|CARAM Asia Statement on International Migrantsí Day|
KUALA LUMPUR 18 Dec, 2007: All State and non-State parties should proactively end the persistent violence against migrant workers across the globe. In an increasingly globalised world, migrant workers face intersectional discrimination of class, race and gender. As remittances from migrants continue to be viewed as a tool for development, the governments are, in turn, not meeting their obligations to create employments and work towards sustainable development. This has resulted in a heighten push for commodification of migrants by sending countries, whereby their human security and rights are discarded in the name of development. Due to that migrant populations have emerged as a vulnerable group to various forms of violence including physical abuses, sexual violence, forced labour, trafficking, and physiological abuses at all stages of migration.
In less than three decades, owing to rapid economic-political globalisation, Asia has seen an increase in the number of women migrating in quest for employment and livelihood. Women migrants make up fifty percent of the international migrants population. With increasing numbers of women leaving their countries, especially from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, Asia has become one of the world’s largest sources for female domestic workers. The contemporary form of migration forces women to leave their home country alone. They take up domestic work to support their families and communities, and they unknowingly enter into a work environment infused with violence and discrimination.
State sanctioned employer sponsorship system leads foreign domestic workers (FDWs) into solitary confinement at their workplace, rendering them completely vulnerable to all forms of abuses from employers. Lack of State enforcement against unscrupulous recruitment agencies exploiting FDWs, and against those who are often playing the role of traffickers, exemplifies a growing problem of violence against women that is not being systematically addressed. The cases of violence against FDWs reported have underscored horrifying abuses. In most instances, perpetrators are not criminalised. Furthermore, cases of violence against FDWs are underreported.
The growing trend concerning State sanctioned violence against migrant workers is evident in receiving countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and now even in South Korea. Since December 2006, southern Provinces of Thailand including Phuket, Surat Thani, Ranong and Rayong has since introduced legislation that singled out groups of migrant workers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia. In Malaysia, people’s volunteer corps, RELA, is used as a means to enforce deportation policies as well as have been known to carry out violent crackdowns against migrant populations. Now, in South Korea, the government revised the immigration law to allow law enforcement agents to question foreigners based on suspicion alone, without having to produce a warrant, and that is further discriminating migrant workers.
Additionally, to the detriment of migrants’ health and worker’s rights, health concerns of migrants in particular HIV and AIDS are increasingly dealt with as part and parcel of foreign and security policies. Protectionist policies such as mandatory testing carried out on pretence of protecting local communities against communicable diseases must be critically questioned and removed. These policies are aimed at restricting liberty of movement and the right to work. Policies that fail to include a public health and rights perspective reinforces stigma and in turn makes them more vulnerable to violence.
CARAM Asia believes that migrant workers should enjoy the same basic rights as everyone else. CARAM Asia and partners calls for the immediate action on the part of States to ratify the United Nations International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. This convention recognises the entire migratory process, including migrants’ right to access health services.
Specifically, we recommend:
Finally CARAM Asia urges States to collaborate with civil society, NGOs, and migrant workers associations to realise human rights for migrant workers after the inclusion of the above recommendations.
CARAM Asia is an open network of NGOs and CBOs, consisting of 27 member partners covering 16 countries in Asia and the Middle East. The CARAM Asia network is involved in action research, advocacy and capacity building with the aim of creating an enabling environment to empower migrants and their communities to reduce HIV vulnerability and to promote and protect the health rights of Asian migrant workers globally. Visit www.caramasia.org for more information on CARAM Asia.
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