ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers

Mandate

In July 2007, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers established the ASEAN Committee to Implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. As its name suggests, the Committee is tasked with implementing the 2007 ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion on the Rights of Migrant Workers.

ACMW’s purpose, as defined by the Statement of the Establishment of the ACMW is to:

  1. Ensure commitments made under the Declaration on Migrant Worker Rights are implemented,
  2. Develop an ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.

ACMW has divided its work into four “thrust areas”:

  1. Step up protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers against exploitation and mistreatment,
  2. Strengthen protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers by enhancing labour migration governance in ASEAN countries,
  3. Regional cooperation to fight human trafficking in ASEAN,
  4. Develop an ASEAN Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

The ACMW reports to the Senior Labour Officials Meeting (SLOM).

ACMW Regular Meetings

ACMW meets on an annual basis. It met for the first time in Singapore in September 2008. ACMW has held six meetings to date.

Instrument on Migrant Worker Rights

ACMW agreed to convene a drafting team (ACMW-DT) to outline the rights to be covered by the instrument. The drafting task force was composed of representatives from Malaysia and Singapore (receiving states) as well as the Philippines and Indonesia (sending states).

The first ACMW-DT meeting was held on 1 April 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. Differences arose between Member States over the scope and nature of the instrument. At the second meeting, some progress was made and an ACMW-DT work plan was developed.

At the third meeting in Kuala Lumpur in December 2009, discussions within the drafting team stalled due to disagreements between sending and receiving states over whether the instrument will:

  •  be legally binding,
  • cover undocumented or irregular migrant workers,
  • cover members of migrant workers' families, and migrant workers who are not from ASEAN member states.

In 2010, the ACMW-DT was expanded to include all ten ASEAN Member States in order to break the negotiation deadlock. In 2012 a “Zero Draft” of an instrument on migrant worker rights was adopted and since then, negotiations have focused around building consensus amongst the ASEAN Member States on each article of the draft. A total of eight ACMW-DT meetings have been held to date, with the latest being held in Jakarta on 29-30 April 2013.

The ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour

This is an ASEAN-hosted event involving governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations, and civil society stake-holders. The Forum provides a space for dialogue and exchanges of ideas on the issues facing migrant workers in Southeast Asia.

Each Forum has a theme, often focusing on how to implement the ASEAN Declaration on Migrant Workers' Rights.

2nd AFML 2009          ASEAN Declaration on Migrant Workers: Achieving its Commitment

3rd AFML 2010          Enhancing Awareness and Information Services to Protect the Rights of Migrant Workers

4th AFML 2011          Development of a public campaign to promote understanding, rights and dignity of migrant workers in countries of destination

5th AFML 2012          Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers: Regulation of Recruitment

6th AFML 2013          Enhancing policy and protection of migrant workers through data sharing, and adequate access to the legal and judicial system during employment, including effective complaints mechanisms

The 6th AFML 2013 Agenda and Recommendation are available for download.

The Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers (TF AMW) has been participating actively on drafting the recommendations to be brought at the AFML. The task force is composed of regional networks of civil society organizations and related trade unions such as FORUM-ASIA, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility in Asia (CARAM-Asia).

History

Prior to the establishment of ACMW, ASEAN had been attempting to address the issue of migrant workers and related issues, such as trafficking in persons and irregular migration, through a number of declarations and action plans.

  • ASEAN Declaration on Transnational Crime (1997): The Ministers for Home Affairs from all ten ASEAN Member States commit to combatting illegal immigration and trafficking in persons. The Declaration is followed by a 1999 Action Plan on Immigration Matters which promises coordination amongst immigration officials of the ASEAN Member State.
  • Hanoi Plan of Action (1998): A plan to implement ASEAN’s Vision 2020 of an integrated ASEAN community, it endorses the use of the ASEAN Foundation to support programs addressing issues of unequal economic development and to strengthen ASEAN collaboration in combating trafficking in women and children.
  • Bangkok Declaration on Irregular Migration (1999): ASEAN Member States and the governments of Australia, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Hong Kong SAR commit to addressing migration, particularly irregular migration, in a comprehensive and balanced manner, treating irregular migrants fairly and humanely, and taking steps to prevent trafficking in persons.
  • ASEAN Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children (2004): ASEAN Member States recognize the urgent need for a regional approach to trafficking, and commit to establishing a regional focal network to prevent and combat trafficking in persons in the ASEAN region. A 2007-2009 Work Plan to Implement the ASEAN Declaration against Trafficking in Persons is endorsed by the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime in Lao PDR in June 2007. The Work Plan focuses on developing common standards and strengthening criminal justice responses to trafficking.
  • Vientiane Action Programme (2004): Replacing the Hanoi Action Plan, the Vientiane Action Programme committed ASEAN Member States to developing an ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.

In January 2007, ASEAN adopted the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. The Declaration commits ASEAN Member States to promoting, “decent, humane, productive, dignified and remunerative employment for migrant workers” and the development of an ASEAN Instrument on Migrant Worker Rights. In July 2007, the ASEAN Committee to Implement the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW) was established by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers.

In 2009, the Declaration on Migrant Worker Rights was reaffirmed in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint that listed the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers as one of its strategic objectives (section C.2).