|The International Community Must Guarantee Rights of All Migrants|
Kuala Lumpur, May 1st 2009: As the international community seeks to mark the achievements of workers throughout the world, CARAM Asia calls on all governments to recognise their responsibility to migrants within their borders and to immediately sign and ratify legislation to guarantee the protection of all foreign workers. Whilst governments and corporate entities continually profit from the use of cheap unskilled labour, migrant workers are placed under exploitative employment contracts that frequently denies the worker the most basic of labour, health and social rights.
As the current financial crisis continues to take hold on the global economy, migrant workers frequently find themselves one of the most vulnerable demographics to the economic downturn. Bound by short term contracts and a lack of legal protective mechanisms, migrants around the world are now being retrenched in the millions as governments seek to protect their national employment rates. Malaysia among others, has continued to deny foreign workers any reasonable form of compensation which only further exacerbates the situation. Coupled with this is the fact that countries of origin continue to lack either the will or the means of implementing safety mechanisms to reduce poverty rates in line with the decrease in remittances.
Even in times of economic normality, the nature of migrant’s employment characterised by 3D jobs (dirty, difficult and dangerous) means that the foreign worker are continually denied access to legal protection or even the basic employment entitlements. Many host countries throughout the world such as the six states that make up the Gulf Coordinating Council (GCC) continually enforce exploitative systems that remove government oversight and thus accountability from the terms of employment and instead places the migrant under the direct control of the employer. This is particularly notable for foreign domestic workers who become increasingly vulnerable as the terms of employment make them highly dependent on their employer. In the case of sexual or frequent abuse, the domestic worker lacks any means of legal redress and this results in the perpetrator frequently escaping justice.
Furthermore, the overall health of migrants continues to be deeply neglected area. According to the leading international bodies such as UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation, migrants remain one of the most at risk populations (MARP) susceptible to HIV infection in the world today. It is unfortunate however, that many governments seek to implement outdated and exploitative measures such as mandatory testing which continue to show little if any effective means of containing the virus. Moreover, this mode of mentality further identifies HIV/AIDS as a foreign problem and therefore induces both complacency in national prevention programes as well as hostility towards foreign workers. It is important to note that for this very reason, the WHO continues to argue against the use of HIV travel restriction both for short and long term stay.
While the international community has a crucial role to play addressing these areas of these vitally important issues it is unfortunate to note that the past year has shown little substantive change. One example of this is the fact that the main international conference in the field of migration known as the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) continues to reduce the role of migrants as an economic commodity while failing to implement any rights based frameworks within their territories. In order to implement real substantive change in this regard, it is crucial that government’s work closely with Civil Society Organisations in order to allow the voices of migrants to be heard. Only once this process occurs will the needs of both parties be met and justice guaranteed for the 200 million migrants around the world.
In light of all of these issues that CARAM Asia calls on all governments to;
- Immediately sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protections of Migrant Workers and Members off their Families
- Remain committed to the HIV/AIDS Universal Access Plan 2010
- Eliminate all HIV Related Travel Restrictions including mandatory testing
- For applicable governments to remain committed to the Durban Conference principles and to implement safeguards that remove xenophobic treatment of migrant workers within their borders.
- Proper pre-departutre training supplying information to
- Elimination of exploitative sponsorship systems such as the Kafala system as used in GCC countries
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