Organizations gathered under the Taskforce on ASEAN Migrant Workers (TFAMW) group urged leaders in the region to address the issue of migrant workers by forming a regional framework this year that was legally binding on all ASEAN member states.
The call was one of nine recommendations made by the TFAMW-affiliated Indonesian Working Group on ASEAN Migrant Workers (IWGAMW) for the upcoming fourth meeting of the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW) on April 11-12 in Jakarta.
“We have sent the ‘Nine Mandates’ to the Foreign Ministry’s Migrant Worker Placement Director Rostiawati who will lead the Indonesian delegation at the meeting,” Thaufiek Zulbahary from the IWGAMW told a press conference on Sunday. “Hopefully she will promote it at the meeting.”
Sinapan Samydorai, the Regional Director of TFAWMW, said a legal instrument providing protection and promoting migrant workers’ rights was needed if ASEAN leaders really wanted to solve economic problems in the region.
“Of the 600 million people in ASEAN, 56 percent work in the informal sector. Hence an instrument that legally grants protection for informal workers is crucial. Talks on economic integration in the region will in no way be effective without protecting migrant workers,” Sinapan said.
In their recommendations, the groups also suggested that the instrument provide protection for all migrant workers and members of their families regardless of their legal status, and eliminate practices of violence, discrimination and various forms of stigmatization.
“This instrument must also be gender-sensitive,” Yuyun Wahyuningrum of the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) said.
To effectively implement the instrument in Indonesia, the government must also ratify all migration-related ILO Conventions as well as the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Yuyun said.
This issue has been the cause of protracted debate between ASEAN member states for years, with the different political interests of each member state stalling many regional meetings on migrant workers.
The draft of the ASEAN Framework Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers was commenced at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur in December 2009, but negotiations have been stalled ever since.
An ASEAN senior officials’ meeting in Yogyakarta last month also failed to make any headway on migrant workers, reportedly due to the reluctance of the four states with a large influx of migrant workers: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei.
Singapore has openly rejected the idea of a free flow of people, citing fears that too many people would flock to the tiny city-state, while other nations, such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, have failed to show any serious interest in prioritizing human rights issues.
Indonesia, which this year chairs ASEAN, has been struggling to deal with this issue for years as millions of its migrant workers now work in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. –Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
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