Category Archives: Organized by MMN

MMN Releases Proceedings of the Consultation on Labour Migration from Cambodia to Japan

 

On 18 February 2019, Mekong Migration Network (MMN), Cambodian Women Crisis Centre (CWCC) and Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW) jointly organised the Consultation on Labour Migration from Cambodia to Japan at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The meeting was convened in anticipation of changes in Japanese immigration law, which will enter into force in April 2019. The new law will create a new migration pathway for Cambodians who are considered “Specified Skilled Workers.” Along with the Technical Internship Training Programme (TITP), the new immigration law is intended to attract migrant workers to fill gaps in Japan’s labour market created by its rapidly ageing population. Under the new migration scheme, employers can directly hire migrant workers and migrant workers will be allowed to change employers within the same sector. Japan considers Cambodia a key source of migrant workers and Cambodia is reported to be one of eight Asian countries that Japan will negotiate a new bilateral agreement on managing labour migration with.

Given this background, MMN, CWCC and LSCW held the consultation with the aim to better understand the challenges and opportunities in the migration process from Cambodia to Japan and to jointly explore interventions and strategies to improve the efficacy of migration procedures and safety of migrants. Over 50 participants exchanged their views at the event, including representatives of the Cambodian government, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA), Manpower Association of Cambodia (MAC), Private Recruitment Agencies (PRAs), and academic experts on Japanese migration.

The two plenaries of the consultation addressed a number of topics such as trends, policies and recruitment practices of workers migrating from Cambodia to Japan, issues relating to migrants who leave their jobs without properly terminating their contracts, mechanisms for skills transfer between the two countries, available support and assistance for migrants, and actual labour conditions at work sites in Japan. These sessions were followed by a keynote speech by Her Excellency, Ms Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State, Permanent Vice President of the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking, Royal Government of Cambodia, who discussed existing concerns and possible challenges arising from the migration of Cambodian workers to Japan under the current TITP and the future migration pathway. Participants then collectively looked at opportunities and challenges involved in migration from Cambodia to Japan from the perspectives of migrant workers, CSOs, the Cambodian and Japanese governments and private recruitment agencies (PRAs). Based on the results of the discussion, they collectively formulated recommendations to improve the protection of migrant workers.

Click here for the full proceedings of the consultation meeting.

MMN Releases Proceedings of the Consultation on Labour Migration from Myanmar to Japan

On 15 October 2018, Mekong Migration Network (MMN) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) jointly organised the Consultation on Labour Migration from Myanmar to Japan at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. The consultation was held at a time when there was growing anticipation that Japan would liberalise its migration policy to receive increased numbers of migrants. In early 2018, the Japanese government announced its intention to recruit upwards of 500,000 foreign workers by 2025 to fill gaps in the country’s labour market. Japan considers Myanmar to be a key source of migrant workers. In April 2018, Japan and Myanmar signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) to set commitments and responsibilities of both countries in the sending and accepting of “technical intern trainees.”

Given this background, MMN and ILO held a consultation with the aim to better understand the challenges and opportunities in the migration process from Myanmar to Japan and to jointly explore interventions and strategies to improve the efficacy of migration procedures and safety of migrants. 41 participants attended the event, including representatives from the Myanmar Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population (MOLIP), the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF), Overseas Employment Agencies (OEAs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), a labour attaché from the Embassy of Japan in Myanmar, an expert on Japanese migration, and migrant returnees.

The three plenaries of the consultation addressed a number of topics such as trends, policies and recruitment practices of workers migrating from Myanmar to Japan, issues concerning migrants who leave their jobs in Japan without properly terminating their contracts, mechanisms for skills transfer between the two countries, available support and assistance for migrants, and actual labour conditions at work sites in Japan. Participants then examined the opportunities and challenges involved in migration from Myanmar to Japan from the perspectives of migrant workers, the governments of both countries and OEAs in Myanmar. Based on the results of the discussion, participants collectively developed a set of recommendations to improve existing protections for migrant workers.

Click here to download the full proceedings.

Statement from International Women’s Day 2019, Chiang Mai

On 8 March 2019, Mekong Migration Network took part in a celebration of International Women’s Day in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Migrant women from across Thailand and representatives of civil society organisations took to the streets of Chiang Mai to honour the achievements of women–past and present–and demand an end to the injustices women continue to face.

Read our joint statement of the event in EnglishBurmese, or Thai.

