Indonesia has called on other ASEAN member countries, especially Malaysia and Singapore, to enhance regional cooperation and coordination to provide protection for migrant workers in the region.

“Under the spirit of ASEAN, we all should have the same willingness and hope in providing technical and social protection for all migrant workers. ASEAN should have a common instrument and policy to ensure the protection as stipulated in the Cebu joint agreement on protection of migrant workers,” Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri said in his address at the ASEAN labor ministerial meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

Hanif said that the 10 ASEAN member countries had continued to promote the protection of migrant workers through the joint handling of troubled migrant workers and the prevention of the sending of children as migrant workers.

He also expressed deep concern over the ASEAN agreement on promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers, which had not been signed.

“The spirit of togetherness is truly needed to improve the protection and promotion of migrant workers and in dealing with the exploitation and inhumane treatment of migrant workers. We need a spirit of togetherness in fighting human trafficking that has to be taken as an important agenda among member countries,” he said.

The minister warned that the free flow of workers and economic integration under the ASEAN Economic Community that would be implemented at the end of 2015 would make the labor issue more complex and the region should have a legally binding instrument to protect workers’ rights.

“Through the spirit of ASEAN, the sending of migrant workers is expected to make a positive contribution to the economic development of member countries,” he said.

The minister also urged ASEAN member countries to enhance bilateral and regional cooperation to improve workers’ competence and productivity in facing the ASEAN Economic Community.

“All ASEAN member countries should have a common view to encourage labor competence and productivity so that the labor sector can grow healthily in the future,” he said. (++++) — Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post,

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