The Migrant Workers Convention: A Legal Tool to Safeguard Migrants Against Arbitrary Detention

Adopted in 1990 and in force since 2003, the Migrant Workers Convention (International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW)) is the most comprehensive international treaty in the field of migration and human rights. However, to date, it has only been ratified by 51 states—none of which are industrialised, migrant-receiving countries.

In this chapter for the 2018 volume, Shining New Light on the UN Migrant Workers Convention (edited by Alan Desmond), the GDP’s Senior Researcher, Mariette Grange, details how the convention safeguards migrants against arbitrary detention—such as the need for detained migrants to receive information in a language they can understand, and to enjoy the same rights as nationals, in particular with respect to visits by members of their families. However, as Mariette Grange explains, “the full breadth of potential application of ICRMW safeguards during administrative detention of migrants remains to be tested as countries with the largest immigration detention estates evade scrutiny of their policies and practice through non-ratification of the Convention.”

“Shining New Light on the UN Migrant Workers Convention” is available (open access) here.


Part I: Obstacles and opportunities

  • The politics of the UN Migrant Workers Convention (Antoine Pécoud)
  • Making rights in times of crisis: Civil society and the Migrant Workers Convention (Lisa Simeone and Nicola Piper)

Part II: The ICRMW in international human rights law

  • The Migrant Workers Convention: A legal tool to safeguard migrants against arbitrary detention (Mariette Grange)
  • Indirect success? The impact and use of the ICRMW in other UN fora (Stefanie Grant & Beth Lyon)
  • Putting things into perspective: The added value of the substantive provisions of the ICRMW (Athanasia Georgopoulou, Tessa Antonia Schrempf & Denise Venturi)
  • Working together to protect migrant workers: ILO, the UN Convention and its Committee (Ryszard Cholewinski)

Part III: Application of the ICRMW in selected state parties

  • Universal citizens globally, foreign migrants domestically: Disparities in the protection of the rights of migrant workers by Ecuador (Daniela Salazar)
  • Guatemala’s implementation of the ICRMW: Emerging efforts (Cathleen Caron, Kathleen Griesbach, Ursula Roldan & Roxana Sandoval)
  • Mexico and the ICRMW: Protecting women migrant workers (Gabriela Díaz Prieto and Gretchen Kuhner)
  • The ICRMW and Sri Lanka (Piyasiri Wickramasekara)

Part IV: Relevance notwithstanding non-ratification

  • The ICRMW and the US: Substantive overlap, political gap (Beth Lyon)
  • A vexed relationship: The ICRMW vis-à-vis the EU and its member states (Alan Desmond)

Migrant Workers Convention