ACMW Workshop on Scope and Coverage and Rights of Migrant Workers

23 Mar 2009   |  ASEAN Migrant Workers   |  ASEAN  

Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers

March 23, 2009


The Honorable Secretary Marianito D. Roque

Department of Labor and Employment

Manila, Republic of the Philippines


The Honorable Pornchai Yooprayong

Chairperson, ASEAN Committee

on Migrant Workers (ACMW)

Deputy Permanent Secretary

Ministry of Labour

Bangkok, Kingdom of Thailand

Re: Workshop on Scope and Coverage and Rights of Migrant Workers


Dear Secretary Roque and ACMW Chairperson Pornchai,


On behalf of the Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers (TF-AMW), I write to sincerely offer my best wishes for a successful ACMW Workshop on the Scope and Coverage and Rights of Migrant Workers which we understand will be held in Manila on March 26-27.  The Task Force would like to take this opportunity to sincerely offer our views to the ACMW for your consideration on this extremely important topic which will guide the work to develop the forthcoming Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. 


As you already know, the TF-AMW is a civil society coordinating mechanism comprised of the major networks of NGOs, trade unions, migrant associations, and community-based organizations working on migration issues at the regional and national levels in ASEAN.   The TF-AMW has continuously engaged the ASEAN Member Governments and the ASEAN Secretariat since 2006 in a constructive partnership aimed at bringing forward the voices of ASEAN civil society in support of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.   During this process, the TF-AMW has conducted 7 national consultations and 7 regional consultations.  In all of the national consultations, representatives of the national Government have been invited and participated in the process.  We are now preparing for the 8th national consultation which is tentatively scheduled to take place in Singapore in mid-April.   


On the basis of our experience, we believe that to be effective, migration policy must be comprehensive.  Specifically, the TF-AMW has found that the most effective policies and laws regulating migration are precisely the ones that include all migrant workers in their scope.  This is because there are often barriers in language and comprehension which makes it difficult for migrant workers to fully understand the policies and laws regulating migration.  Systems of regulation which cover some migrant workers but not others are frequently a source of serious confusion and difficulties.  For this reason, we believe that the scope and coverage of the forthcoming Instrument should be made comprehensive and include all migrant workers and members of their families residing with them.    


This principle was affirmed by the ten nations of ASEAN as well as other Asia-Pacific countries in 1999 in the Bangkok Declaration on Irregular Migration, which declared that “Regular migration and irregular migration should not be considered in isolation from each other” and added that “migration, particularly irregular migration, should be addressed in a comprehensive and balanced manner, considering its causes, manifestations and effects, both positive and negative, in the countries of origin, transit and destination.”  The Bangkok Declaration committed the signatory nations to an approach that underlines “comprehensive, coherent and effective policies on irregular/undocumented migration have to be formulated within the context of a broader regional framework based on a spirit of partnership and common understanding.”  We believe that the regional Instrument that the ACMW has been requested to draft should be that “broader regional framework” called for in the Bangkok Declaration.


The TF-AMW respectfully commends to the ACMW the definition of a migrant worker contained in Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.   This Convention defines a migrant worker as “a person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national.”  We submit to you that this definition is comprehensive, clear, and concise, and merits your serious consideration.    


The TF-AMW respectfully submits that coverage of migrant workers by a regional Instrument should not be affected or determined by the type of work performed by the migrant worker, or the nature of the contract through which she or he is employed.  We note that temporary workers, domestic workers, informal sector workers, and self-employed workers comprise a significant number of the migrant workers in the region.  Therefore, we believe in order to develop a comprehensive policy, it is important to ensure that these categories of workers, who are often overlooked, are included in the coverage of a regional Instrument. 


The TF-AMW also notes that all ten ASEAN Member Governments have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  We further draw your attention to CRC General Comment 6, issued by the Committee of the Rights of Child for effective guidance to countries that have ratified the Convention, which states that all children present on the territory of a Government shall be extended the full protections under the CRC, regardless of status or origins of the child.   Therefore, we respectfully state that we believe migrant children should be fully covered, along with the other members of their family, in the provisions of the Instrument to be developed by the ACMW. 


Moving to the topic of rights and key principles to be covered by draft regional Instrument, the TF-AMW notes the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers makes the following prominent reference on the importance of international frameworks -- “Recalling also the Universal Declaration on Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly Resolution 217(A)(III) of 10 December 1948, as well as other appropriate international instruments which all the ASEAN Member Countries have acceded to, in order to safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”   The TF-AMW supports the vision of the drafters of the ASEAN Declaration because we consider the protection of the women migrant workers, and the children of migrant workers, as important central elements of a comprehensive and efficacious regional Instrument.  


To this list, the TF-AMW further calls the attention of the ACMW to the fact that all ten ASEAN nations supported the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work which was adopted unanimously by the ILO in June 1998.   The ILO Declaration sets out that the human rights of all migrant workers, regardless of their status, should be promoted and protected in line with the eight core ILO Conventions.  Accordingly, we respectfully submit the draft Instrument should be in harmony with these Conventions. 


Beyond these core rights and protections, the ACMW respectfully adds that the principle of “national treatment” as exemplified in Article 25 of the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families merits serious consideration by the ACMW as it moves forward with its very important work. 


Finally, let me add that the Task Force is working closely with our national and regional partners to develop a comprehensive civil society model Instrument in support of the future efforts of the ACMW and the ASEAN Member Governments.  We hope to finalize this draft Instrument and present it to the Senior Labour Officials Meeting (SLOM) in Vientiane, Lao PDR in May 2009, and to the ACMW.   I will be in further contact with you about the TF-AMW’s draft Instrument in the coming days. 


With assurances of my highest respects,



Sinapan Samydorai

Convener, Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers

Tel: + 65 9479 1906  Fax: + 65 6425 0709



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