Uphold rights of migrant workers, Bar tells Putrajaya

The Malaysian Bar has called on the government to work closely with the source countries of foreign workers to fine-tune the recruitment system. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Bar, in praising the government for several migrant worker friendly moves, today called on it to also implement its proposal to develop a comprehensive policy framework for migrant workers.

Its president George Varughese said this included providing a comprehensive amnesty programme to allow all undocumented migrants currently in the country to be regularised.

He said the government should also extend the services of its Legal Aid Department and National Legal Aid to migrants and refugees in Malaysia.

In addition, the proposal calls on the government to work closely with country-of-origin governments to fine-tune the recruitment system to ensure migrant workers were recruited in a regular manner, were equipped with the necessary skills and knew their labour rights and obligations.

Putrajaya should also ensure the humane treatment of migrants regardless of their migration status, and it should accede to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec 18, 1990.

Varughese’s statement comes as nations observe International Migrants Day today.

Saying the Bar acknowledged the significant contribution of all migrant workers to the development of Malaysia and their home countries, Varughese commended the government, specifically the ministry of human resources, for its initiative in setting up the Independent Committee on Foreign Workers, which is tasked with coordinating and streamlining the overall policies and management of migrant workers.

He noted that two members of the Bar, M Ramachelvam and Selvaraja Chinniah, had been appointed to the committee.

The Malaysian Bar, he said, was happy with the ministry’s announcement in May that the Employment Act 1955 would be amended to make it compulsory for employers to provide accommodation facilities for migrant workers.

“We urge the government to ensure that migrant workers have adequately sized, clean, hygienic and secure accommodation.”

He described as “timely” the ministry’s decision to repeal the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952 and to extend the Employees’ Social Security Act 1969 to give migrant workers protection under the Social Security Organisation (Socso) from Jan 1, 2019.

He also applauded the government’s move to join 180 other nations of the United Nations to adopt, on Dec 17, the Global Compact on Refugees.

“We call on the government to take the lead in implementing the provisions of this compact to address refugee-related issues in the country, especially in providing work rights, education for refugee children, as well as better and affordable healthcare for refugees. We also look forward to Malaysia and other countries in the region committing to sharing the responsibility to address issues pertaining to the Rohingya.

“We urge the government to take a proactive and positive approach on this compact, to ensure the rights of migrant workers in Malaysia are upheld.”