant rights as human rights, and to move beyond the treatment of migrants as an economic resource to be exploited or a problem to be solved. Migrants are equal human beings and must be treated with dignity. This campaign will also promote closely related conventions, such as the ILO Convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers adopted on 16 June 2011.