Asean's empty declaration on migrant workers
The heads of state and government of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), attending the 12th Asean Summit on Jan13 in Cebu, Philippines came out with an Asean Declaration On The Protection And Promotion Of The Rights Of Migrant Workers.
It may have been reported in the media but then one can always turn around and say that the media got it wrong and it was not what was meant. We need to get our governments to lay down written policies (that are accessible to the public) for us to be really clear on what a government’s policy on a subject matter really is. In Thailand, the Cabinet made resolutions and this made policy clear but this is not so in Malaysia, and even if there were such resolutions, it has been kept away from the public.
A close reading of the declaration will reveal that they are only talking about migrants from Asean sending countries and specifically those that are documented or those that become undocumented later by no fault of theirs.
Undocumented migrants generally are also not covered and the only group of undocumented workers covered is made clear by the usage of the words [those that] have subsequently become undocumented, and with regard to families of migrants, it only addresses family members already residing with them, not new members of the family of migrants that may come to be in the future of that said receiving country.
As it is, there really seems to be no sense for this declaration to have the secretary-general of Asean to submit annually a report on the progress of the implementation of the declaration to the summit through the Asean Ministerial Meeting. What is he going to report, save that each of the Asean member states have complied what is required of them in accordance with the requirement of their respective countries laws and regulations and policies. There were really no specific requirements that had to be complied by Asean member nations within any stipulated time frame.
To be fair, there is an indication that an Asean instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers is to be developed but alas no time frame was set, and even if such an instrument is developed it must have in place a monitoring system, a complaints procedure and an adjudicating body with penalising powers that should be accessible to everyone, including the migrant workers and their families and not just Asean member states. We already have UN and ILO conventions dealing with the rights of workers, migrants or otherwise; and also migrant workers and their families that could very easily be adopted in toto or used as a basis for this upcoming Asean instrument.