Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
defending migrants’ rights, building new global solidarity
International Migrants’ Day 2009
Today, December 18, 2009, Migrant Forum in Asia with its 290 member-organizations and partners celebrate International Migrants’ Day (IMD) as culmination of the Migrants’
All over Asia, MFA members and partners have planned and carried out various programs and activities as a build up to the International Migrants’ Day. Rallies, discussion forums,
press conferences are some of the usual fare. This year, in Indonesia, the Center for Indonesian Migrant Workers (CIMW) held a public dialogue on Legal Protection for Indonesian Migrant Worker on December 13. The dialogue had workers, their families, and local government officials discussing migrant workers’ rights as well as social and systemic responsibilities. “We wanted more Indonesians to know what being a migrant worker means, especially the rights.”
In Bangladesh, the Association for Community Development (ACD) and WARBE Development Foundation spearhead the celebration through a media campaign, discussion meetings, workshop on problems and prospects of migrant families, a rally and organizing popular theater (Gamriva) at different points of border belt areas on HIV/AIDS, cross border migration and trafficking, and domestic work. Kav LaOved in Israel co-organizes the “Tel Aviv
Cinematheque”, now in its 9th year, with movies focusing on migrants and refugees, an
international food festival prepared by the local migrant community, panels on migration policies and activities for children. The event brings together migrants, refugees and Israeli human rights activists.
“Join us in an outdoor picnic, the best sort of event to meet friends from all over the
world. Relax and enjoy an afternoon of fun and food!” So goes the invitation of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) to a refreshing way to celebrate IMD. TWC2 and HOME have been receiving, sheltering, counseling and giving legal assistance to migrants in Singapore who experience abuse and rights violations.
In Cambodia, the Legal Services for Women and Children (LSCW), together with the Cambodian Women for Peace and Development (CWPD), are hosting Migrants’ Day in two districts, Prey Veng and Kampong Cham, with marches and forums on migrant workers’ rights. Government agencies and recruitment agencies have been invited to participate. “Domestic Work is Work” and “Domestic Workers are Workers” are their key messages.
In the Philippines, the Regional Secretariat and the Center for Migrant Advocacy are launching a campaign poster highlighting the recommendations made by the Committee on Migrant Workers during its review of the Philippines’ compliance to the Migrant Workers’ Convention in April. The launch will take place in a forum that is being organized by the Inter-Agency Committee composed of government agencies and NGOs for the celebration of December as the month of overseas Filipinos and international migrants' day.
MFA’s “Recognition of Domestic Work as Work” campaign will also have an international launch in Hong Kong during a public rally on December 20. MFA coordinates the Asian Domestic Workers Alliance (ADWA) at the regional level and an International Working Group on Domestic Workers (IWG-DW) at the international level.
The Joint Committee with Migrants in Korea (JCMK) celebrates with a press conference, free speech of migrant groups including EPS migrant workers, marriage immigrants, and migrant children, a Celebratory Convention for IMD 2009 for interaction between migrants and Korean society, a Migrant Song Festival and the launching of a book on migrants.
These are some of the ways MFA members and partners remember and highlight the crucial role and contributions of migrant workers in building the economies of both sending and receiving countries, and supporting the societies within which they find themselves. Asia is expected to have 61.3 million migrants in 2010 and it is where the 3 major sending countries can be found: India, China, and the Philippines .
Advances in migrants’ rights advocacy
Recalling the promise the Migrant Workers’ Convention brought for migrants’ rights to be recognized and respected by employers, governments and all, MFA takes note of some advances within this region toward this goal. MFA commends the government of Bahrain for its policy shift in April this year, revising the sponsorship (“kafala”) system and allowing foreign workers to transfer from one job to another independent of their sponsors, lifting all restrictions that were previously applicable. This is a historic first step that must be emulated by the other governments in the Middle East which have promised major labor reforms but have yet to finalize and carry out these plans. The governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are currently in the process of crafting a policy to protect migrant domestic workers. It has been declared illegal in Qatar and the UAE for employers to withhold the passports of migrant workers.
MFA also takes note of the bilateral agreements being forged between sending and receiving countries, such as the negotiations between Malaysia and Indonesia, and the willingness of the former to legislate a day off for domestic workers. MFA however, calls on the Malaysian government to recognize the right of migrants to join and form their own trade unions.
In November, the ILO Governing Body affirmed the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association recommendation for the South Korean government to allow the prompt registration of the Migrant Trade Union as a legitimate trade union and also to end targeted arrests and deportations aimed at interfering with the MTU activities.
The Philippines and Sri Lanka were reviewed this year by the Committee on Migrant Workers for their compliance to the Convention and the results serve to emphasize that much needs to be done in terms of implementation and monitoring when policies are in place.
