28 October 2009

Hon Chris Evans
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Senator Evans

Amnesty International and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) understand that Peter Hughes and Simon Duke from your department will be representing Australia at the upcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development (the Forum). The issue of migrant’s rights is a key area of work for both organisations’ and we believe that migrants remain at high risk of exploitation and human rights abuse in most countries.

Amnesty International and the ACTU broadly support the findings of the 2008 Subclass 457 Integrity Review which indicated that despite Australia’s strong record of protecting the rights of migrant workers, there are still sections of Australia’s migration program that allows for exploitation of workers. We recognise the work of the government in improving the rights of 457 visa holders.

Amnesty International and the ACTU believe that an important step in further rectifying this gap would be the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (the Convention).

In December 2008, Amnesty International wrote to your office requesting that Australia sign the Convention. The reply that we received highlighted the Government’s “strong commitment to the protection of both Australian and overseas workers” and indicated that there would be room for further discussion on this matter.

The ACTU has engaged with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations on seeking Australian compliance to enable ratification of the Convention.

Amnesty International and the ACTU believe that the key theme of the Forum, Integrating Migration Policies in Development Strategies for the Benefit of All, make it an ideal platform for the Convention to be discussed. It is evident that recognising the rights of migrant workers benefits both migrant source and destination countries.

Amnesty International and the ACTU would welcome a commitment by the Australian Government to promote the human rights of migrant workers at the Forum and in particular, to indicate Australia’s willingness to become party to the Convention. As a country that has long relied on the significant contribution of migrants, Australia has a key opportunity to play a leading international role in recognising the human rights of migrant workers, and encouraging other migrant receiving states to improve their protection of migrant workers through the ratification of this important international convention.

We look forward to further engagement with you and your department on this issue.

Yours sincerely

Claire Mallinson
National Director
Amnesty International Australia

Sharan Burrow
Australian Council of Trade Unions