Lao National Statement 3 October 2008

10 Oct 2008   |  Unused   |  Unused  

Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers

 

Lao PDR National Consultation

on the

Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers

Vientiane, Lao PDR

October 2-3, 2008

 

Background

 

The National Consultation of the Lao PDR was held on October 2-3, 2008 at the Dokmaidaeng Hotel in Vientiane, and was attended by more than 75 participants from mass organizations, civil society organizations, trade unions, and Government ministries.   The work of ASEAN on creation of an instrument to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers started in Vientiane, with the adoption of the Vientiane Action Programme in 2004 that called for this Instrument.  The National Consultation is proud about the important role the Lao PDR played in collaboration with its fellow ASEAN member states in adopting the VAP.  We reaffirm the importance of creating of a regional agreement in the form of an Instrument and we believe that when it is negotiated, this Instrument should be enforceable throughout ASEAN.   Labour migration will play a very critical role in the plans of ASEAN to bring about economic regional integration by 2015 and protection of the migrant workers is vital for ASEAN to reach its vision of a “sharing, caring community” that has been affirmed by our leaders.  

 

We note that all ten ASEAN countries have ratified both the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  Therefore, we reiterate the central importance of the Lao PDR and all ASEAN member nations to take all appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women migrant workers who are becoming a larger and more significant proportion of migrants in our region, and ensure that all provisions of the rights of migrant workers and their children are implemented in receiving countries.         

 

Our recommendations are as follows:

 

To the Government of the Lao PDR

 

  1. Government policies on migrant workers should be more developed in a participatory framework, such as a National Committee, in order to tap the knowledge and expertise of the many partners and stakeholders at the national level.   Migration is often wisely considered as a cross-cutting issue which affects many aspects of human existence – family and home life, work, economic resources, social engagement – and therefore we recommend the issues also requires special attention.  We recommend that all partners which should be formally included in the determination of policies and priorities include the representatives of youth, trade unions, women, civil society organizations, local community representatives, and others.  Clear focal points should be established by all national partners to work on issues of overseas migration.  We also recommend that the Government should convene at least once a year a consultation on the situation of migrant workers and the policies affecting them, and invite all partners, including civil society representatives.      

 

  1. The Government should place important priority on job creation and employment in the country, including support for small and medium level enterprises (SMEs), in order to promote more sustainable livelihoods that will provide an alternative to migration for employment.  

 

  1. The Government should ensure that all intending migrants are provided with comprehensive pre-departure education and support in order to better prepare them to understand their rights, and the employment and living situations they will encounter while abroad.  The types of assistance and education that should be practical and easy to understand by the workers.  This support should be provided by Government agencies, with the support from donors, mass organizations, civil society organizations and associations, and private labor recruitment companies. 

 

    1. From the beginning of the recruitment process, assistance should be provided in preparation of all documents that are necessary for the workers to complete.  Information should be provided about all key details of written employment contracts being offered to intending migrant workers so that they fully understand the wages, conditions, and circumstances of their work before they formally agree to the recruitment.  

 

    1. Once the intending migrant worker has agreed to be recruited, pre-departure training and orientation should be provided about labor laws and immigration regulations of the receiving country to which they will be going; the cultural norms and practices of the receiving country; and the rights and duties of foreign workers in the receiving country.

 

    1. As part of the recruitment process, information should be provided to the migrant worker about the contact details of Lao PDR Embassy in the receiving country.  Contact information about the representative(s) of the recruiting company both in Lao PDR and in the receiving country should also be given.  Where there are local civil society and trade union organizations in the receiving country who can assist migrant workers facing difficulties, the contact information for these groups should also be provided to the intending migrant worker. 

 

    1. The appropriate officials of the Lao PDR Government should also provide basic information to the migrant workers on practical aspects of health care as well as methods to prevent communicable diseases. 

 

    1. Information should also be provided about procedures about how migrant workers can most easily and affordably transmit financial remittances from the receiving country back to their families in the Lao PDR. 

 

  1. In order to ensure quality of the pre-departure training, the Government and its partners should develop a hand-book in the Lao language that details key aspects of pre-departure knowledge that the migrant workers should know, and contact information for migrant workers who need to call for assistance while in the receiving country.   This hand-book should be small and handy enough that it can be easily taken by migrant workers to the receiving country, where they can use it as an important reference for continuing education and dealing with abuse or emergencies. 

 

  1. The Government, in collaboration with the labor recruitment companies, should develop a basic curriculum on pre-departure training which covers all key areas, and uses the above-mentioned hand-book as a resource book. 

 

  1. The Government should promulgate a guideline that clearly sets out common procedures in securing documentation (such as passports) and sets uniform fees that are applied throughout the country, and should take prompt action against those who violate that guideline.

 

  1. The Government should implement a policy that allows application interviews for passports to be conducted in all three parts of the nation.  In the North, passport interviews should be conducted in Luang Prabang.  In the South, interviews should be conducted in Champassak, while for the central region, interviews should continue to take place in Vientiane. 

 

  1. The Government should strictly monitor and regulate the labour recruitment companies to make sure that they proceed with the labour recruitment processes in a timely way, and do not violate any laws or regulations.  Fees charged by labour recruitment companies should be reasonable and not exceed legal limits.  . 

 

  1. As part of the migrant worker mobilization process, the Government should require that a representative of the recruitment firm should physically accompany migrant workers to their overseas placement/employment, and ensure that dependable and safe transport is arranged to convey the worker to their work assignment abroad and on return back to Lao PDR.  The recruitment firm should provide in each case a report to the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare on the working conditions in each case.  

