Category Archives: MMN Activities

PRESS RELEASE: MMN’s Policy Dialogue results in the governments of Myanmar and Cambodia vowing to collaborate to protect migrants

24 July 2017

During the Mekong Migration Network’s (MMN) two-day Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin, representatives of the Cambodian and Myanmar governments vowed to meet to discuss recommendations to jointly advocate to the government of Thailand for greater protection of migrant workers. The act of collaboration was prompted by Her Excellency Ms. Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State of Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, and Permanent Deputy Chair of the National Committee For Counter Trafficking, who also agreed to host the meeting before 17 December 2017.

From 20-21 July, MMN, a sub-regional network of civil society organisations (CSOs) and research institutes, held a Policy Dialogue at the Summit Parkview hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. Representatives of the Cambodian and Myanmar governments, private recruitment agencies, the Philippine Embassy in Yangon, ILO, IOM, and CSOs from Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines gathered to hear research findings and recommendations from MMN’s most recent project and publication, and discuss the roles countries of origin – particularly Cambodia and Myanmar – should play in protecting their nationals migrating abroad.

From April 2015 to May 2017, MMN conducted a research project to review the labour migration governance mechanisms of countries of origin, including national policies, common practices, and international standards. Through consultation meetings with 162 migrant workers in Thailand and returnees in Cambodia and Myanmar, along with interviews with Cambodian and Myanmar government officials, inter-governmental organisations, and recruitment agencies, the study analysed the policies and practices of these two origin countries.

MMN’s study also investigated measures put in place by the Philippines and Indonesia to protect their nationals migrating abroad. Through a case study analysis of Filipino and Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong, the study gleaned information on both effective and ineffective labour migration governance mechanisms, which aided MMN’s development of recommendations posed to the governments of Cambodia and Myanmar.

Director General U Win Shein of Myanmar’s Department of Labour under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, opened the Policy Dialogue declaring, “countries of origin should work to reduce the time and bureaucracy required for the migration process, provide education and information, improve the quality of life of migrants, and ultimately aim to reduce poverty for migrants…We want to collaborate and get recommendations from different sectors, as well as listen to one another through positive and active communication so that we can provide better resources to protect migrant workers.”

Her Excellency Ms. Chou Bun Eng, the Secretary of State of Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, and Permanent Deputy Chair of the National Committee For Counter Trafficking, called for fairer collaboration between origin and destination countries, especially given that origin countries often “run behind the decisions of destination countries like Thailand.” She explained that Cambodia “tries our best to overcome these complicated issues, however, Cambodia alone cannot solve the problem successfully.”

International Labour Organization Chief Technical Advisor Ms. Jackie Pollock reminded participants, “without a long-term vision for migration patterns, migration may lead to the stagnation of development with young people leaving the country taking their labour, ideas, and innovations with them. On the other hand, national and regional development policies, whether they are social and economic plans, rural development, or women’s empowerment, could embrace migration as one of the strategies to stimulate development, nationally and regionally.”

In order to better protect and promote the rights of migrant workers, MMN recommends that relevant Cambodian and Myanmar authorities:

  1. Institute migration mechanisms through which prospective migrants can obtain necessary documents for migration without excessive bureaucracy, cost, or travel;
  2. Establish effective complaint mechanisms which are accessible to all migrants both in destination countries and upon return, and facilitate the use of local complaint mechanisms where appropriate;
  3. Negotiate with and advocate to destination countries to improve conditions for migrant workers;
  4. Make greater efforts to disseminate information on safe migration, migration options, and alternatives to migration throughout the country;
  5. Provide meaningful regulation of recruitment agencies; not merely through the passing of laws and regulations, but effective monitoring and enforcement, including sanctions for non-compliance;
  6. Improve the quality and expand the delivery of pre-departure training so that all formal migrants go through effective and thorough training before deployment;
  7. Improve overseas assistance;
  8. Negotiate with the Thai government to develop a process whereby migrants can receive a lump sum payment for their retirement fund at the Social Security Office in Thailand; and
  9. Assist migrant worker returnees with social and economic integration, including making alternatives to re-migration available; assisting with processes such as household registration and registration for identity cards; and supporting returnees who have suffered occupational injuries or diseases.

