Malaysia hampering document on migrant worker rights

Foreign-workers1KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia appears to be among several countries preventing an instrument, which would protect the rights of migrant workers in the Asean region, from becoming a legally binding document.

This is according to Adrian Pereira, who is director of human rights group North-South Initiative (NSI).

Pereira said sentiments picked up from closed-door discussions suggested that Malaysia was hampering the instrument, which stemmed from the Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers in Cebu 10 years ago.

He said there were certain topics which the Malaysian government felt were tricky, “and that they are not ready to provide specific rights in black and white”.

The topics, he said, included protection for undocumented migrant workers, especially those who come into the country through illegal channels.

“Where human rights stand in this, is that whether or not they come in through illegal channels, they have rights.

“Another (topic) was how to provide protection for families of migrant workers.

“There is no way the Malaysian government will allow undocumented migrants to bring in their families, as even for documented migrants, there are restrictions,” he said at a press conference here today.

Pereira noted that the situation was different for those who had expatriate working visas, as they would be able to bring their families.

However, he said those with a different visa would not have certain privileges.

“A legally binding document has implications, as opposed to one that is just morally binding.

“Most countries have already agreed for the instrument to be legally binding.

“Malaysia is leading the pack of countries preventing this from happening,” he said.

His remarks followed the launch of a report titled “Towards A Comprehensive National Policy on Labour Migration for Malaysia”.

The report came about after a series of consultations that took place last year with all stakeholders on the main aspects of migration, organised by the Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition.

According to Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s Rani Rasiah, the series of roundtables focused on recruitment, employment rights, undocumented labour, arrest and detention, social security, health and housing, family, children and socio-cultural rights.

Representatives from different ministries and government agencies, embassies, employers’ organisations, workers’ organisations, migrant workers, civil society and the academia attended and contributed to the roundtable.

“We already asked for an appointment with the human resources ministry two months ago. We will try and push for a meeting,” Rani said.

“Also, we would like to meet with the cabinet committee on foreign workers and illegal immigrants. Talking to the ministry alone will not be enough.

“We will try and meet the embassies of the sending countries, who are also trying to get a better deal for their workers.”