Category Archives: MMN Activities
MMN Workshop: “Living Together: Integration or Social Exclusion of Migrants in the ASEAN?”, 23 April 2015
MMN at the ASEAN People’s Forum (APF), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21-24 April 2015*
MMN Workshop: “Living Together: Integration or Social Exclusion of Migrants in the ASEAN?”
Co-organised by: Legal Support for Children and Women, MAP Foundation and Workers Hub for Change
At present “integration” in the ASEAN region refers purely to regional economic integration and all but ignores the need for social integration. However, in reality it is not only money and goods that move, but people also. Within ASEAN, migrants face various barriers and challenges in seeking to fully integrate and not merely survive in the country of destination. Millions of migrants live “side-by-side” with local communities but not “together”, resulting in loss of a sense of belonging, and inability to play a visible role as a member of the community.
It was in this context that the above-named workshop was organised. The workshop commenced with an interactive activity in which participants assessed different policies and practices in their respective countries. The issues they discussed through this activity included: migrant children’s access to education, migrants’ access to public health care, coverage of migrants under labour protection, and coverage of migrants under the social security.
The workshop then proceeded to a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Reiko Harima, MMN Regional Coordinator. The first panelist, Ms. Pranom Somwong, remarked on the ways in which migrants in the region are treated merely as temporary labourers and that there are no policy initiatives to facilitate their integration. She stated that ASEAN needs to develop more comprehensive, longer term policies to achieve social cohesion, otherwise, social exclusion of migrants will create social tension and possibly lead to xenophobia, which could lead to violence and other social repercussions.
The following panelists closely examined current policies that often alienate migrants and exclude them from various social protection and services including labour protection, access to education, access to public health care and access to social security. Such policies contribute to migrants’ social exclusion.
Mr. Charles Hector from the Workers Hub for Change, Malaysia, presented on the situation in Malaysia. He emphaised that the Malaysia demands labour, but not human beings with rights and needs. Moreover, the government wants only labourers who are “disease free”. He noted that most migrant workers are healthy and fit when they arrive in Malaysia as they have to pass a medical examination before migration. Hence, if they are found with diseases while working in Malaysia, it can be assumed that they were infected in Malaysia. So why do we deport them? Migrant women who become pregnant are also deported, hence there is tremendous pressure on migrant women to make life altering decisions when they get pregnant.
The third panelist, Mr Sokchar Mom from the Legal Support for Children and Women, Cambodia, presented on the various issues that make migrants vulnerable to social exclusion at the stages of pre-departure as well as upon return. Issues faced by migrant returnees include discrimination and stigma based on their health status or the work they have done in the destination country, absence of systems to transfer skills they have gained while abroad and lack of mutual recognition of school certificates affecting migrant children. Migrants’ children who stay back home are also vulnerable for social exclusion, according to Mr Sokchar.
The fourth panellist, Mr Brahm Press, from the MAP Foundation, Thailand presented on the challenges faced by migrants in Thailand. He said that many of the policies towards migrants in Thailand are good, but the reality is often different. On the ground, migrants often face barriers in accessing public health care, and find it difficult to seek redress when their labour rights are violated. Many employers do not enrol their migrant employees in the social security. Migrant children often face barriers attending public schools despite policy initiatives allowing them to do so. The barriers include cost of buying uniform, language barrier, and the attitudes of parents of their classmates.
Finally the workshop concluded by jointly developing the following recommendations for ASEAN:
- Make social services portable and accessible throughout ASEAN including universal health care, pension and social security to cover all migrant workers and members of their families throughout the migration continuum
- Provide equal access to education for all children, especially migrant children, in the ASEAN that acknowledges and respects their language and culture
- Facilitate dialogues on social cohesion and integration in ASEAN to change the current perception on migrants from being purely laborers to human beings with full and inalienable rights.
MMN at the ASEAN People’s Forum (APF), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21-24 April 2015*
“What is your work worth? A Living Wage Now!”
Workshop on Decent Work and a Living Wage, 24 April 2015
2015 is a critical year, as ASEAN governments meet in September to set new sustainable development goals that may drastically impact the lives of workers. With ASEAN eyeing economic ties both inside and outside the region, there is a fear that workers’ right to receive a living wage will be relegated to the sidelines of the economic development agenda.
