Migrant Forum in Asia
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Email: mfa@mfasia.org | Website: www.mfasia.org

Civil Society Statement to the 30th ASEAN Summit

ASEAN Framework Instrument Now! Protect ALL Migrant Workers and Decent Work for ALL
Civil Society Statement to the 30th ASEAN Summit
April 2017, Manila, Philippines

On 13 January 2007, ASEAN Member States made a commitment to protect migrant workers’ rights and to promote decent, humane, productive, dignified and remunerative employment. This commitment was enshrined in the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. Article 22 of the Declaration called for the development of an ASEAN Instrument to advance the agenda of the Declaration. Migrant Forum in Asia welcomed this effort by the ASEAN Member States with hope that the Instrument will be developed without delay and that the process will be transparent and actively involve civil society and other stakeholders.

However, to the dismay of civil society, the development of the Instrument was done without the active participation of civil society and other stakeholders.

2017 is the 10th year after the adoption of the Declaration and yet to date the ASEAN Instrument to safeguard the rights of migrant workers has not been finalized. In the absence of a regional regulatory framework, the living and working conditions of migrant workers have been governed by national laws and regulations which do not provide adequate rights and protection for migrant workers and leave many of them unprotected and in precarious working conditions particularly undocumented migrants and migrant domestic workers who are often excluded from the scope of national laws and regulations. While ASEAN Member States forged bilateral labour agreements, these are not adequate to protect the rights of all migrant workers, commit to worker’s welfare and promote decent work for all migrants.

Meanwhile, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) insisted to focus only its freedom of movement provision to highly skilled/professional migrant workers which comprise a very small proportion of the migrant population in ASEAN as compared to those found in low-skilled sectors and informal economy that offer limited opportunities for upward mobility.

Many of them are women migrant workers who are increasingly migrating through irregular channels which expose them to greater risks. Protection of migrants’ rights remains inadequate, subjecting them to inhumane conditions such as low wages or withholding of wages, unlawful wage deductions, long working hours, overwork, poor living conditions, food deprivation, exposure to dangerous and hazardous work, poor health conditions including sexual and physical abuse among others. Migrant workers also do not have job security and remain transient workforce subject to involuntary or forced repatriation at employers ‘whims and during economic downturn, crisis and conflicts.

Further, children accompanying migrant workers and children who migrate independently are more often exposed to worst forms of child labour, including trafficking and debt bondage and work in hazardous conditions which put them in great danger, abuse and exploitation. They also lack access to basic social services such as education, housing and health care facilities.

As ASEAN Member States meet for the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila, we, the Migrant Forum in Asia, reiterates our call to adopt and implement a legally binding ASEAN Framework Instrument for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

Specifically, we call on ASEAN Member States to:

  1. Include ALL migrant workers (from ASEAN and non-ASEAN countries) and their families as well as all undocumented migrant workers in the scope and coverage of the Framework Instrument.
  2. Develop a regional plan of action to effectively implement the Framework Instrument and a monitoring and evaluation system such as annual report cards in regard to the compliance to the ASEAN Framework Instrument and its declaration.
  3. Harmonize national laws and policies to comply with the UN Migrant Workers Convention and ILO core labor standards, fundamental freedoms and rights at work including ILO Convention 189.
  4. Create easily accessible mechanisms for the regularizing of undocumented migrant workers and absorb them in the labor market.
  5. Repeal policies of contract termination and deportation on the grounds of pregnancy and communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. States must provide social protection that includes provisions for healthcare, disability insurance and medical insurance and wage security/assurance, and that promote safe working environments for all migrant workers and members of their families.
  6. Remove reservations clauses to the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child) given the increasing number of women migrant workers in the region who are working in precarious conditions. As States parties to CEDAW, all ASEAN Member States must utilize the guidance offered by CEDAW General Recommendation 26 on low-waged, low skilled women migrants. The instrument should reflect this commitment to address the specific working and living conditions of all women migrants.
  7. Implement concrete policies and measures to promote decent work for all and address the widespread unemployment and informalization of employment in the region.
  8. Develop programs and services to address the needs and protection of children of migrant workers and children who migrate independently.


Signed by:

  • Action Network for Migrant Workers (ACTFORM) – Sri Lanka
  • ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC) – Malaysia
  • Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) – Philippines
  • Asia Human Rights Development Foundation, Migrants Center – Nepal
  • Association for Community Development – Bangladesh
  • Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiative (ATIKHA) – Philippines
  • Batis Center for Women, Inc. – Philippines
  • Building and Wood Workers International
  • Caram Cambodia – Cambodia
  • Center for Indian Migration Studies – India
  • Center for Indonesian Migrant Workers – Indonesia
  • Center for Migrant Advocacy – Philippines
  • Center for Women and Peace Development – Cambodia
  • Community Development Services (CDS) – Sri Lanka
  • Counselling Centre Yangon – Myanmar
  • Friends of Women Selangor – Malaysia
  • Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation, Inc. (GWAVE) – Philippines
  • Good Shepherd Myanmar Foundation – Myanmar
  • Hope Workers Center – Taiwan, Province of China
  • Hsinchu Catholic Diocese Migrants and Immigrants Service Center
  • Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) – Thailand
  • Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) – Singapore
  • Kanlungan Center Foundation, Inc. -Philippines
  • Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anakan ng mga Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino -KAKAMMPI
  • Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW) – Cambodia
  • Map Foundation- Thailand
  • Migrant Care – Indonesia
  • Migrant Forum in Asia – Philippines
  • Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) – Myanmar/Thailand
  • Migration Working Group-Malaysia – Malaysia
  • Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions, Inc. (MMCEAI) – Philippines
  • National Domestic Workers Movement/ Migrant Forum India- India
  • National Workers Welfare Trust – India
  • Network for Transformative Social Protection – Philippines
  • North South Initiative- Malaysia
  • Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organisation – Pakistan
  • The PLAN: Public Legal Aid Network – Myanmar
  • POURAKHI Nepal- Nepal
  • Pravasi Nepali Coordination Committee – Nepal
  • Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia – Indonesia
  • Solidaritas Perempuan – Indonesia
  • St. Francis of Assisi Workers Center – Singapore
  • Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) – Singapore
  • UNI Apro – Singapore
  • Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Inc. – Philippines
  • WARBE Development Foundation- Bangladesh
  • Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Inc. – Philippines
  • Youth Action Nepal

About Us

MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

It is guided by a vision of an alternative world system based on respect for human rights and dignity, social justice, and gender equity, particularly for migrant workers.

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