The Indonesian government is urging ASEAN member nations to implement the 2007 Cebu Declaration to protect migrant workers in the region.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said in a speech to the ASEAN Labor Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Thursday that Indonesia would continue to support ASEAN’s committee on migrant workers as it implemented the declaration and International Labor Organization (ILO) standards to provide protections to migrant workers.  

“We know that migrant workers, who are particularly vulnerable, have contributed socially and economically to both destination and sending countries in ASEAN. Therefore, it is a must for ASEAN to put in place an operational instrument to promote and protect their rights before 2015,” he said.

Muhaimin was referring to the poor protection of migrant workers, including those from Indonesia, in Malaysia.

Indonesia issued a ban on allowing Indonesians to work in Malaysia from 2006 to 2011 following rampant violence directed against migrant workers in the nation. Despite the recent lifting of the ban, the government has suspended the resumption of sending Indonesian workers to Malaysia until it received assurances that Malaysia would protection its workers.

The government has been under fire and urged to freeze the diplomatic ties with Malaysia following the recent shooting deaths of three Indonesians in Negeri Sembilan.

According to the ASEAN Migrant Workers Task Force, eight Indonesian women migrant workers have died in work-related accidents in Singapore in the past four months alone.

Cambodia has also issued a ban on its citizens seek work in Malaysia following the torture of a Cambodian migrant worker in that nation last year.

The minister also asked the committee to facilitate coordination among member nations in implementing the declaration and its evaluation.

According to the declaration, which was signed by all of ASEAN’s member nations in Cebu, the Philippines, in January 2007, receiving states and sending nations are required to strengthen the political, economic and social pillars of the ASEAN Community by promoting the potential and dignity of migrant workers in a climate of freedom, equity, and stability in accordance with the laws, regulations, and policies of respective ASEAN member nations.

It also stipulates that receiving and sending states must take into account the fundamental rights and dignity of migrant workers and their family members already residing with them without undermining the application of the receiving states of their laws, regulations and policies; and nothing in the present declaration shall be interpreted as implying the regularization of the situation of migrant workers who are undocumented.

Muhaimin also underlined the importance of Indonesia’s commitment to implementing the ASEAN Labor Ministers’ 2010–2015 Work Plan and benchmarking the international instruments such as 1990 UN Convention on protection of migrant workers and their families and ILO Convention No. 189/2011 on decent work for domestic helpers in the region.

“In addition, the issue of youth employment is also very important for ASEAN member states. We could explore possible collaboration on youth employment from the skills development and social protection perspective,” he said.

David Peters, (right), and Luke Whited, a gay couple who were joined in a civil union in their home state of Illinois, show their rings inside the Bourbon Pub, a gay bar, after being interviewed about Obama’s statement of support of gay marriage, in New Orleans, on Wednesday. –Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post