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Labor ministers of 19 countries urged to protect migrant workers

GMA News - April 17, 2012. "Two international groups — Migrant Forum Asia and Human Rights Watch — urged the labor ministers of 19 Asian and Middle Eastern countries to endorse protections for migrant workers. The ministers are meeting in Manila from April 17 to 19 as part of the second round of the "Abu Dhabi Dialogue," an inter-regional consultation between labor-sending countries and labor-receiving countries on contractual migrant workers."

"The theme of the meeting is, “Sustaining Regional Cooperation Toward Improved Management of Labor Mobility in Asia.”

Although civil society groups have not been invited to participate in the meeting they will hold a parallel consultation process.

“Increased regional cooperation is essential for improving protection of migrant workers’ rights,” William Gois, regional coordinator of Migrant Forum in Asia, a regional network of more than 200 migrants’ rights groups in Asia, said in a news release.

“But as civil society, we want to know what is going on, we want to be part of the process, and we demand opportunities for genuine participation,” he said.

Draft framework

The governments will discuss the draft for a “2012 Framework of Regional Collaboration of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue,” which would commit them to increasing the benefits of international labor migration.

The draft is based on the input from the first dialogue and a meeting of senior officials in January.

Preparatory documents for the conference include examples of best practices and recommendations on government oversight of four stages of migration:

  • recruitment,

  • employment abroad,

  • preparation for return, and

  • reintegration.

The current draft framework contains provisions that foster greater benefits from migration:

  • reducing recruitment costs,

  • developing standard employment contracts, and

  • making recruiting agencies responsible for the activities of local-level labor brokers.


“The draft framework contains many positive elements that could help reduce recruitment-related exploitation and workplace abuse of contractual migrant workers,” said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch.

“But it should also call on governments to revise labor laws and immigration policies that contribute to abuse, especially the exclusion of domestic workers from labor codes and sponsorship systems that link a worker’s residency to his or her employer,” Varia said.
Migrant workers play a key economic role. In 2011, the World Bank estimated that Asian migrants sent home US$191 billion in remittances.
However, many migrants are at high risk of abuse, the groups said.
“Governments in the Abu Dhabi Dialogue should ensure that the framework for regional cooperation incorporates full protection of migrant workers’ human rights,” said Ellene Sana, executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy, a Philippine-based migrants’ rights group.  “They should also develop a concrete action plan with benchmarks to monitor their progress.”

The groups called on participating governments to ratify and implement international labor and human rights standards such as ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Labor-sending countries in the Abu Dhabi Dialogue include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. Labor-receiving countries include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea will participate as observers.

The first round of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue was hosted by the United Arab Emirates in 2008 and was an offshoot from the Colombo Process, a regional meeting of labor-sending countries. - VVP, GMA News"


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