Migrant workers’ rights: Asean fails to agree

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The Malaysian government appears to be standing in the way of an Asean consensus on the protection of the rights of undocumented migrant workers and their families, says our special correspondent

Sources in the Task Force on Asean Migrant Workers have told Aliran that the Asean Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW) drafting committee meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 7-8 December 2009 did not make any progress.

The Malaysian government continues to refuse to allow consideration of either undocumented migrant workers or families of migrant workers in the scope and coverage of the negotiations on the future Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

The day and a half meeting, hosted by the Malaysia Human Resources Ministry, saw a reiteration of the four governments’ positions (Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand advocating for coverage of all migrant workers and families of migrant workers — opposed by Malaysia), arguments and finally, continuing deadlock. The meeting decided that these points of contention should be referred for consideration by the entire ACMW — composed of focal points of all 10 Asean governments.  

It is unclear when or where that ACMW meeting will occur. The Malaysian government evidently offered to host that next ACMW meeting, but a final decision was not taken — and will not be taken until the Asean Secretariat completes and circulates the minutes of the 7-8 December meeting. Some of the governments raised concerns that the officials on the ACMW are not senior enough to decide this matter — but Malaysia insisted the matter should go next to the ACMW.

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If the ACMW cannot resolve this, then the matter will have to go next to the Asean Senior Labour Officials Meeting (SLOM) and possibly the Asean Labour Ministers Meeting (ALMM) — both of which are scheduled to take place in Hanoi, Vietnam sometime in May 2010.

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