UN Global Compact on migration must put workers and education rights first

published 1 August 2017 updated 2 August 2017

Education International has called for the human, trade union and education rights of migrant children, teachers and education support personnel to be at the core of a new United Nations Global Compact on migration.

Ensure a rights-based approach

In his address to the interactive hearings, Education International (EI) representative Dennis Sinyolo called upon the UN and governments to ensure that the new Global Compact is rooted in existing human rights treaties. He argued that UN Covenants, Conventions and other instruments are applicable to all human beings, including migrants.

Sinyolo challenged the notion that the new Compact should be voluntary, arguing that “the proposal to have a nonbinding Global Compact cannot absolve the UN member states from their obligation to ensure full implementation of existing UN human rights treaties”.

He went on to argue that governments should ratify and fully implement the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and ILO migration conventions. “Migrant workers should have the same rights, terms and employment conditions as local workers, including freedom of association, the right to organise and collective bargaining”, he highlighted.

Additionally, he stressed that the Global Compact should pay particular attention to the specific needs of migrant women and children, ensuring their full protection from all forms of exploitation, including human trafficking, sexual abuse and child labour.

Address root causes of migration

Sinyolo also said that the Global Compact should address the root causes of migration such as global imbalances in economic development, poverty, political instability, conflict, unemployment and climate change.

“Addressing these push factors will ensure that migration becomes an option rather than a necessity”, he noted.

Regulate the activities of recruitment agencies

Regulating the activities of recruitment agencies and agents would go a long way in reducing violations of human, trade union and labour rights of migrants, Sinyolo emphasised, advising: “In line with ILO standards, migrant workers should not pay any recruitment fees, and regulating the industry must take the form of mandatory standards that are enforced, rather than reliance on voluntary programmes, which have too often proved to fail.”

Ensure access to quality education and other public services

The EI representative also insisted that migrants should never be denied access to education and other public services such as health, and to justice due to their immigration status. He proposed “establishing a firewall between immigration control and access to public services, particularly for undocumented migrants, who are in the most vulnerable situation”.

Reasserting the key role of education in fighting xenophobia, racism and discrimination, and in promoting tolerance, respect, intercultural understanding and global citizenship, he added that teachers and educators in destination and transit countries should be trained and supported to meet the specific needs of migrant children, and urged governments to develop and implement effective mechanisms for accrediting and recognising the qualifications of migrant teachers and education support professionals.


This call was made at a multi-stakeholder hearing on migration, convened by the President of UN General Assembly in New York, USA, on 26 July. These hearings were part of the preparatory process for the intergovernmental conference on international migration aiming to adopt the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, which will be convened by the UN in 2018. It was attended by representatives of UN member states, civil society, the private sector and academia.

In his opening remarks, the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, reminded participants of the UN Resolution to develop a Global Compact on migration, as well as another Global Compact on refugees. Thompson also informed participants that he will issue a summary of the hearing, which will be made available as an input for the intergovernmental negotiations on the global Migration Compact.