 

MMN Consultation on Labour Migration from Myanmar to Japan

On 15 October 2018, Mekong Migration Network (MMN) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) jointly organised the Consultation on Labour Migration from Myanmar to Japan at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. The consultation was held at a time when anticipation was growing with regards to Japan amending its migration policy to receive increased numbers of migrants and possibly under a different scheme. Early 2018, the Japanese government announced their intention to recruit upwards 500,000 foreign workers by 2025 to fill gaps in the country’s labour market and to open a new pathway to migrants. Myanmar is considered by Japan to be a key source of migrant workers. In April 2018, Japan and Myanmar signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP) to set the commitments and responsibilities of both countries in the sending and accepting of technical intern trainees.

Given this background, MMN and ILO held the consultation meeting with the aims to better understand the challenges and opportunities in the migration procedures from Myanmar to Japan and to jointly explore interventions and strategies to increase the efficiency and safety of the migration routes. Over 40 participants attended the event, including representatives from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population (MOLIP), the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies’ Federation (MOEAF), overseas recruitment agencies, and civil society organisations, the labour attaché from the Embassy of Japan in Myanmar, experts on Japanese migration, and migrant returnees.

In the first plenary entitled, “The Recruitment and Deployment of Myanmar Workers to Japan: Policies and Trends”, Ms. Khin Cho Win, the Assistant Director of the Department of Labour from the MOLIP, reported that 60 of the 259 licensed private recruitment agencies have been sending workers to various sectors including seafood processing, construction, agriculture, garment and welding since the signing of the MOC. Mr. Win Htun, the Vice Chairperson of the MOEAF, then outlined the procedures for the recruitment of Myanmar workers to Japan, which can take up to three to four months to complete. In the ensuing open discussion, concerns were shared regarding the causes for migrants to leave their posts in Japan without properly terminating their contracts. Mr. Asato Wako, Associate Professor from Kyoto University, suggested that poor labour conditions in Japan remain the key reasons for migrants to leave their jobs and should be addressed as the foremost issue.

In the second plenary titled “The Employment of Myanmar Workers in Japan: Policies and Trend”, Mr. Yuta Isozaki, Labour Attaché from the Embassy of Japan in Myanmar, discussed Japan’s growing need for migrant workers and the newly introduced TITP law in November 2017 that offers more protection to migrant workers in Japan. The Japanese government also plans to recruit migrant workers through an alternative pathway to the TITP. Professor Asato explained that the new TITP law in 2017 has increased enforcement power, but continues to leave several issues unaddressed. These include the high rate of Myanmar migrants leaving their posts without terminating their contracts and the lack of a mechanism to prevent involuntary repatriation imposed by employers. Professor Asato also questioned whether the TITP can really achieve its stated objectives of “transfer[ring] technical skills, techniques and knowledge to Myanmar” and “contribut[ing] to the human resource development of Myanmar”. He doubted that all migrants can gain skills useful enough to utilise in their country of origin. In the discussion that followed, participants pointed out the need for accrediting workers’ skills both in Myanmar and Japan.

In the third plenary, Ms. Kyawt Kyawt Aung and Ms. Thiri Tun, migrant returnees from Japan, shared the problems they faced while working in Japan. When their labour rights have been violated, they found it difficult to hold their employer in Japan and sending organisation in Myanmar accountable despite their numerous efforts to contact authorities. They urged the MOLIP to play a more active role in providing support to migrants on site as well as upon return.

After the plenaries, participants explored the opportunities and challenges involved in the migration to Japan from the perspectives of migrant workers, the government and private recruitment agencies. Based on the results of the discussion, participants came up with several recommendations concerning the roles of the country of origin (Myanmar) and destination (Japan), the facilitation of dialogue among different stakeholders in Myanmar and Japan, the development of sound remittance systems, and the strengthening of overseas support for migrants and assistance for return and reintegration.

Workshop on Frameworks on Migrant Labour in the Fishing Industry in the Mekong

On 5 August 2018, Mekong Migration Network (MMN) organised a workshop entitled “Frameworks on Migrant Labour in the Fishing Industry in the Mekong” at the Empress Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The workshop aimed to: 1) clarify the concepts of various frameworks surrounding/relating to labour migration, such as trafficking, slavery, forced labour, etc; 2) examine the implications of these frameworks on labour migration, particularly on migrant labour in fisheries; and 3) exchange views on what can be done to protect the rights of migrant workers and their families in fisheries. Approximately 30 representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) working on labour migration throughout the Greater Mekong Sub-region attended the workshop.

