The Nation: Mekong nations urged to protect migrant workers

The Mekong Migration Network yesterday ended a three-day symposium by urging countries in the Mekong basin to provide migrant workers with sufficient legal protections and to improve their working and living conditions.


The network brought together 72 representatives of governments, academic institutions, INGOs, NGOs and migrant groups from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan province of China, to share perspectives on how migrants and host communities can live together.
“Although migration is not a new phenomenon in the Mekong region, migrant communities and host communities have lived side by side but not together for many decades,” the group said in a statement issued after the symposium.
“Every day, equality and rights are being tied to immigration documents and denied to those who do not have these documents. All human beings are entitled to human rights; they cannot be denied on the basis of immigration status.”
A migrant worker at the meeting said the vast majority of migrants do not receive the legal minimum wage and suffer humiliation due to negative stereotyping of migrants.
Current living and working conditions – particularly a lack of enforcement of labour protections; dangerous working conditions; and exclusion from social services – are creating barriers between migrants and host communities.
The symposium yesterday recommended the governments in the six riparian states of the Mekong set up a regional committee to oversee the working and living conditions of migrants and to ensure that all workers in all sectors are protected under national and international labour standards.
The governments should enforce employer compliance with labour protection laws and employment contracts, and sanction employers who persistently disregard or abuse the laws, it said.
The symposium suggested Asean support its own Standard Education Qualifications to raise awareness about portable educational qualifications and to develop recommendations for mutual recognition of qualifications.