Kuala Lumpur ASEAN CSOs-TUs Statement, 28 March 2007

30 Mar 2007   |  Consultations   |  Regional  

Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers


ASEAN Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)-Trade Unions
Regional Consultation Workshop
on Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers



“Forging and Strengthening Linkages among Migrant NGOs and Trade Unions”

28 March 2007, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


1.  To protect the rights and ensure just and fair treatment of migrant workers and their families, the participating trade unions and civil society organizations have committed themselves to closely and wholeheartedly collaborate in the vital effort to create a framework for protection of the rights of all migrant workers in ASEAN, in line with the commitment made by the ASEAN Governments in the Vientiane Action Plan, and the call for an “ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers” in the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. 


2.  Both trade unions and civil society organizations play vital roles in the daily lives of workers, especially migrant workers.  We help migrants find solutions to their problems and seek redress for injustice from their employers and the Government.  In both sending and receiving countries, we provide services to workers and their families in health, social services, skill development and capacity building, adult and child education, rights awareness, organizational development, and many other areas.  Throughout our engagement, we hold that a right-based approach that focuses on empowering migrants is the best course of action.   It is this commitment to seek justice for migrant workers, wherever they are in the ASEAN region, which underpins our efforts and drives the cooperative relationship we are setting out today.   


3.  We welcome the establishment of the Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers comprising of trade unions, human rights and migrant rights non-governmental organisations, and migrant worker associations. We stand prepared to collaborate with the Task Force in the development of a rights-based framework for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. 


4.  By joining hands today in what we expect will be a historic effort to support the rights and aspirations of migrant workers throughout ASEAN, we state clearly that the status quo of exploited, abused, isolated, and forgotten migrant workers, toiling long hours with little hope of earning a fair wage while all the time facing dangerous conditions of work, is not acceptable.  There must be a new deal for migrant workers in ASEAN, regardless of their origin or current documented status, which sets out in a binding framework the principle that migrant workers shall be guaranteed national treatment in their conditions of work and life outside of work.    


5.  Migrant workers are not commodities and should not be considered simple factors of production and services, but rather must be treated as human beings with rights, without discrimination in any form.  All the ASEAN Governments are bound by the UN Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) which promotes “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women.”  Through our efforts working with Governments, we hope to create an ASEAN Framework for the Protection of Rights of Migrant Workers that will give life to the commitments made under UDHR articles 22, 23, 24, and 25.   With the very welcome entry of Brunei Darussalam to ILO membership, all ASEAN governments are required as a condition of ILO membership to respect and comply with the core labour standards contained encompassed in the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.


6.  We believe that clear and appropriate mechanisms for practical implementation of the rights of migrant workers and dedicate ourselves to elaborate a Framework for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers in a comprehensive and consultative manner


7.  We welcome the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers as an important step forward to protect the human and labour rights of migrant workers within the ASEAN region.  Specifically, we commend the ASEAN Governments for taking a comprehensive approach which emphasizes that both the countries of origin of migrants, and the states in which they are employed, have important obligations to safeguard migrant workers\' rights, welfare, and well-being.

8.  We support the Declaration\'s clear commitment to protect the rights, dignity and welfare of migrant workers entering countries of destination, by among other things, providing access to services, fair and just terms and conditions of employment, decent living conditions, access to justice under international legal standards, and promoting tolerance between migrant communities and populations of the receiving state.   We further note that the Declaration’s mention of “social welfare services” should encompass health and social services.


9.  We further applaud the Declaration\'s focus on the obligations of sending states to expand their measures to protect migrant workers, including adopting policies and processes to fairly and effectively facilitate migration, and to take strong measures to end abusive practices by brokers, agencies, and employers in the recruitment, sending and placement of migrant workers. 

10.  We further welcome the \"Commitments by ASEAN\" section of the Declaration which sets out timely initiatives that we believe will contribute significantly to the most important Commitment listed which is to \"Promote decent, humane, productive, dignified, and remunerative employment for migrant workers.\"

11. We note the repeated emphasis of the Declaration on the importance of the national laws, regulations and policies of the ASEAN states.  We note that the eight core international human rights instruments all apply equally to migrant workers, and therefore we urge all ASEAN member states to ensure that their laws, regulations and policies on migrant workers are in compliance with those instruments. 


12. We would especially like to recommend that the ASEAN Governments adopt policies that align with the ILO Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration and comply with the core ILO Conventions.  As an important step to ensure national laws, regulations, and standards are in line with the spirit and intent of the Declaration to protect the rights of migrant workers, we calls on all ASEAN member states to ratify and implement the above-mentioned international instruments that provide protection to irregular and undocumented migrant workers, and members of migrant workers\' families. 


