‘Address migrants’ rights in ASEAN’

National 3 minutes, 18 seconds


BRUNEI’S Social Welfare Council (MKM) earlier this week joined other civil society organisations in urging the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) to seriously address the human rights and root causes of migrants in the region.

The call was made at the Eighth Regional Consultation on Migration and Human Rights in ASEAN held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Monday and Tuesday.

In a press release issued yesterday, MKM said the civil society organisations felt compelled to advocate for effective and binding instruments to protect the rights of migrants as well as promote greater protection and recognition.

“ASEAN cannot claim to be people-oriented if a large group of migrants remains excluded in the upcoming AEC,” remarked the council.

MKM reiterated that it has become imperative for civil society organisations to advocate for the inclusion of a human rights-based approach across the work of the political security, economic and socio-cultural committees in the regional bloc.

According to the Task Force on Migrant Workers in ASEAN, around 87 per cent of migrant workers in the region are in semi- and low-skilled jobs, where low wages and exploitation are widespread.

They also found that 60 per cent of all workers in ASEAN generally do not have social protection. Around half of the migrants in the region are women with up to 73 per cent originating from Indonesia and the Philippines.

“Women are more likely to migrate into exploitable, low-paid, informal work with domestic work being the largest form of employment for women migrant workers in the region,” said MKM.

The civil society organisations also called for marriage migrants to be included and recorded into the ASEAN Migration Framework in light of the increasing number of transnational marriages in the region that “has become apparent”.

“Often times, these women are unaware of their rights and denied access to legal and protection services,” added the council.

The consultation acknowledged the risks involved in marriage migration, which poses significant socio-economic challenges, particularly to vulnerable women who are exposed to abandonment, abuse and violence, dependency, as well as exploitation, due to being undocumented.

Among the objectives of the consultation was to identify, map and scope the human rights issues faced by migrants in ASEAN ahead of the AEC’s launch this year.

The establishment of the AEC in 2015 is one of the major projects of ASEAN that aims to integrate the regional bloc’s diverse economies.

AEC supporters argue that if the integration succeeds, the region – boasting a population of some 600 million people and a combined gross domestic product of USD2.4 trillion – could become the fourth largest economy in the next few years.

MKM First Vice-President Nur Judy Abdullah said the consultation focused on the AEC’s blueprints that predominantly promote the business and investment agenda, free-trade agreements and use of workers.

She explained workers, particularly migrants and women, are often exploited for cheap and flexible labour, leading to unsustainable and unfair wages.

Nur Judy, who attended the consultation through the sponsorship of the organisers, said these workers also face inhumane working conditions, abuse, violence and mistreatment in both sending and receiving countries in ASEAN.

Brunei’s ASEAN commissioner for children, cum chair of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), was also invited to give a talk.

Datin Paduka Hjh Intan Hj Mohd Kassim, who is also president of MKM, delivered a talk on ‘The Prospect of Network for Social Service Agencies (NOSSA) in Protecting People in Migration’ during the consultation.

“NOSSA is potentially a very good project that can help protect people in migration but it is facing many challenges in its implementation due to constraints in getting sufficient funding,” she said.

The network was formed to strengthen the provision of support on social welfare services to women and children who were victims or survivors of violence and their families in ASEAN.

Participants at the consultation represented more than 60 organisations from ASEAN and international NGOs.

The Brunei Times