 

MMN’S PUBLICATION: Safe from the Start: The Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants

To access MMN’s latest publication, Safe from the Start: The Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants, in English, Burmese, or Khmer, please visit:

 

ABOUT THE MEKONG MIGRATION NETWORK

The Mekong Migration Network (MMN) is a sub-regional network of CSOs and research institutes that has been working towards the protection and promotion of migrants’ rights in the Mekong Sub-region since 2001. MMN members operate in both countries of origin and destination, and have unique expertise in the field and close contact with migrant workers at a grassroots level. MMN also has regular dialogue with government stakeholders in Cambodia and Myanmar, which prompted the present in-depth study on the roles of countries of origin.

For more information about MMN, please visit our webpage at: www.mekongmigration.org.

 

CONTACT INFORMATION

For more information about the project, publication, or policy dialogue, please contact:

MMN Roles of Countries of Origin Policy Dialogue Meeting – July 20-21, 2017

Role of Countries of Origin Policy Dialogue

Mekong Migration Network

July 20 – 21, 2017, Yangon, Myanmar

Today, MMN began its two-day conference on the role that countries of origin should play in protecting migrants. The conference brought together representatives from the Myanmar and Cambodia governments, private recruitment agencies, civil society and international organizations to discuss the topic and generate ways that Myanmar and Cambodia can improve their support for migrant workers.

The conference opened with speeches from the Director General of the Department of Labour in the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population of Myanmar, U Win Shein, and the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior of the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia, H.E. Ms. Chou Bun Eng. MMN regional coordinator Ms. Reiko Harima also addressed the conference.

U Win Shein emphasized that it was the responsibility of the country of origin to provide the conditions necessary to reduce poverty for migrants. He said that he was looking forward to the conference’s positive and active communication” in order to “provide better resources to protect migrant workers.”

In her speech, Her Excellency Ms. Chou Bun Eng called for more cooperation between origin and destination countries, especially since origin countries “run behind the decisions of destination countries.” She said that regardless of what Cambodia does, migrants are still extremely affected by decisions by the Thai government and that Cambodia cannot unilaterally counteract the effects of these policies.

Finally, Reiko Harima stressed that, “While destination countries must rightly bear the responsibility for the protection of migrant workers within their territory, countries of origin, nonetheless, have a crucial role to play by ensuring that their nationals are protected abroad and that they receive adequate pre-departure and reintegration assistance.” This is something that must be upheld for both documented and undocumented migrants.

After the opening ceremony, the panels began. The topics of the panels for day one were the following: migration mechanisms, information dissemination, regulation of recruitment agencies and overseas assistance. In each panel, MMN first presented its findings and recommendations from the report. Next, panelists were invited to respond with their own impressions and suggestions.

In the first panel on migration mechanisms, MMN recommended that documentation processes be simplified so that they do not create an additional burden for migrant workers. This includes shortening the processing times and reducing the costs, which both deter migrants from seeking documentation. MMN also advocated for origin countries to negotiate with destination countries to improve working conditions and ensure that labor rights are being protected. Thirdly, MMN recommended that governments expand their capacity to receive and effectively resolve complaints from migrants about their working conditions. Panelists suggested that origin countries negotiate with destination countries to allow migrants to collectively bargain. Others noted that it is extremely difficult for migrants to access information regarding migration mechanisms in both the origin and destination countries. Ms. Jackie Pollock of the ILO introduced the idea of implementing a system of direct hire of migrant workers; an organization such as the IOM or trade unions facilitating the migration process; and creating a regional code of conduct.

On information dissemination, MMN recommended that countries of origins expand their efforts to provide accurate, unbiased information to migrants. MMN also recommended that the quality of pre-departure training be improved and that its delivery be expanded. Many panelists said that social media, particularly Facebook, was a preferred medium for reaching migrants, as it could easily reach the greatest number of migrants for the cheapest cost. Ms. Wai Hnin Po, the National Project Coordinator for the International Labour Organisation, said that Myanmar can learn from the women’s exchange groups in Thailand, as one way of effectively sharing information with migrants, and that countries of origin should tap into the social networks that migrants have created themselves to effectively spread information. During the discussion, one participant asked the conference to remember that there are several million migrants already in destination countries and that reliable information must also be disseminated to them as well, not just those who have yet to migrate.

