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ASEAN launches Migration Outlook

Non-Aligned Movement recognizes the importance of the issue of migration as a phenomenon of global proportions and has reaffirmed the responsibility of Governments, at all levels, to safeguard and protect the rights of all migrants. Migrant workers are an integral part of the workforce in the ASEAN. There are over 9 million working-age international migrants in ASEAN countries, with the large majority intra-ASEAN migrants. During the Baku Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, NAM leaders welcomed the efforts made by ASEAN to protect migrant labours such as the ASEAN Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Migrant Workers of 13 January 2007 and the adoption of the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers of 14 November 2017 as well as the development of its action plan.

Recognising the recent developments in migration movements and policies in the region, especially in times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the ASEAN Secretariat initiated the ASEAN Migration Outlook to support Member States in implementing the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. According to the World Bank, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region originates 8 percent of the world’s migrants and hosts 4 percent of the world’s migrants. The majority of migrant workers are less-educated individuals who work in lower-skilled occupations in the region’s main destination countries, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has underscored the importance of the right to return the stranded migrants to their countries of origin, taking into consideration necessary protective measures for the health and safety of those workers. Understanding these developments, ASEAN has launched the first Migration Outlook.

The first edition of the Outlook will support the realisation and implementation of the ASEAN Guidelines on Effective Return and Reintegration of Migrant Workers, which were adopted by the 26th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting on 28 October 2020. The Guidelines elaborated on a set of principles for designing policies, institutional mechanisms, programmes, and services for sustainable return and reintegration of migrant workers that are in line with international and International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards and ASEAN Consensus principles. To increase the effectiveness of ASEAN’s initiatives, the first edition of the ASEAN Migration Outlook addresses the following aspects: 1) Provides an analysis of ASEAN’s experience with return migration, especially migration caused by various crises, including pandemics, and forecasts the economic and social costs of return and reintegration; 2) Examines the challenges to ensuring the effective return of migrant workers, especially those stranded internally and across borders. This examination includes the risk of human trafficking during times of emergency; 3) Examines the initiatives that support sustainable reintegration of migrant workers, especially their access to labour markets, both at home and abroad, and the extent of businesses and private sector involvement in employment absorption; 4) Offers recommendations for future national or regional initiatives to enable safe and dignified return during crisis situations, including procedures and safety standards for migrant workers during journeys.

The migration outlook recommends the increasing integration of migrant workers into social protection programmes in the ASEAN Member States and states that the exclusion of migrant workers from social protection can be greatly minimised if they are documented. The Migration Outlook also recommends that migrant workers who become members of the social security system in one ASEAN Member State must not lose their rights to benefits when they move from one country to another.

The Migration Outlook further recommends that the ASEAN Member States should formulate policies that facilitate the movement of migrant workers through regular channels. This will mean minimising bureaucratic hurdles that unnecessarily lengthen the process of securing permission to leave a country, combating recruitment malpractices and abuses, eliminating or reducing to a minimum the fees charged for passports, visas, and work permits, regularising the status of undocumented migrants, ensuring equal treatment of migrant workers in employment, and eliminating ineffective foreign worker levies and fees. These changes will encourage workers to observe labour migration rules, enabling origin and host countries to use labour migration as part of their development strategies.

The Migration Outlook also recognises the challenges faced by women migrant workers and calls on the ASEAN Member States to tailor their reintegration policies to meet the specific needs of women migrant returnees.

Photo Credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/iloasiapacific/8222599107


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