Migrant women organisations and women’s rights organisations are applying CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) concerns about access to healthcare for undocumented women.

As Sara, a migrant woman in The Netherlands, comments:

“Migrant (undocumented) women and healthcare professionals still lack knowledge on the right to health of women and the existing regulations. As a consequence, undocumented migrant women often achieve access to the healthcare system when it is too late –symptoms got worse, their cancer is too advanced. The continuity of needed care is seldom or not guaranteed, and sometimes they are denied any care at all.

In practice, undocumented migrant women are often dependant on NGO’s that act as intermediaries between undocumented migrants and the healthcare system”.

Women Migrant Workers

The vast majority of undocumented women – migrants as well as refugees – find employment mainly as workers in the private household – either as live-in or live-out workers – including those who are working in the homes of diplomats or as au-pair – or in hotels and catering industries. Most of them came legally to the Netherlands – with a temporary work permit, through family reunification or with a tourist visa. They were forced to become “over-stayers” and therefore undocumented when their visa for various reasons expired. Likewise, women who are refused asylum, also became undocumented.

While there are employers who uphold treatment of workers according to their human rights as workers and as women, however this depends on the “goodwill” of the employer. Because of the undocumented status of the worker, the relationship is a very unequal power relationship, constantly under threat of reporting to the police or immigration authorities. This relation frequently also leads to other forms of exploitation and violation of rights.

Associations of migrant domestic workers such as IMWU, RESPECT Network or TRUSTED as well as researches and shadow reports to CEDAW their exploitation have been extensively documented – in terms of wages (underpay and overwork); on-call work when live-in, multiple tasking (child minding, or elderly care work, cooking, house-cleaning, laundry, gardening, shopping), unsafe and unhealthy labour conditions, without personal protective equipment (PPE) and experiences of gender based harassment and violence on the work floor. The work done is precarious work – very often without any agreed contract or the working relationship can be unilaterally ended by the employer – either because of change of circumstances – transferring to another city or country, illness, loss of employment or other unexplained reasons on the side of the employer.

We will discuss about the right and access to health and other issues concerning the rights of refugees and migrant people in the EU from the 23rd to the 25th of October in the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) Berlin Hearing. Organized by activists, health, human rights and migrant organizations, we strongly denounce the violations refugees and migrant people experience in the context of the European asylum policies.  Especially in the light of recent events and political decisions in the EU it is more important than ever to make sure voices and testimonies are heard. All information here.

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