For the regulation of recruitment agencies, MMN advocated for effective implementation of monitoring mechanisms, arguing that many laws exist in name only and are not meaningful. Mr. Chuop Narath, the Deputy General Director of the Labour Department, within the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training of Cambodia, recognized that his department still received complaints from migrants traveling through legal channels. Mr. Pin Vireak, the Executive Director of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said that his organization worked closely with the ILO to develop curriculum for pre-departure training. He also suggested that the government take a greater role in regulating advertisements from recruitment agencies. Finally, he agreed with the MMN recommendation about setting up standard recruitment fees and that ACRA should consider how to implement and manage such a fee.

In the final panel of the day, MMN recommended that origin countries allocate sufficient staff and budget to supporting migrants abroad through their embassies and consulates and beyond. MMN specifically highlighted the need for continued outreach to workers after migration from origin country resources and the need for greater collaboration between CSOs in destination countries and embassy/consular staff in supporting migrant communities. As part of this panel, Mr. Jan Michael Gomez from the Philippines Embassy in Yangon shared best practices from his country. He noted that there are several funds specifically allocated for supporting migrant workers, including hiring legal assistance, and that the Philippines is one of the only countries in the world to have a Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for Migrant Workers.

The day concluded with small group discussions on each of the four topics, with each group deciding ways that all stakeholders can move forward in supporting migrants in their home countries.

The group discussing migration mechanisms recommended that bilateral agreements be promoted as their binding nature could help secure desired outcomes to protect migrants. It also said that Cambodia and Myanmar should partner to collectively bargain with Thailand. The group discussing information dissemination suggest regional campaigns for safe migration and having each state use state media to share information. The group discussing regulation of recruitment agencies advocated for a regional code of conduct for recruitment agencies and more training for workers and employers alike. Finally, the group discussing overseas assistance suggested that origin countries increase the number of one stop service centres and labor attaché offices, as well as collaborate more with CSOs.

As part of the conference, MMN also launched its new publication, “Safe from the Start: The Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants,” which includes all of the recommendations referred to above. It is the culmination of a multi-year study which evaluated into the existing institutions that support migrant workers in countries of origin through consultations with migrants in both destination and origin countries, interviews with stakeholders and examination of government laws and policies.

The English version of the report can be accessed at the link here. The Burmese version can be found here and the Khmer version here.

The video of the opening ceremony can be found below:

 

MMN’s new publication launched: “Safe from the Start: The Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants”

Today, MMN launched a new publication, “Safe from the Start: The Roles of Countries of Origin in Protecting Migrants” at its policy dialogue conference in Yangon.

The opening ceremony included speeches from the Director General of the Department of Labour in the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population of Myanmar, U Win Shein, and the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior of the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia, H.E. Ms. Chou Bun Eng, as well as MMN regional coordinator, Ms. Reiko Harima. The topics of the panels for day 1 were the following: migration mechanisms, information dissemination, regulation of recruitment agencies and overseas assistance.

In each panel, MMN first presented its findings and recommendations from the report. Next, panelists were invited to respond with their own impressions and suggestions. The day concluded with small group discussions on each of the four topics, with each group deciding ways that all stakeholders can move forward in supporting migrants in their home countries.

The full report is available on the MMN webpage at:

English version [12.9 MB]

Burmese version [13.2 MB]

Khmer version [13.4 MB]

  

 

MMN’s Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin will be held from 20-21 July 2017 in Yangon, Myanmar

MMN Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin

From 20-21 July, the Mekong Migration Network will be hosting a Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin in Yangon, Myanmar.

The dialogue will provide an opportunity for MMN to share its research findings from its recent research and advocacy project and propose recommendations on the roles that can be played by countries of origin in protecting migrant workers.

