The human rights treaty bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor the implementation of the core international human rights treaties. They are created in accordance with the provisions of the treaty that they monitor.
All treaty bodies are mandated to receive and consider regular State reports, and issue guidance in the form of concluding observations at the conclusion of their consideration. State reports must set out the legal, administrative and judicial measures that the State has implemented in order to give effect to its treaty obligations. Committees issue guidelines to assist States with the preparation of their reports, such as the list of issues and questions which are transmitted by the committee in advance of the session that considers the States party reports. To assist States in implementing their recommendations, the treaty bodies have introduced procedures to ensure effective follow-up to their concluding observations, such as the appointment of a follow-up rapporteur, and country visits dedicated to follow-up and implementation.
Treaty bodies also elaborate general guidance to interpret the provisions of the treaty (known as ‘General Comments’ or ‘General Recommendations’), and organize thematic discussions related to the subject of the treaty, many of which will eventually result in the elaboration of a general comment. Most of the treaty bodies have produced some form of general guidance related to the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrants, such as for example Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment Nº. 20 on non-discrimination and Committee on the elimination of Racial Discrimination General Recommendation Nº. 30 on non-citizens.
Of the State parties to the ICRMW in the subregion, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Turkey are under the obligation to submit reports on the status of implementation. Thus far, only Sri Lanka has done so. The report from Turkey was due in 2006 and Bangladesh needs more time as it only recently acceded to the Convention.18
Sri Lanka identifies itself as primarily a labour out-migration country in the status of implementation report. It is not a destination country for overseas workers “largely because there is sufficient Sri Lankan workforce, including domestic labour, to satisfy overall market demand at all levels.” 19 Of its outgoing labour migrants, 90 per cent travel to Western Asia (of whom 63 per cent were women). Pre-departure orientation services are provided together with rights awareness. During an information-gathering trip to Sri Lanka by the main author in 2005, the content of these courses was limited to the most basic information, with no reference to migrants’ rights, and it appears that these courses were improved with the cooperation of United Nations systems and United Nations-affiliated agencies. Measures to regulate recruitment agencies have been set in place, and a welfare fund for migrant workers has been established. To protect the interests of its citizens as workers abroad, the Government has placed labour welfare officers in almost all Sri Lankan diplomatic missions in destination countries. Sri Lankan missions maintain safe houses to offer shelter to domestic workers in distress. In terms of social security, the Government is implementing a contributory pension scheme for migrant workers, which requires them a specified amount of money to qualify for a pension upon reaching the retirement age of 60.20
There are a number of shadow (or counter) reports by NGOs publicly available in the case of Sri Lanka reporting from Israel, Lebanon, and for Asia more broadly.21 The main issues of concern mentioned therein are: the monitoring of recruitment agencies, limited consular support (and adequate training for consular officials), the lack of information on rights in the pre-departure training programmes provided for migrants (as a result of which, migrants are found to be unaware of their rights and the channels available to them to seek assistance), and the lack of overseas voting rights.
18 See www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cmw/sessions.htm.
19 See www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cmw/docs/AdvanceVersions/CMW.C.LKA.1.doc, p. 5.
21 See www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cmw/cmws11.htm for the full texts of the shadow reports on Sri Lanka.