Developments within regional bodies are also significant. The ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers – Drafting Team has had its third meeting early this month although it ended on a stalemate. The ASEAN has also institutionalized the ASEAN Forum on Migration and Labor which had its second gathering on July 29-30. Civil society groups from South Asia gathered in November to formalize a South Asian Migration Commission. These efforts point to the increasing importance that migration and its effects are gaining in the collective consciousness.
At the international level, the campaign for the rights and dignity of domestic workers intensifies as we approach 2010 when the ILO in its 2010 and 2011 ILC will consider the adoption of a Convention for Domestic Workers that will set the internationally accepted standards of protection for migrant and local domestic workers.
During its 12th Session in September, the UN Human Rights Council also held a thematic panel discussion on the human rights of migrants in detention centers which highlighted the practice and conditions, and human rights violations related to the detention of migrants who are criminalized, stigmatized, and should not be detained at all.
Continuing the struggle
The global financial crisis and the increasing threat of climate change to peoples’ mobility significantly impacted migrants this year, intensifying the need to continue the struggle.
Migrant workers comprise one of the most vulnerable groups exposed to racial-, gender-, and class-based discrimination and violence. With the global economic crisis came the destabilization of the economy, social cohesion and increased human rights violations. Irregular, undocumented and “unskilled” migrant workers receive the greatest negative impact. Aside from low/unpaid salaries, inhuman working and living conditions, lack of protective policies in receiving countries especially in terms of access to redress or legal assistance, arbitrary detention and torture, the lack of basic necessities such as health care, and not being able to exercise freedom of association and freedom of speech, they are now in constant threat of unemployment, underemployment and deployment back to their home countries. Many have refused to go back, preferring to take odd jobs, cut downs on wage and working hours and risk debt bondage and getting caught. The threat of continued global recession brings forth higher rates of unemployment, leaving thousands of migrant workers without a job and without financial security. ILO predicts that approximately 50 million migrant workers could lose their job due to such economic turmoil.
Among migrants moreover, domestic workers are the most exposed and at risk owing to the nature of their jobs. Millions of domestic workers, especially women domestic workers, are disadvantaged by the exclusion of domestic work from receiving countries’ labor laws and
restrictive immigration policies. They also face multiple barriers to redress from the justice systems in host countries. MFA has been campaigning for the rights of domestic workers and the recognition of domestic work as work since its foundation in 1994. MFA continues to call receiving countries in Asia to act on their proposals and promises to make concrete and enforceable the protection that domestic workers are entitled to.
The increased threat of climate change to communities and peoples has also impacted on mobility and development. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, speaking at the Global Forum on Migration and Development in November said, "Negotiations have recognized that migration is a likely consequence of climate impacts." Forced migration resulting from climate change is not just an environmental issue; it is a human rights issue that needs to be addressed fast. MFA reiterates its call for climate justice, social sustainability and respect for human rights in the climate change discourse.
Building global solidarity
The global economic and climate crises, however, presents us an opportunity to create a new perspective on global solidarity around the issue of human rights and migration. In response to the continued disrespect for and violation of their rights, migrants, migrant families, migrant communities and advocates for migrants’ rights need to have a new way of looking at things --
beyond the rhetoric and beyond the myopic vision of national sovereignty -- towards forging new ties and partnership strategies for engagement.
As International Migrants’ Day 2009 is celebrated, MFA calls on governments…
o to ratify the UN Migrant Worker’s Convention and harmonize national laws to ensure the
protection and promotion of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families; o to provide an efficient and accessible process to report acts of violence and other rights violations of migrant workers;
o of sending countries to legislate and implement protection policies for their nationals working in another country; in particular, to empower their diplomatic and consular personnel in re-imagining their roles and responsibilities in their extended jurisdiction towards more effective service;
o of receiving countries to enact laws and policies that will respect all the human and labor rights of migrant workers, ensuring equality of treatment and opportunities based on ILO Convention No. 97.
MFA specially calls on all states and governments to start incorporating domestic workers in the purview of their national labor laws in preparation for an ILO Convention on Domestic Workers, along the lines of the universally-accepted standards identified in the fundamental and core conventions of the ILO.
Migrant Forum in Asia celebrates the hope and the promise that the International Migrants’ Day brings to migrant workers and their families, and all who struggle with them, toward a new global community based on social justice and solidarity.
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
18 December 2009
For more information, please contact the MFA Secretariat:
Mr. William Gois
85 C Masikap Extension, Central District
Quezon City 1100 Philippines
Telefax: +63 2 4333508
Phone: +63 2 928-2740
MFA Mobile: +63 921 540 5063