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Safeguard rights of migrant workers

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On International Migrants Day – which is observed on 18 December annually – the Malaysian Bar acknowledges the contribution of all migrant workers to the development of Malaysia and their home countries.

Malaysia hosts more than two million documented migrant workers, and there are an estimated five million undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia.

The undocumented migrant workers are very vulnerable and face numerous perils and challenges.

Therefore, the Malaysian Bar calls on the government to embark on a comprehensive programme to resolve the issue of undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia. The programme should include an amnesty and regularisation programme to enable undocumented migrants to be regularised. The continued inaction in resolving the issue of undocumented migrants compromises the human rights of this large group of people on our shores.

The Malaysian Bar notes that the Independent Committee on the Management of Foreign Workers has submitted its report to the government. The Malaysian Bar urges the government to make public the report and implement the recommendations of the independent committee without delay.

The Malaysian Bar supports the recommendation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) that the management of migrant workers be placed under the purview of the Ministry of Human Resources. The Malaysian Bar urges the government to carry out the recommendations of the MACC expeditiously. Work, not security, should be the cornerstone of the nation’s comprehensive policy on migrant workers.

The Malaysian Bar commends the government’s move in joining the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration which took place on 10-11 December 2018. The government should take the lead in implementing the provisions of this Compact to ensure that the rights of migrant workers in Malaysia are protected.

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Finally, the Malaysian Bar renews its calls to the government to do the following:

(1) Implement the recommendations of the Bar Council’s “Developing a Comprehensive Policy Framework for Migrant Labour”, which include among others:

(a) working closely with country-of-origin governments to fine-tune the recruitment system to ensure that migrant workers are recruited in a regular manner, and are equipped with the necessary skills in tandem with their employment, as well as knowledge on their labour rights and obligations

(b) extending the government’s legal aid programmes, including those of the Legal Aid Department (Jabatan Bantuan Guaman) and National Legal Aid Foundation (Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan) to cater for migrants and refugees in Malaysia

(2) Ensure full respect for the human rights and humane treatment of migrants, regardless of their migration status, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015

(3) Accede to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1990. This convention recognises and guarantees respect for the dignity and rights of all migrants, regardless of their national origin or immigration status

Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor is president of the Malaysian Bar

This piece dated 19 December 2019 is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.

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