Sunday, February 12, 2017

Undocumented migrant workers: Hidden and helpless in ASEAN

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ASEAN's silence on undocumented workers

Despite the contribution of migrant workers, undocumented included, there is still no clear regional stand on how to protect their rights. In fact, the 2007 ASEAN Cebu Declaration has no inclusive policy on undocumented workers.

ASEAN, Das said, has been focusing too long on investments and the business climate that it has put the welfare of migrant workers, the people who comprise and help economies, in the backseat.

The 2007 Declaration only has the following non-inclusive provisions:
“The receiving states and the sending states shall, for humanitarian reasons, closely cooperate to resolve the cases of migrant workers who, through no fault of their own, have subsequently become undocumented.”
“Nothing in the present Declaration shall be interpreted as implying the regularization of the situation of migrant workers who are undocumented.”

The issue of undocumented workers and labor migrants’ families is among the 3 main contentious issues that have delayed the creation of a legally binding instrument to implement the 2007 Declaration.

Another issue is the legal nature of the instrument – whether it would be legally binding or just a mere guideline. Receiving countries such as Malaysia and Singapore want undocumented workers and migrant workers' families excluded from protection. At the same time, they have been pushing for a non-binding instrument.

“It’s hard to get full protection of migrant workers, how much more she, who is undocumented? Because of that status, they are not able to register a child in any mission and the baby becomes stateless. And there are no laws to protect the families of migrants. Even if you look at declaration,” Das said.

“And the other reason Malaysia or Singapore didn’t want to sign is because, [they think] why should we care for the families of migrants? Caring for migrants is already such a big deal, and now you're heading for family? They're not going to,” Das added,

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