KUALA LUMPUR: Asean lawmakers today urged regional governments to step up efforts to protect migrant workers and refugees.
Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) board member Teddy Baguilat said both sending and receiving countries needed to do their part to end abusive recruitment and employment practices for migrant workers, and promote the security and rights of refugees fleeing persecution.
Baguilat, who is a member of the Philippines House of Representatives, said Asean and member governments had a duty to ensure that all people, whether their own citizens or those from other countries, were protected.
“This should include strengthening domestic and regional legal frameworks to provide security and enable people to pursue recourse and justice,” he said.
APHR undertook a fact-finding mission just over a month after the start of an ongoing crackdown on undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia, which it said already resulted in thousands of arrests.
It spent four days meeting with stakeholders, including civil society organisations, migrant and refugee communities, UN agencies, and local MPs, to assess the situation of migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking. It also explored potential regional solutions to the challenges that such individuals faced.
According to Philippines congresswoman Emmi de Jesus, many migrants lived in constant fear due to the ongoing crackdown.
“Poor treatment by law enforcement, including indefinite detention in abysmal conditions, are urgent concerns as well.
“Millions of migrant workers, both documented and undocumented, throughout Asean continue to be vulnerable to abuse because governments have failed to put in place the necessary protections,” she said, adding that this applied to both sending and receiving countries.
The MPs also called on Asean governments to adopt a binding regional treaty on migrant workers that protected both workers and their families.
Cambodia’s Senator Seng Mardi, said all Asean governments, including Malaysia, should ratify the UN Refugee Convention and fully commit to protecting and welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.
A former refugee himself, Mardi said it was upsetting to hear stories of refugees living without legal status or security, and in many cases without proper access to affordable healthcare, education or the means of earning a livelihood.