International organizations are increasingly involved in attempts to address the growing global problem of the mistreatment of migrant workers, with a view to better managing migration flows, so as to achieve the economic benefits of migration without generating conflict. Many states view migrants as a source of illegality or cultural tension, and hence emphasize border control and law and order. Activists and advocates for migrants have tried to introduce more progressive ideas at the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation, emphasizing the role that states play in generating migration. This chapter compares how migrants’ rights are conceptualized in ‘mainstream’ international organizations, such as the UN Committee on Migrant Workers and their Families and the International Labour Organization, and in grassroots organizations such as the International Migrants Alliance. Ultimately, this chapter argues that for migrant activists, participating in all three forums is important because doing so allows them to voice their concerns.
Temporary labour migration is increasing globally. Statistics from the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicate that 2.5 million legal temporary labour migrants resided in developed countries in 2006, three times the number of permanent migrants residing in these states (Abella 2006). The same numbers also show that temporary labour migrants’ entry into developed countries has increased by 4 to 5 per cent annually since 2000.