First Meeting of the ACMW on the Drafting of the ASEAN Instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers

27 Mar 2009   |  ASEAN Migrant Workers   |  ASEAN  

Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers


                                             March 27, 2009


The Honorable Pornchai Yooprayong

Chairperson, ASEAN Committee

on Migrant Workers (ACMW)

Deputy Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Labour

Mit-maitree Road, Din Daeng

Bangkok, Kingdom of Thailand


Dear Deputy Permanent Secretary Pornchai,


On behalf of the Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers (TF-AMW), I write to express our support and best wishes for the successful efforts of the Drafting Committee of the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW) which is now starting its all important work to draft an Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers for ASEAN.   We greatly appreciate the opportunity to submit our views to the ACMW Drafting Committee meeting on April 1, 2009, in Bangkok, and look forward to holding a continuous dialogue with the ACMW and the Drafting Committee as the process moves forward.  


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.   We are also preparing a regional consultation to take place in Vientiane, Lao PDR to take place around the time of the ASEAN Senior Labour Officials Meeting (SLOM) in May. 


The purpose of the TF-AMW’s national and regional consultations has been to garner inputs to develop ASEAN civil society’s contribution to the ASEAN regional work to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers.   The civil society “Framework Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers” is now in its 5th draft, and I attach this for your review.    However, let me stress that this draft Framework Instrument is not yet final since the TF-AMW is still incorporating additional recommendations from civil society partners and we anticipate there will be some additional revisions.   The TF-AMW plans to finalize our Framework Instrument by May 1, 2009, and we will be requesting the opportunity to present this Framework Instrument at the meeting of the ASEAN SLOM in Vientiane.  


While I am sure that the ACMW Drafting Committee will examine our draft Framework Instrument in depth at the appropriate time, kindly allow me to take a moment to provide a brief summary.   There are four sections in our draft Instrument focusing as follows: 


“Obligations of Labour Receiving Countries.”

From the outset, a key recommendation  include ensuring that migrant workers are treated in accordance with the core labour standards of the ILO.  The Instrument calls for according “national treatment” to migrant workers in terms of wages and conditions of work, and instituting standard contracts for hiring migrant workers throughout the region.  The Instrument reaffirms migrant workers’ rights to hold their own passports and worker identification and calls for strong penalties against employers and others who seize these documents.   Furthermore, the Instrument seeks special attention to the challenges faced by particularly vulnerable migrant domestic workers.   Other areas where action is sought include ensuring provision of health care for migrant workers and their families, guaranteeing safe and hygienic accommodation and living conditions, making certain there are effective systems of inspection, and providing migrant workers with effective access to legal systems and justice.  


 “Obligations of Labour Sending Countries.”

These are understood to include effective pre-departure training systems and programs.  Efforts should also be focused on vocational training and capacity building, especially for the CLMV countries.  These elements are part of a larger set of requirements related to deployment of effective systems to  regulate migrant workers’ departure to work in another country as well as their return and reintegration to their origin country.   The Instrument also urges Governments to institute effective accreditation and regulation processes to oversee labour recruitment agencies in order to prevent abuses.  Another area for action is to ensure systems of protection for migrant workers, through deployment and pro-active efforts of committed labour attachés or other staff at sending country Embassies in labour receiving countries. 


“Joint Obligations of Labour Sending and Labour Receiving States.”  

Among the areas where action is recommended is effective regulation of labour recruitment agencies; institution of  practical and effective grievance systems that can be used by migrant workers; development of schemes to facilitate the migration of skilled labourers and recognition of their skills;  effective suppression of human trafficking;  and setting up easy-to-access systems to facilitate transfer of workers’ remittances and creation of safe institutions where migrant workers can save their money. Finally, and importantly, the section calls for member states to harmonize their national labour laws with international labour standards. 


“Commitments by ASEAN.” 

This section discusses administrative requirements, such as reporting and encourages participatory systems that include ASEAN civil society, both at the national and regional level.   The Instrument also explores some of the possibilities for future ASEAN systems to protect migrant workers (such as an ASEAN worker ID, hotline, portable insurance).   Concerning the forthcoming ASEAN Human Rights Body, the Instrument recommends the creation of an AHRB Subcommittee on the Rights of Migrant Workers.  The Instrument lays out systems that could be further developed by ASEAN to manage the responsibility (set out in the ASEAN Declaration on Migrant Workers) for mutual cooperation among ASEAN countries in assisting migration workers from ASEAN when they are toiling in countries that are outside ASEAN. 


Obviously, this is just a short summary of civil society’s Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of Migrant Workers, which now stretches to 36 pages and 184 articles. 


As a representative of ASEAN civil society organizations working on migration matters, the Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers looks forward to a process of continuous engagement with the ACMW and the Instrument Drafting Committee.  We greatly appreciate the opportunity to present our views, and we stand ready to work closely with you in the coming months to help forge an Instrument that will truly provide the protections to migrant workers throughout ASEAN.   Of course, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the TF-AMW or the 5th draft of the Framework Instrument that we are presenting today. 


With assurances of my highest respects,



Sinapan Samydorai

Convener, Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers

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




cc:        Members, ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers

            H.E. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General, ASEAN

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