Protect all migrant workers, Civil Society to ASEAN

Protect all migrant workers, Civil Society to ASEAN

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Manila, Philippines – On 13 January 2007, ASEAN Member States made a commitment to protect migrant workers’ rights and to promote decent, humane, productive, dignified and remunerative employment. This commitment was enshrined in the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. Article 22 of the Declaration called for the development of an ASEAN Instrument to advance the agenda of the Declaration. Migrant Forum in Asia welcomed this effort by the ASEAN Member States with hope that the Instrument will be developed without delay and that the process will be transparent and actively involve civil society and other stakeholders.However, to the dismay of civil society, the development of the Instrument was done without the active participation of civil society and other stakeholders.
2017 is the 10th year after the adoption of the Declaration and yet to date the ASEAN Instrument to safeguard the rights of migrant workers has not been finalized. In the absence of a regional regulatory framework, the living and working conditions of migrant workers have been governed by national laws and regulations which do not provide adequate rights and protection for migrant workers and leave many of them unprotected and in precarious working conditions particularly undocumented migrants and migrant domestic workers who are often excluded from the scope of national laws and regulations. While ASEAN Member States forged bilateral labour agreements, these are not adequate to protect the rights of all migrant workers, commit to worker’s welfare and promote decent work for all migrants.
Meanwhile, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) insisted to focus only its freedom of movement provision to highly skilled/professional migrant workers which comprise a very small proportion of the migrant population in ASEAN as compared to those found in low-skilled sectors and informal economy that offer limited opportunities for upward mobility.
Many of them are women migrant workers who are increasingly migrating through irregular channels which expose them to greater risks. Protection of migrants’ rights remains inadequate, subjecting them to inhumane conditions such as low wages or withholding of wages, unlawful wage deductions, long working hours, overwork, poor living conditions, food deprivation, exposure to dangerous and hazardous work, poor health conditions including sexual and physical abuse among others. Migrant workers also do not have job security and remain transient workforce subject to involuntary or forced repatriation at employers ‘whims and during economic downturn, crisis and conflicts.
Further, children accompanying migrant workers and children who migrate independently are more often exposed to worst forms of child labour, including trafficking and debt bondage and work in hazardous conditions which put them in great danger, abuse and exploitation. They also lack access to basic social services such as education, housing and health care facilities.
As ASEAN Member States meet for the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila, we, the Migrant Forum in Asia, reiterates our call to adopt and implement a legally binding ASEAN Framework Instrument for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.
Specifically, we call on ASEAN Member States to:
Include ALL migrant workers (from ASEAN and non-ASEAN countries) and their families as well as all undocumented migrant workers in the scope and coverage of the Framework Instrument.
Develop a regional plan of action to effectively implement the Framework Instrument and a monitoring and evaluation system such as annual report cards in regard to the compliance to the ASEAN Framework Instrument and its declaration.
Harmonize national laws and policies to comply with the UN Migrant Workers Convention and ILO core labor standards, fundamental freedoms and rights at work including ILO Convention 189.
Create easily accessible mechanisms for the regularizing of undocumented migrant workers and absorb them in the labor market.
Repeal policies of contract termination and deportation on the grounds of pregnancy and communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. States must provide social protection that includes provisions for healthcare, disability insurance and medical insurance and wage security/assurance, and that promote safe working environments for all migrant workers and members of their families.
Remove reservations clauses to the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child) given the increasing number of women migrant workers in the region who are working in precarious conditions. As States parties to CEDAW, all ASEAN Member States must utilize the guidance offered by CEDAW General Recommendation 26 on low-waged, low skilled women migrants. The instrument should reflect this commitment to address the specific working and living conditions of all women migrants.
Implement concrete policies and measures to promote decent work for all and address the widespread unemployment and informalization of employment in the region.
Develop programs and services to address the needs and protection of children of migrant workers and children who migrate independently. – Migrant Forum in Asia

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