International Migration Research Centre

Document Type

Research Publications

Publication Date



International Migration Research Centre


Although it is the case that a rights discourse has become part of everyday language, the discourse remains relatively weak when it comes to migrant workers in Canada and around the world. Most certainly, the rights discourse has not been translated into everyday practices that protect the rights of migrant workers and their families worldwide. In fact, although we have the language of rights clearly articulated in the 1990 UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICMW) which offers significant protections for migrant workers, Canada and most other receiving countries have yet to ratify this agreement. Similarly, Canada has not ratified the two International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions that pertain to the rights of migrant workers, C97 Migration for Employment Convention (Revised) (1949) and C143 Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Conventions (1975). By ratifying these agreements, receiving countries would send a signal that the rights discourse applies to migrants as well as citizens, and it would also indicate a commitment to taking concrete steps towards protecting migrant rights.

striking feature of contemporary patterns in international migration is the rising number of migrant workers leaving their homes in the global South for jobs in high‐income countries. Many high income states have turned to immigration policy to meet employer labour needs through temporary migration, creating new programs or increasing the volume of older versions. The United States, for example, now has over 80 types of temporary visas. In the UK, the liberalization of labour mobility has led to an estimated one million migrant workers arriving from EU accession countries in three short years. While some of these managed migration schemes provide a stepping stone for permanent residence, which is particularly the case with skilled workers, those in so‐called low‐skilled or unskilled occupations are generally designed to prevent settlement and restrict mobility. However, as evidenced by the history of temporary migration schemes in Europe and the U.S., temporary migration schemes are never temporary and tend to lead to long term settlement and a growth in undocumented migration. Since the significant demand for workers often exceeds the capacities of legal programs, and there are limited permanent migration channels for many migrants from developing countries (particularly those living in poverty), means that there is significant growth in undocumented migration as well.