February, 2014 – Migrant workers rights organizations have presented a request for a Thematic Hearing at the 150 regular session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The hearing is being called to highlight the responsibility of states of origin in the violation of temporary workers’ labour rights, specifically during the process of selection, recruitment, hiring, monitoring and return, when traveling to the U.S. or Canada on temporary work visas.
Through the hearing, migrant worker advocates aim to highlight the responsibilities of states of origin in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador during these processes.
The United States, alone, has provided more than 50,000 visas (H-2A) per year for temporary work, most occupied by Mexican people. This demand for temporary foreign labour has created a loophole exploited by false recruiters, who claim to provide jobs in the U.S. and Canada by offering so-called visas to cross the border "legally". But, in reality, these promises are often just money scams that result in workers and their families losing everything, and sometimes putting their personal safety in jeopardy by indebting themselves to loan sharks.
Making matters worse, workers also experience rights violations while in host countries.
More than 90 percent of Mexican nationals who have gone to the U.S. with an H-2A visa have reported labour violations, while 30 percent of these workers don’t know who recruited them, or even who they work for.
In Guatemala, 2,568 H-2B visas were issued in 2012. However, the country’s biggest problem has been the confiscation of land titles by recruiters.
In El Salvador, 825 people have participated in the Temporary Workers Program, mostly in Canada. Despite its small number, El Salvador doesn’t track its citizens when they’re working abroad, thus failing in its obligation to protect them.
Also under Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program between Canada and Mexico, migrant workers have been denied their right to association with the complicity of the Mexican government, whose interference was documented before labour tribunals in Canada.
The application for the IACHR hearing, filed under "vulnerability situation of labour rights of temporary migrants generated from their countries of origin", is the result of coordinated efforts of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW Canada) Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA), Global Workers Justice Alliance (Global Workers), Instituto de Estudios y Divulgación sobre Migración A.C. (INEDIM), Instituto de Estudios de la Mujer Norma Virginia Guirola de Herrera (CEMUJER), Proyecto Binacional Jornaleros Safe, Respuesta Alternativa, A.C., Red Regional de Organizaciones Civiles para las Migraciones (RROCM) capítulo El Salvador conformadas por la Asociación Salvadoreña de Educación Financiera (ASEFIN), Grupo de Monitoreo Independiente de El Salvador (GMIES), Iglesia Anglicana Episcopal, Instituto Salvadoreño del Migrante (INSAMI), la Red Internacional Scalabrini para las Migraciones (SIMN) and Soleterre.
The Commission has the power to publicize and promote the observance and defense of human rights, including those of persons in the context of human mobility. These rights are enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights. If accepted, this hearing could lead to specific recommendations to prevent and stop current violations of temporary migrant workers’ rights.