13. We notes that the Declaration is an important first step and we urge the ASEAN member states, in line with Principle 22 of the Declaration, to take effective and timely steps to implement a binding instrument on the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers in the region. In line with the spirit of the Declaration, we believe that such an instrument should include fundamental human and labour rights standards, and that its scope should be extended to include all migrant workers, including workers from non-ASEAN countries and those who are in irregular or undocumented situations.

14. We stand ready to cooperate with the Governments and the Secretariat of ASEAN to advance the effective implementation of the aspirations and commitments of this Declaration. In particular, we re-commit ourselves to rapidly and effective developing, through a participatory process, a draft ASEAN Framework for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers in line with the requirements of the Vientiane Action Plan.  We also look forward to working with ASEAN in the coming days, weeks and months ahead to develop an effective and binding multilateral instrument which will serve as an important pillar of the people-centered ASEAN, true to the principle of \"One Caring and Sharing Community\", to which we all aspire. 


15. We believe that developing an ASEAN Framework for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers will complement the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) and the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS).   Quite clearly, significant differences in the levels of economic development among ASEAN member states and the continued persistence of poverty in some nations naturally prompt people to seek better economic opportunities and livelihoods by crossing borders.   Not surprisingly, then, labour mobility has increasingly become a component of integration as barriers are being removed to facilitate freer movement of capital, goods, services and technology.   If handled correctly, labour mobility can help reduce the development gap provided that it is based on equality of treatment, non-discrimination, and protection of labour rights of migrant workers.  By providing much-needed labour to the economy of the receiving country, and sending remittances back to their home country, migrants provide direct benefits that assist in the development of both countries, and help reduce gaps in the level of economic development within ASEAN. 


16. Our determined coalition of advocates for migrants in ASEAN links an expansive network of civil society organizations with years of experience in migration issues in Asia with the organized strength of the rank and file national and regional trade union organizations.   We believe our strength will continue to grow to meet the challenge before us. 


17. The years of 2007-2008 will be decisive for forging the protection framework for migrants that will fulfil the ASEAN vision of a “sharing and caring Community” which offers so much promise to a better world in our national, regional and local communities for all persons living here. 


18. Migrants in ASEAN have struggled for far too long for their rights to be respected in our region – we will allow them to be ignored no longer.  We hereby pledge that together we will undertake to conduct advocacy, implement activities, and provide services that will result in the protection and empowerment of all migrant workers throughout the nations of ASEAN.  


Adopted by the following organizations gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 28 March 2007:


Regional Trade Unions:


1. ASETUC - ASEAN Service Employees Trade Union Council
2. UNI-APRO - Union Network International Asia-Pacific


National Trade Unions

3. FTUB - Federation of Trade Union, Burma
4. CTWSWF - Cambodian  Tourism Service Workers Federation
5. FTUWKC - Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia
6. ASPEK  -  Association of Indonesian Trade Unions
7. UNI MLC - Union Network International - Malaysian Liaison Council
8. UNI - PLC - Union Network International - Philippines Liaison Council
9.  Vietnam National Union of Commerce and Tourism
10. Vietnam National Union of Postal and Telecom Workers

Regional  Civil Society Organizations

1. Migrant Forum in Asia
2. Forum Asia
3. Caram Asia

National Civil Society Organizations

4. SBMI - Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia
5. CIMW - Centre for Indonesiam Migrant Workers
6. Suaram - Voice of Malaysia
7.  Malaysian Working Group on Migration/Aliran

8. Centre for Migrant Advocacy, Philippines
9. HOME, Singapore

10. Think Centre - Southeast Asia Migrant Workers\' Initiative, Singapore
11. TLC - Thai Labour Campaign, Thailand
12. Thai - APWSL Rangist Area, Thailand
13. VA PEC - Vietnam
14. National Institute of Labour Protection, Vietnam


Resources Person and Observers:

1. Mr. Josephus B. Jimenez, Labour Attache, Philippines Emabassy, Malaysia

2. Ms. Lotte Kejser, Cheif Technical Advisor,
   Combating Forced  Labour and Trafficking of Indonesian Migrant Workers, ILO Jakarta


3. United Nation High Commission on Refugees - Malaysia
   Mr. Tom Vargas  - Senior Regional Global Protection Officer
   Mr. Tiangchye Tan - Regional Protection Hub

4. Southeast Asia Regional Cooperation in Human Development [SEARCH] - Canada
   Mr. Philips Robertson Jr. - Technical Advisor
   Mr. Michael Miner -  Regional Director
   Mr. Peter Hoffman





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