A report from the International Organization for Migration, or IOM, finds that most of the world's 175 million migrants are victims of human rights violations because they are not protected from abuse by their host countries' national laws.
United Nations statistics show that one in every 34 people in the world is a migrant. In the industrial countries, the ratio is one in 10.
Despite these huge numbers, the study by the International Organization for Migration finds that the vulnerability of migrants to human rights abuse has failed to receive adequate attention.
The report said migrants generally have a negative image. It said they are victims of prejudice and discrimination. They are vulnerable to exploitation, and often are blamed for rising crime rates and for taking jobs away from the citizens of their host countries.
The author of the study, Bimal Ghosh, acknowledged that certain domestic groups, such as the urban and rural poor, also may be subject to abuse. But he said that migrants are more vulnerable because they do not have the protection that exists for citizens under national law.
"[In] Almost every single country, under its constitutional basic laws, there are certain rights granted to every single citizen. There may be some exceptions. But at least from the legal point of view, they are entitled to these rights. In the case of migrants, the situation is not clear. ... The nation state's main responsibility is toward its citizens, and therefore, the migrants will have to depend on international law," Mr. Ghosh said.
He said the position of migrants is not clear under international law. While it is recognized that migrants are entitled to certain basic rights, he said that in practice these rights are not always enforced.
He also said the situation for migrants has become worse since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States two years ago. "And that has created a climate, which makes it very difficult for those who are working for human rights for migrants, because as you recall, many - most of the terrorists involved in the attack, happened to be migrants. All migrants are not terrorists, nor are all terrorists migrants. And improved border control, which is a national prerogative and is a need because of terrorism, does not necessarily mean a more repressive migration policy," Mr. Ghosh said.
Mr. Ghosh said many countries have imposed restrictions on freedoms and civil liberties in the wake of the September 11 attacks. While everyone is subject to these new rules, he said, migrants suffer the most.
He noted many are arrested on suspicion and subject to detention without trial and forced deportation.