Discussion on the roles of countries of origin will revolve around the following seven categories:

(1) establishing migration mechanisms;

(2) information dissemination;

(3) regulation of recruitment agencies;

(4) provision of overseas assistance;

(5) international co-operation;

(6) provision of overseas welfare funds and social security; and

(7) facilitating reintegration.

MMN will put forward recommendations under each of these categories and seek dialogue among participants, which will include members of the Myanmar and Cambodia governments, private recruitment agencies, ILO, IOM, and CSOs from Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines, on a way forward for Myanmar and Cambodia.

This study, shaped by MMN research partners’ extensive knowledge of the issues and a strong commitment to prioritising the voice of migrant workers on issues that affect them, has also culminated in the form of a publication titled, “Safe from the Start: The roles of countries of origin in protecting migrants”, which will be launched during the dialogue.

Background information on the project

MMN’s research project examining the roles countries of origin can play in making migration safer was conducted from April 2015 to May 2017. The study reviewed the roles of countries of origin generally, including common practices and international standards, as well as measures put in place by the Philippines and Indonesia to highlight practices with different impacts, both good and bad. In order to provide a case study on the implementation of these regimes, the project examined the situation of Filipino and Indonesian migrant workers in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China. Moreover, the study analysed current policies and practices in Myanmar and Cambodia and developed recommendations for both governments aimed at strengthening the protection and promotion of workers’ rights abroad.

Data was collected through a combination of primary and secondary research methods. Consultation meetings were held by MMN research partners with a total of 162 migrant workers in Thailand and returnees in Myanmar and Cambodia across six locations. During these consultations, participants discussed the migration systems and policies of their own countries, shared their experiences of migration, and made suggestions as to how their governments could make migration a safer and more positive experience. In addition, in-depth interviews were conducted with various key informants including representatives of the Philippine and Indonesian consulates in Hong Kong, civil society organisation (CSO) representatives in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Hong Kong, and government, intergovernmental organisation (IGO), and recruitment agency representatives in Myanmar and Cambodia. This information was supplemented with data from an extensive literature review and consultation meetings with local CSOs in Myanmar and Cambodia, and jointly analysed during research partner meetings.

International Labour Day 2017 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

From 30 April to 1 May 2017, MMN co-organised a 2-day event in honour of International Labour Day (also known as May Day) at UNISERV, Chiang Mai University, Thailand, in collaboration with the Northern Labour Network. Over 200 participants attended the event including migrant workers employed in various industries, such as the manufacturing, construction, agriculture, domestic work, and service industry, representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs), academics, Thai government officials, and members of the Northern Labour Network.

Sunday 30 April, the first day of the event, commenced with welcoming speeches made by 4 keynote speakers including MAP Foundation Director Mr. Brahm Press, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) representative Ms. Preeda Sirisawa, Workers Solidarity Association (WSA) representative Ms. Muai Lang, and Migrant Workers Federation (MWF) representative Mr. Suchart Ing-ta. The speakers highlighted the importance of workers gathering to honour May Day, which is not only meant to celebrate workers but also to create a space where everyone can share their work-related experiences and challenges, and collectively seek resolutions. Following the presentations, participants jointly reviewed recommendations drafted on May Day 2016, and a Northern Labour Network representative updated participants on the Thai government’s response. The morning’s activities ended with a session titled, “Photo Stories,” involving migrant worker representatives presenting stories and photos of their working conditions and everyday lives in Chiang Mai in collaboration with Prachatham Media Foundation (PMF).

The afternoon’s activities revolved around “decent work” – the theme of the May Day 2017 event – and began with a presentation on the meaning and significance of decent work. Participants were then divided into 4 groups to discuss the thematic issues of: (1) occupational safety and health, (2) wages (including minimum wage and living wage), (3) collective bargaining and freedom of association, and (4) social protection. A representative of each group presented key concerns and recommendations that came out of group discussions regarding the 4 themes. Representatives of the Chiang Mai Provincial Employment Office and Chiang Mai Provincial Labour Office joined this session and responded to some of the questions raised by participants.

