On the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families

Basic Rights provided by the Migrant Workers Convention

The Convention on Migrant Workers, while reaffirming and complementing existing human rights instruments, has forged new grounds and placed human rights in the specific context of migrant rights. As its salient feature, the Convention protects all migrant workers and members of their families, irrespective of their legal status. Nevertheless, the rights granted to documented and undocumented workers are not identical.

Accordingly, the rights of migrant workers and members of their families are set forth in the Convention under two main divisions: those applicable to all migrant workers irrespective of their legal status (part III) and those applicable to migrant workers in a regular situation (part IV).

Below is a brief list of these rights.

I. Human Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families:

Basic Freedoms:

  • Right to freedom of movement to and from their countries of origin (article 8);
  • Right to life (article 9);
  • Right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 10);
  • Right to freedom from slavery, servitude or forced compulsory labor (article 11);
  • Right to freedom of thought, expression, conscience and religion (articles 12 and 13);
  • Right to privacy (article 14);
  • Right to property (article 15);

Due process:

  • Right to a fair and public hearing with all the guarantees of a due process (articles 16-20);
  • Right to be provided with necessary legal assistance, interpreters and information in an understood language (article 16);
  • Right to liberty and security and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention (article 16);
  • Right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty (article 19);
  • Prohibition to be subject to measures of collective expulsion (article 22);
  • Right to have recourse to diplomatic or consular assistance and protection (article 23);
  • Right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law (article 24);
  • Right to equality with nationals before the courts and tribunals (article 18);


  • Right of equal treatment with nationals in respect to remuneration and other conditions of work such as overtime, holidays, etc. (article 25);
  • Right to join freely any trade union (article 26);
  • Right to enjoy the same treatment as nationals regarding social security benefits in so far as they fulfill the legislation requirements (articles 27);
  • Right to emergency medical care (article 28);

Family and Children of Migrant Workers:

  • Right to a name, registration of birth and nationality (article 29);
  • Right of access to education (article 30);

Cultural and Economic Rights:

  • Right to preserve a cultural identity (article 31);
  • Right to transfer earnings and savings upon the termination of their stay in the State of employment (article 32);


  • Right to information by the State of origin, State of employment, or the State of transit of their rights arising from the present Convention, the conditions of their admission, and their rights and obligations in those States (article 33):

II. Other Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families Who Are Documented or in a Regular Situation:

Migrant workers and members of their families who are documented or in a regular situation shall enjoy the rights set forth below in addition to those already mentioned. In such a way, the Convention seeks to discourage illegal migration.

Temporary Absences:

Right to be temporarily absent, for reasons of family needs and obligations, without effect on their authorization to stay or work (article 38);

Freedom of Movement:

Right to liberty of movement in the territory of the State of employment (article 39);


  • Right to form associations and trade unions in the State of employment (article 40);
  • The right to equality of treatment with nationals in respect of protection against dismissal, unemployment benefits and access to alternative employment (article 54);
  • In case of violations of work contracts by the employer, the right to address his/her case to the competent authorities of the State of employment.

Political Rights:

  • Right to participate in the public affairs of the State of origin, in accordance with its legislation (article 41);
  • Right to vote and to be elected in the State of origin, in accordance with its legislation (article 41);

Cultural and Economic Rights:

  • Right to enjoy from export and import taxes (article 46).
  • The right to equality of treatment with nationals of the State of employment, including access to educational, vocational and social services (article 43);


  • Right to information, including all conditions concerning their stay and their remunerated activities (article 37);