 

  1. For overseas workplaces where a group of Lao workers are present, a process should be encouraged (by the Government and recruitment agencies) to support workers’ organizations through which a senior Lao worker would be assigned to provide leadership, support and assistance to the other Lao workers. 

 

  1. The Government should set out more effective procedures and arrangements for regular monitoring by Government officials of the implementation of bilateral and multilateral Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) on sending of Lao workers abroad.  These officials should provide regular reports and recommendations for corrective action in cases where implementation practices are contrary to the terms of the MOUs or fail to protect and promote the rights of Lao migrant workers.  

 

  1. In instances where an overseas employer does not comply with the contractual obligations made to the Lao workers, or the receiving country’s national labour law, processes should be put in place which enable the workers to easily contact and seek assistance from representatives of the Lao recruitment company, and consular officers in the Lao PDR Embassy in that receiving country. 

 

  1. The role of the Embassies and/or Consulates of the LPDR in each country which receives Lao migrant workers is critical in ensuring the protection of those workers.   Each Embassy should be set up a Committee to Protect Migrant Workers, and should pro-actively perform the duties to protect the migrant workers.   The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should ensure that there is a clear assignment of responsibility for migrant workers to personnel at each Embassy, and should make arrangements for adequate personnel and financial resources to be made available for the work of the Committee. 

 

  1. The Government of the Lao PDR should set up a system of sending Labour Attachés to be stationed in each Lao Embassy in the receiving countries where there are a significant number of Lao workers present.   These Labour Attachés would be supported in their work by the Embassy’s Committee to Protect Migrant Workers.   The Labor Attachés should collaborate with the Government and local organizations in the receiving country to monitor the situation of Lao migrant workers in that country.

 

  1. For migrant workers that come from other countries to work in Lao PDR, the Government should improve the legal framework to make it more suitable for those migrant workers.  The Government should also set out more detailed arrangements and regulations for migrant workers who cross the border daily to work in the Lao PDR and return across the border to their homes at night.  Appropriate actions should be taken by the Government against those migrant workers which violate the laws and regulations of the Lao PDR.

 

  1. For the undocumented Lao workers who are returning from working abroad after departing Lao PDR through informal channels, the Government should ensure that all levels (village, district, and province) strictly comply with the Office of Prime Minister’s directive that prohibits collecting financial “penalties” or “fees” from returning migrant workers.   

 

To the Governments of Lao PDR and Thailand

 

  1. There should be a process of regular follow-up on the implementation of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Thai Government and the Government of the Lao PDR on Employment Cooperation, and appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that this MOU functions to effectively protect the rights of Lao migrant workers in Thailand.  

 

  1. The Government of Lao PDR should simplify the nationality verification process and lower the cost of obtaining temporary passports.   The Thai Government should also simplify the work permit application process and lower costs to the migrant workers.

 

  1. The Governments of the Lao PDR and Thailand should consider domestic work as an important area of work that Lao women workers are doing in Thailand, and should consider raising this matter in their next Senior Labour Officials Meeting. 

 

To ASEAN

 

  1. ASEAN should promote efforts by its member states to jointly formulate policies on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.  In order to manage this process, we see the need for a special committee on migrant workers issues to be established at the ASEAN level to manage all aspects of this work.  For this reason, we strongly welcome the creation of the ASEAN Committee to Implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, and we recommend that this Committee be made operational before December 2008 (as pledged by the ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting held in Bangkok in May 2008).

 

  1. The final ASEAN level MOU which should be adopted (as the Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers) should be reached by consensus and should be effectively implemented.   

 

  1. We recommend that ASEAN should establish effective measures that will promote better, more humane management of migrant workforces by employers.  ASEAN should also take all necessary steps, in coordination with the Governments of its member states, to ensure that employers respect the rights of migrant workers. 

 

  1. ASEAN should work with its member nations to develop a standard Employment Contract for migrant workers that acknowledges the principles of decent work and rights at work, and has provisions that are based on core labour standards set by the ILO.

 

  1. ASEAN should encourage all ten ASEAN nations to consider domestic work as “employment” that is included in their national labour laws.

 

  1. We recommend that ASEAN should develop a program to support vocational trainings in sending countries for workers planning to migrate to work abroad, and in this way, upgrade the quality of the migrant work force who are prepared to go overseas. 

 

  1. We recommend that ASEAN should also develop a program of capacity building on the topics of migration management and prevention of human trafficking which can be provided to Lao PDR Government officials that will enable them to more effectively carry out their duties. 

 

  1. In line with the Bali Concord II, ASEAN should understand recognize the importance of migration to the economic development of CLMV countries.  Therefore, we recommend that there should be a discussion at ASEAN about how to recognize the priority for placement of migrant workers from the CLMV countries.   

 

  1. We believe that ASEAN should play an important role in developing information about migrant workers in the region, and supporting the dissemination of information regarding the situation and circumstances faced by migrant workers in different countries.  This information should be regularly updated and should be translated into the different languages of migrant workers, and should be done for all countries of ASEAN.  For example, the regulations, laws and other information about migration in Thailand should be translated into the Lao language and the other languages of migrant workers who are living and working in Thailand.

 

  1. ASEAN should play an important role in encouraging and facilitating research about the situation of migrant workers and the problems they face, and support appropriate pilot projects to conduct this research.    

 

To the International Community

 

  1. We greatly appreciate the support and assistance of the Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers for their continuous engagement and technical assistance for this National Consultation, and to the member organizations of the Local Organizing Committee. 

 

  1. We commend the SEARCH project, and CIDA, for their support for this important National Consultation.  We recommend to the international community that they should continue to provide financial and technical support for capacity building for the Lao partners so that we can more effectively promote and protect the rights of Lao migrant workers in the future.  

 

Adopted in Vientiane, Lao PDR, 3 October 2008.

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