The day’s event concluded with a public march through the streets of Chiang Mai. Participants assembled at the Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai’s old city, divided into two groups, and marched along routes converging at Suan Buak Hard Public Park. Participants carried banners and signs promoting workers’ rights, distributed the May Day 2017 statement to spectators along the path, and read the statement aloud upon reaching Suan Buak Hard Park. The statement highlights the fact that all workers – including migrant workers – greatly contribute to Thailand’s national economy, yet many of these people lack the right to freedom of association and experience routine labour exploitation. The statement urges the Thai government to ratify the ILO Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98), which state that the rights of all workers, regardless of their documentation status and the sector in which they are employed, must be upheld. The march successfully caught the attention of local people, provided an opportunity for labour rights supporters to gather in a public space, and brought awareness to the contributions of workers in Thailand.

On Monday 1 May, participants collectively drafted May Day 2017 recommendations and submitted these recommendations to the Chiang Mai Governor.  Over 100 people, including local Thai and migrant workers, members of the Northern Labour Network, academics, and migrant and labour rights advocates, paraded through the streets and congregated outside of City Hall. A Poem to celebrate May Day, a press statement, and the recommendations were presented by worker representatives, and followed by the submission of the recommendations to the Chiang Mai Vice Governor Mr. Prajuab Kantiya.

The recommendations were addressed to both local and national levels of government and included demands to increase the social inclusion of migrant workers in Thailand, for example by using the term “migrant worker” instead of “alien worker”; to recognize workers employed across all occupations and sectors; to allow migrants to work in occupations according to their abilities; to adjust the minimum wage to a living wage by increasing the current minimum wage to 450 Thai Baht per day; and to ensure workers’ rights are protected regardless of their documentation status. In addition, some of the recommendations were addressed to the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar – a country of origin for the majority of migrant workers living in Chiang Mai – including a demand to ensure that migrants have access to their basic rights upon returning home, and to urgently establish a social security system for all Myanmar citizens.

The International Labour Day 2017 statement and recommendations are available online in Thai, Shan, and English.

Recommendations on International Labour Day or “May Day” 2017 [45 KB]

Shan Language of recommendations on International Labour Day or “May Day” 2017 [119 KB]

ข้อเรียกร้องเนื่องในวันกรรมกรสากล 2017 [130 KB]

Group discussion on wages – sharing experiences of minimum wage in Thailand

Group discussion on wages – understanding minimum wage in ASEAN

Group discussion on wages – understanding on living wage

Group discussion on wages – brainstorming recommendations

 

 

A Public marching on occasion of International Labour Day 2017, from Three Kings Monument to Suan Buak Haad Park. Photo courtesy of Prachatham Media Foundation

A Public marching on occasion of International Labour Day 2017, from Three King Monument to Suan Buak Haad Park. Photo courtesy of Prachatham Media Foundation

A Public marching on occasion of International Labour Day 2017, from Three King Monument to Suan Buak Haad Park. Photo courtesy of Prachatham Media Foundation

Local Thai and migrant workers, members of the Northern Labour Network, academics, and migrant and labour rights advocates paraded to Chiang Mai City Hall for submitting the recommendations on International Labour Day 2017.

Local Thai and migrant workers, members of the Northern Labour Network, academics, and migrant and labour rights advocates gatherred at Chiang Mai City Hall for submitting the recommendations on International Labour Day 2017.

Local Thai and migrant workers, members of the Northern Labour Network, academics, and migrant and labour rights advocates paraded to Chiang Mai City Hall for submitting the recommendations on International Labour Day 2017.

Local Thai and migrant workers, members of the Northern Labour Network, academics, and migrant and labour rights advocates at Chiang Mai City Hall for submitting the recommendations on International Labour Day 2017.

The worker representative presented the poem to celebrate the International Labour Day.

The worker representative presented a press statement, and the recommendations to the Chiang Mai Vice Governor Mr. Prajuab Kantiya.

The worker representatives submitted the recommendations to the Chiang Mai Vice Governor Mr. Prajuab Kantiya.

The Chiang Mai Vice Governor Mr. Prajuab Kantiya gave a speech to the workers in response to the submission of recommendations.

 

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