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In Manila ASEAN commits itself to protecting migrant workers

(L to R) Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, Myanmar’s State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo and Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith join hands as they pose for a “family photo” during the opening cermeony at Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ summit in Manila on 29 April  2017.  AFP PHOTO / POOL / Mark R. CRISTINO

MANILA – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is committed to protecting and promoting the rights of migrant workers in the region.

The leaders of the ten-member association meeting in Manila for its 31st Summit on 13-14 Nov 2017 signed the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

The deal calls for the fair treatment of migrant workers, granting visitation rights to family members, and a ban on seizing passports.

Other provisions include prohibiting overcharging on placement and recruitment fees, regulating recruiters, and respecting workers’ right to fair salary and benefits, as well as the right to join trade unions and organisations.

For Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, chairman of the Commission on Migrants on Itinerant People of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the agreement is a “caring and helpful” initiative by ASEAN leaders. It shows “their concern and compassion for the plight of our migrant workers,” Santos said.

With a common and unified stand of the ASEAN leaders, the rights and privileges of all migrant workers will be “protected, promoted and respected”. Indeed, “Their decision is the best and very beneficial to all migrant workers regardless of their nationalities,” he added.

The Government of the Philippines earlier said that the signing of the deal was the “centrepiece” of its chairmanship of the ten-nation bloc.

Acting Filipino Foreign Affairs spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said one of the key features of the agreement is for the host country to afford the same level of protection to migrant workers as they do to their own citizens.

Intra-regional migration in ASEAN has increased significantly between 1995 and 2015, turning Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand into regional migration hubs with 6.5 million migrants – 96 per cent of the total number of migrant workers in ASEAN, this according to a World Bank report, entitled Migrating to Opportunity.

Approximately US$ 62 billion in remittances were sent to ASEAN countries in 2015. Remittances account for 10 per cent of GDP in the Philippines, 7 per cent in Vietnam, 5 per cent in Myanmar, and 3 per cent in Cambodia. – asianews.it

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