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Abstract

In the current context of increased labour migration and regional integration, migrants' access to social protection is placed high on the political agenda of many states worldwide. In such a situation, the question of migrants access to social assistance and portability of pension benefits becomes paramount. Consequently, this study examines the issues surrounding migrants access to social assistance and portability of pension within the East African Community (EAC). After an overview of the migration phenomenon and the corresponding international legal framework, the position of migrants under human rights law is addressed through a review of human rights instruments and migrants' specific instruments adopted within the framework of the United Nations and the ILO. The study further assesses existing international, regional and national social security instruments to draw lessons and recommendations for improving existing situations. For example, how losses from lack of portability can be addressed, primarily through social security agreements. Consequently, the study discusses evidence of the growth of migration in East Africa and the growing need for the portability of social security. The foundation for the protection of migrants through equality of treatment is through the EAC Treaty and its Protocols. Nonetheless, despite the apparent advancement in adopting such instruments, implementation at the national level is still challenging. As a result, migrants continue to receive the blunt end of lack of portability of the benefits and inaccessible social assistance reserved for nationals. Subsequently, the EAC should make use of existing social protection arrangements to ensure migrants protection. Other regions, such as the EU and the CARICOM, with their diversity, offers better lessons for them being in existence longer than the EAC. Nonetheless, the EAC should customise its expected instrument(s) to fit in with its socio-economic and political aspects. Lastly, the region should ensure that the Partner States are ratifying the necessary instruments to enable access to social assistance and ensure that acquired pension benefits are portable should one retire in a different country.

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