Groups urge governments to provide better migrant worker protection

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International immigrants rights groups have called on labor ministers of 19 Asian and Middle Eastern countries to push for further protections for migrant workers. Specifically, they urged local officials from Asian and Middle Eastern countries to lobby against laws and policies that expose migrant workers to abuse and exploitation.

Migrant Forum in Asia and Human Rights Watch called on ministers prior to their meeting in Manila from 17-19 April as part of the second Abu Dhabi Dialogue on migrant workers' issues. The meeting is an inter-regional consultation between various countries and will address migrant workers issues.

"Increased regional cooperation is essential for improving protection of migrant workers' rights," said William Gois, regional coordinator of Migrant Forum in Asia, a regional network of various migrants' rights groups in Asia. "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."

Migrant workers play a key economic role. In 2011, the World Bank estimated that Asian migrants sent home US$191 billion in remittances. Currently, around 10 percent of the total Philippines population works overseas.

However, migrants' rights groups say that many workers are at high risk of abuse. According to Human Rights Watch and the Migrant Forum in Asia, these areas of abuse include:

exclusion of domestic workers from key protections in national labor laws,

deceptive recruitment practices,
immigration policies that give employers inordinate control over workers, and
isolation in private homes that place workers at serious risk of exploitation

"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."

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