It was within this context that the Mekong Migration Network (MMN) in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) organised its workshop entitled: “What is your work worth? A Living Wage Now!” The workshop’s co-organisers included United Sisterhood, MAP Foundation, Migrant International and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants.
The objectives of the workshop included: 1) to raise awareness on decent work and a living wage; 2) to share and build upon the strategies and opportunities to advocate for a living wage; and 3) to mobilise civil society in Southeast Asia to campaign for a universal living wage.
Attended by 25 participants, the workshop commenced with a participatory activity facilitated by the MMN team. Participants assessed and discussed minimum wage trends and the cost of living in the respective ASEAN countries.
The activity was followed by a presentation by Ms. Reiko Harima, MMN Regional Coordinator, to highlight how the issue of wages are framed by different stakeholders. While a living wage is crucial for a worker and her/his dependent family members to live a decent life, the minimum wage in ASEAN countries is set only to allow a worker to be able to support her/himself, not taking into account the needs of the members of her/his family. As ASEAN countries compete to offer “low cost labour” to attract foreign direct investment, national minimum wages are currently far from living wages in the respective countries. Furthermore, many workers fall outside current labour protection legislation as they are employed in excluded less formal sectors. This is particularly the case for migrant workers, who are typically paid far below the minimum wage. While a living wage would be most welcome for workers struggling to support their families, the business sector regards any such developments as a “risk” or “disadvantage”. Given this reality, what can we do to achieve a living wage for all workers? The challenge is great.
Moderated by Ms. Pranom Somwong from the Workers Hub for Change, several panelists shared the challenges and strategies in demanding the living wage. Ms. Rina Anastacio from the Migrant International shared the challenges in calling for a living wage in the case of the Philippines. Ms. Sonia Bullong from the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants shared the challenges faced by migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong. Mr Brahm Press from the MAP Foundation shared challenges faced by migrant workers in Thailand, noting that most migrant workers do not even receive the minimum wage, let alone a living wage, and hence the current efforts focus on ensuring all the migrant workers receive at least the minimum wage. Representatives from the United Sisterhood, shared the experiences of garment workers in Cambodia. They highlighted the fact that even when the minimum wage is increased, the cost of living in the country increases much more rapidly, which in turn negatively hinders workers’ capacity to survive. They called for regulation of prices in the country in addition to increased wages.
Finally, the workshop called on ASEAN to:
Engage with workers’ representatives and trade unions to review current minimum wage rates and establish and enforce living wages that reflect the real cost of living, so that workers and their dependent family members can live a dignified life.
The session closed with a call for justice for the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy, which took place exactly two years to the day of the workshop.
MMN is also co-organising with the APWLD the workshop on living wage. Please find below more details.
Workshop title: What’s your work worth? Living Wage Now!
Time: 1:30-3:30 pm, 24 April 2015
Venue: Suite 3, MCA 13th Floor, Wisma MCA, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur
MMN will run an interactive activity to see how the current wages fare cost of living in respective countries, and also present on the political economy of wages. Various organisations will also share their current efforts in promoting living wage.
Please join us!
Invitation to the workshop on Living Together: Integration or Social Exclusion of Migrants in ASEAN?, 2-4pm, 23 April 2015
We are happy to inform you that Mekong Migration Network (MMN) is organising a thematic workshop entitled Living Together: Integration or Social Exclusion of Migrants in ASEAN? during the upcoming ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) in Kuala Lumpur. Please join us if you are attending the APF!
Date and Time: 23 April, 2-4pm
Venue: Suite 5 (13th floor), Wisma MCA, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur (ACSC/APF 2015 venue)
Co-organisers: MAP Foundation (Thailand), Legal Support for Children and Women (Cambodia), Workers Hub for Change (Malaysia)
The workshop will look at the concept of integration and social cohesion under the overarching theme of “Living Together”. MMN and its partners working with migrants have observed that most talk of integration in the ASEAN refers purely to regional economic integration and all but ignores the need for social integration. However, in reality it is not only money and goods that move, but people also. However, there is limited evidence of the comprehensive and long-term vision from ASEAN states that is necessary to achieve social cohesion in the region. Most migration policies in the region consider migrants as temporary and contribute to a sense of social exclusion. These policies separate migrant communities from host communities and are in danger of creating tensions and misunderstandings. Moreover, migrants also face challenges in their countries of origin that are likely to increase their vulnerability to social exclusion both at the pre-migration stage and upon return.
