Malaysia: Refusing to resolve migrant woes (Labour News) Fri, Dec 18, 2009
Malaysia: Refusing to resolve migrant woes
The 7-8 December
2009 ACMW Drafting Committee Meeting on a Framework Instrument on the
Protection and Promotion of Migrant Workers’ Rights in Kuala Lumpur ended in deadlock. The Malaysian
government continues to oppose the stance taken by its three Asean ACMW
partners (Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines) to include provisions
to protect the rights of all migrant workers and their families.
Aliran views the
government’s refusal to cooperate in protecting the human and labour rights of
documented and undocumented migrant workers and their families as a refusal to
solve the festering immigration and labour problems in the country.
The BN government's
overall negative policies, actions and attitudes do nothing to relieve ongoing
contentions in Malaysia’s
dealings with other Asean partners, particularly over its treatment of migrant
appears to have forgotten the labour shortage and slowdown in economic activity
after the 2004-2005 amnesty for the repatriation of “undocumented’ immigrants,
particularly those from Indonesia
which numbered over a million.
The Malaysian Trades
Union Congress (MTUC) says there are 2.1 million undocumented migrants in the
country and supports the institution of such an amnesty (Qatar News Agency, 6
December 2009). What will this sudden return of labour do to Malaysia’s
economy? Is there a local labour force equal in strength ready to step in
immediately to fill the gap left by the mass expulsion of migrant workers? We
would expect better from the MTUC than this kind of recklessness.
The denial of human
and labour rights and the harsh crackdowns and detention of documented and
undocumented migrant workers remain a bone of contention between Malaysia and a
majority of our Asean labour-sending neighbours whose citizens come here to
seek employment. Piecemeal bilateral deals with separate migrant labour-sending
countries will not do anything for Malaysia’s image in Asean or in the
wider international community.
The human rights
violations committed against foreign workers in harsh crackdowns by security
enforcers like Rela will only aggravate the sense of grievance felt by other
Asean nations. It will only widen the existing rift - arising from the
apparently unequal bargaining power - between the majority of seven migrant
labour-sending and the three receiving countries (Malaysia,
Singapore and Brunei) that are in a minority; Thailand falls
in both categories.
The drafting of this
new regional framework instrument is a golden opportunity to improve Malaysia’s
immigration and labour policies. The instrument could help to harmonise Malaysia's
diplomatic relations with the majority of our closest neighbours, who are
willing and ready to adopt a more positive and progressive common stance on
human and labour rights protection and promotion in the region.
Further, the ebbs
and flows of available labour - dependent on the Home Affairs Ministry's perceptions
of national security concerns - are too unpredictable to be of economic benefit
to the manufacturer sector, which needs a stable labour force. Industry incurs
large losses when faced with unplanned and sudden work stoppages due to the
arrest and detention of migrant workers. Cross-border human trafficking will
continue to thrive as long as no proper immigration control system recognising
different situations of migrants is established. Mass expulsions are a
simplistic panacea to complex problems arising from the mismanagement and
disorganisation of unplanned migration policies.
of irregular economic and other migrants (including asylum seekers and
refugees) can only save the country in economic, political as well as social
terms. The protection and promotion of human and labour rights for local and
migrant workers can bring multiple benefits to the nation.
The government must
cease this insular and retrogressive attitude if Malaysia’s aspirations to achieve
developed country status are to be realised. “Wawasan 2020” is certainly a very
long way off if we remain several steps behind our less developed neighbors who
are proving more progressive and forward thinking in dealing with the
complexities of labour mobilisation in the region.
Aliran urges the
Government to relinquish its present hard-line opposition to affording
protection and coverage for the rights of all migrant workers and their
families. The government should fulfil its obligations under Cedaw and the CRC,
the Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of Migrant Workers
Rights, the Asean Charter, the Bangkok Declaration on Irregular Migration 1999
and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 1998 that
all Asean member states supported, in addition to its general international
obligations as a member of the UN Human Rights Council and United Nations.
In addition, the
Government should consider ratifying the UN Convention on the Protection of the
Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
supports the call by international organisations and civil societies across the
region for a “people centred Asean” over a wealth-driven ASEAN. The peoples of
Asean are the region’s greatest wealth.
18 December 2009
2009, ALIRAN, Malaysia: Refusing to resolve