On International Migrants Day — which is observed on 18 December annually — the Malaysian Bar acknowledges the contributions of all migrant workers to the development of Malaysia as well as their home countries.
Malaysia hosts at least two million documented migrant workers and additionally, a huge number of undocumented migrants.
Migrant workers form an important part of Malaysia’s economy, in both the formal and informal sectors. It is therefore essential that Malaysia protects the jobs and livelihoods of these migrant workers, as anything less would adversely affect the survival of industries and businesses across the country, especially during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
We hope the government can continue to provide free Covid testing to all migrants and consider imposing a temporary moratorium on arrests of undocumented migrants. This is necessary to curb the spread of the virus at places of detention where physical distancing is almost impossible.
The Malaysian Bar commends the government’s move to enforce amendments to the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 to ensure that migrant workers have a safer standard of living.
In conclusion, the Malaysian Bar calls on the government to:
- Make public the report by the Independent Committee on the Management of Foreign Workers and implement its recommendations
- Implement the recommendations put forward by the Bar Council in its report titled “Developing a Comprehensive Policy Framework for Migrant Labour”, which include among others
– 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
– extending the Malaysian 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
- 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 UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015
- Accede to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted by the UN 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
- Adhere to the principles in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to which Malaysia is a signatory.
Salim Bashir is president of the Malaysian Bar
This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.