The issue of social cohesion tend to be sidelined in the migration discourse, partly because there is less sense of urgency and partly because the theme can be less concrete. Given the absence of regular discussion on the theme, our workshop aims to provide a venue for activists to discuss what needs to be changed in order for migrant and local members of society to “live together”. It provides a venue to explore a long term vision on migration rather than focus on the specific issues. While specific issues that lead to migrants’ social exclusion such as lack of access to social services, discrimination, and migrant children’s lack of access to schools will be covered in the discussion, the workshop aims to link these back to the overarching problem of absence of vision in the region on integration and social cohesion.
Participatory methods will be employed to facilitate active sharing by participants. Participants will collectively identify the enablers and barriers that facilitate or prevent migrants’ social integration, and identify what need to be changed in order for migrants to live as a member of the community.
All are welcome!
14:05-14:30 Mapping on “Integration or social exclusion in the ASEAN?” (participatory exercise), co-facilitated by Ms Pranom Somwong, Workers Hub for Change and Ms Omsin Boonlert, MMN
14:30-15:10 Panel presentation
Moderator: Ms Reiko Harima, MMN
Ms Pranom Somwong, Workers Hub for Change
Mr Brahm Press, MAP Foundation
Mr Sokchar Mom, Legal Support for Children and Women
15:10-15:30: Open discussion
15:30-16:00 Development of recommendations (co-moderators: Reiko Harima, Brahm Press, Sokchar Mom)
Mekong Migration Network: www.mekongmigration.org
MMN’s 6th biennial General Conference was held on 18-19 March 2015 at the Imperial Garden Villa & Hotel in Phnom Penh Cambodia. The General Conference is open to all MMN members, and 26 participants attended this GC. The General Conference was chaired by the chair of the MMN Steering Committee, Mr Sokchar Mom.
Facilitated by the MMN Regional Coordinator, Reiko Harima, and the Secretariat team, members reviewed and agreed on the current Terms of Partnership, then the MMN Secretariat shared updates on MMN’s recent and ongoing projects, including the Arrest, Detention and Deportation (ADD) project, the symposium on “Embracing Diversity” and launch of the children’s book “Dragon Lake” and lesson plans in Thailand, research and publication on the 2014 exodus of Cambodian migrants from Thailand, research project on migrant women and health, and participation in regional forums such as the APF in Yangon, Burma/Myanmar in 2014.
Members also discussed upcoming projects, including further work on the “Terms to Avoid” project, and a future research project on the roles of countries of origin in the protection of migrants. Members discussed need for capacity building and training on ASEAN, and future work planning around the areas of ADD and the criminalization of migrants; Living Together/integration; and social protection and labour rights. Members then jointly agreed on and adopted a future workplan for MMN for 2015-2016.
The General Conference also elected new members of the Steering Committee. The new members are:
Thailand (regular seat): Mr. Brahm Press, MAP Foundation
Vietnam (regular seat): Ms. Trang Thu Hoang, Research Centre for Management and Sustainable Development (MSD)
Cambodia (regular seat): Mrs. Chhan Sokunthea, The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
China (regular seat): Ms. Han Jialing, Migrant Workers’ Education and Action Research Centre (MWEARC)
Laos (regular seat): Ms. Oulavanh Sinsamphanh, National University of Laos*
*Term extended until March 2016.
Burma/Myanmar (regular seat but currently vacant): As members are new to MMN, it was decided that a new SC will be elected after one year, in March 2016.
Burmese community in Thailand (special seat): Mr. Htoo Chit, Foundation for Education and Development (FED)
*It was agreed during the General Conference that given the changes of political situation in Burma/Myanmar and existence of new members in Burma/Myanmar, this special seat will seize to exist after March 2016.
The new SC also decided that Mr. Htoo Chit will serve as Chair of the Steering Committee until March 2016. The SC will then decide who will be the new chairperson after March 2016.
The General Conference ended with all the members thanking Mr. Sokchar Mom, outgoing Chair of the MMN SC, and Ms. Huynh Thi Ngoc Tuyet, Centre for Research and Consultancy for Development (CRCD), both of who greatly contributed in strengthening the MMN over a number of years.