Conclude regional agreement to protect foreign workers, says Malaysian Bar

M-Ramachelvam-foreign-workersPETALING JAYA: The welfare of foreign employees can be enhanced if the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) formalises a decade-old declaration to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers, says the Malaysian Bar.

Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Committee chairperson M Ramachelvam said the Asean declaration was initiated in January 2007.

“Article 22 of the declaration tasked Asean with developing an instrument which is in line with the region’s vision of a caring and sharing community,” he said.

However, he added that Asean had failed to adopt the framework during a meeting in April this year.

“It is hoped that the instrument will be adopted at the next Asean Summit in the Philippines in November,” he said.

He told FMT this on the outcome of a meeting with representatives of the human resources ministry, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and local and foreign civil society members on June 16.

The meeting, held at the Malaysian Bar office, was in conjunction with International Domestic Workers Day and the sixth anniversary of the adoption of the ILO Convention No 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

Ramachelvam said the present arrangement of bilateral labour agreements did not adequately protect migrant workers or workers’ welfare, or ensure decent work for migrants.

“Also, current national laws and regulations of each nation do not provide adequate rights and protection for migrant workers.”

Therefore, he said, there was a dire need to have a binding Asean instrument to look into the welfare of migrant workers.

As of March 31 this year, there were 1.83 million migrant workers in Malaysia, including 132,580 individuals employed as domestic workers.

Ramachelvam said there are also several million undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia.