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Asean civil society groups finalise migrant labour framework

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After two years of intensive consultation, an Asean civil society task force on migrant workers has handed in a detailed civil society framework instrument on migrant workers’ rights to the chairman of the Asean Senior Labour Officials Meeting in Vientiane, Laos. 

12 May 2009

Mr. Khamkhane Phinsavanh

Chairman, Asean Senior Labour Officials Meeting (SLOM)

Director-General, Labour Management Department

Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare

Vientiane, Lao PDR


Dear Director-General Khamkhane

The Task Force on Asean Migrant Workers (TF-AMW) has the great honour to present to you today the Asean civil society Framework Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers for the consideration of the Asean Member States and the Asean Secretariat.  Our proposal is based on the proceedings of two years of intensive consultations that include eight national consultations and seven regional consultations in Asean with trade unions, NGOs, mass organisations and civil society organisations.  We are particularly proud of this effort because the Framework Instrument is derived from a participatory, bottom-up and nationally focused approach.   Many of the provisions of the Framework Instrument had their genesis, in whole or in part, in specific recommendations made in national statements resulting from the national consultations conducted by the TF-AMW and its partners.   

The TF-AMW strongly supports the commitment of Asean to fully implement the Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers and pledges to continuously engage with Asean as partners on all efforts to bring the promise of the Declaration to full fruition.  We view the appointment of an Instrument drafting committee by the Asean Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW) as yet another positive indication of the dedication of the Asean Member States to substantively address the need for greater protections for migrant workers.  We support the timely drafting of the Instrument by the ACMW and give you our assurance that we will actively participate and engage in this process.  

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As Asean moves towards its goal of economic integration by 2015, it is both important and timely that these processes of protection for migrant workers are now moving rapidly forward.  We believe that a mutually beneficial agreement can be reached between the labour sending and labour receiving nations of Asean which will ensure that migrant workers are given a fair deal which includes respect for their rights and effective  protective mechanisms, in accordance with the vision of Asean as a sharing and caring community in which all persons are valued.  

The TF-AMW supports an Instrument that encompasses all migrant workers, regardless of documented or undocumented status, sector of work (i.e. informal work and domestic work), or origin.  We also recognise that migrant workers often have children and other family members accompanying them, and note that all Asean Governments have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw).  Therefore, we respectfully submit that all migrant workers and their families should be covered by the forthcoming Instrument.   The TF-AMW views that the alternative — which would be an agreement that essentially divides migrant workers into groups of people who are protected and people who are not protected — is a recipe for confusion and a regulatory morass that will be compounded by the challenges of cross-border engagement to protect their rights.   The TF-AMW has the opinion that it is far better is to craft an Instrument that offers one clear and comprehensive set of protections to all migrant workers.
In accordance with the Asean Charter which sets out the status of Asean as a legal organisation, the TF-AMW believes that the final Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers which is adopted by the Asean Governments should be a legally binding document.   
In developing the Asean civil society Framework Instrument, which we are proposing today, the Task Force and its national partners have attempted to develop a comprehensive set of ideas and proposals for the consideration of the national officials of the Asean Member Governments.  We recognise that the document that we have prepared is long and detailed but this reflects the seriousness with which we have approached this important task to provide the best, most thorough proposal to Asean.  We entrust our work today to the Asean Senior Labour Officials Meeting to provide to the Asean Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW), and other relevant national and regional bodies considering the protection of migrant workers, and look forward to a process of continuing dialogue and engagement with you.  

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With my highest respect,

Sinapan Samydorai
Convener, Task Force on Asean Migrant Workers
Tel: + 65 9479 1906  Fax: + 65 6425 0709
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.workersconnection.org

cc: H.E. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General, Asean

National Focal Points, Asean Committee on Migrant Workers




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