The workshop started with a presentation by Ms. Jackie Pollock, a representative from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Myanmar, who clarified the concepts of various frameworks. Ms. Pollock provided definitions on the key terms often applied to the conditions of migrant labour in the fishing industry, including human trafficking, smuggling, forced labour, slavery and decent work. She emphasised that international laws do not clearly specify the situations under which each framework should be adopted. This has led to the different approaches adopted to address the exploitation of migrants in the fishing industry, including the 3Ps/4Ps (Prevention, Protection, Prosecution & and Partnership), anti-slavery, corporate social responsibility, United Nation Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Decent Work and FLEX (Focus on Labour Exploitation). During the discussion following the presentation, Ms. Pollock also pointed out the need to challenge the Thai government’s use of an anti-trafficking framework to address the issues in the fishing industry. Such a framework draws energy, resources and commitment away from the empowerment of migrants and the promotion of their labour rights, and instead places its focus on prosecuting traffickers and victimising migrants. She believed that the government’s adoption of this framework reflects its fear that migrants would be able to unionise, exercise their rights and become a threat to be reckoned with.

The plenary session was followed by the screening of a recent Human Rights Watch’s documentary entitled, “Thailand: Forced Labour, Trafficking Persist in Fishing Fleets,” which explores the changes (and the lack thereof) in the fishing industry after the Thai government stepped up its efforts to stop human trafficking and forced labour in the industry. To view the documentary, please visit:  https://youtu.be/8FbrfgRmfyI.

In the second plenary entitled, “Understanding the Day-to-Day Reality of Working at Sea”, Mr. Sompong Srakaew from the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN) presented on the situation of migrant workers in the fishing industry in Thailand and LPN’s initiatives to provide assistance to workers in the industry. Mr. Sompong expressed his concerns about the effectiveness of government measures, especially the implementation of mechanisms to manage and protect migrant workers. In one case where several fishery workers were stranded in Indonesia and continued to endure physical abuse and severe working conditions that sometimes resulted in their deaths, the Thai government only offered support to the Thai workers on board, rather than the Myanmar and Cambodian workers who were also on the Thai vessel. In light of this, LPN aims to support both Thai and migrant fishery workers by assisting them in forming unions to raise their voices and promote their rights.

Mr. Tun Lin from the Thai and Migrant Fisheries Union Group (TMFG) then presented on his 11 years of experience working as a fishery worker.  He spoke of the exploitative and rights-violating practices that he lived through first hand, such as not being paid his salary, not receiving rest periods even when he was sick, and not being compensated when he lost his fingers from an accident in Indonesia–experiences that motivated him to become a migrant leader and collaborate with Thai fishery workers to help other migrants exercise their rights. Mr. Tun Lin and LPN’s mission to assist fishery workers stranded in Indonesia was filmed and made into a documentary titled, “Ghost Fleets”. For further information about the documentary, please visit: http://www.vulcanproductions.com/ghostfleet/TheFilm.

In the last plenary entitled, “How are different frameworks used to understand the situation of migrant labour in the fishing industry and what are the implications for policy and programme formulation?”, Mr. Sokchar Mom from Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW) discussed the frameworks adopted in Cambodia to protect fishery workers. Mr. Mom noted that laws and policies related to migrants in the fishing industry in Cambodia remain unclear, as the government neither regulates nor bans practices in the industry, which causes migrants to become more vulnerable. He highlighted that current protection programmes focused on trafficked victims have been established under multi-responsive approaches, but seemed to fail when people under the programme continue to re-migrate instead of going through the government assistance process.   

Mr. Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch (HRW) then shared the findings of a recent HRW report that discussed the ongoing cases of forced labour in the fishing industry. Despite the Thai government’s efforts to regulate migration and employment in the fishing industry, unlicensed brokers continue to operate and working conditions have not improved in reality. HRW key recommendations include: drafting a stand-alone law on forced labour, ending restrictions on freedom of movement, granting permission to travel out of province, delinking the status of migrant workers to their employers, implementing an effective complaint mechanisms, publishing a watch list of companies and CEOs with history of Trafficking In Person (TIP) and forced labour, amending the Labour Relations Act to permit migrant workers to form and lead their own unions, ratifying ILO Conventions 87 on the Freedom of Association, Convention 98 on the Right to Organize and Collectively Bargain, and Convention 188 on work in Fishing.

In the ensuing discussion, participants raised their concerns with the ongoing harsh working conditions in the fishing industry and the dysfunctional protection mechanisms. Aside from the ineffective laws and regulations concerning migration management, fishing associations often serve as additional obstacles to migrants obtaining and exercising their full rights. Participants also shared their own experiences with advocating for migrant workers’ rights and made suggestions on advocacy strategies to more effectively promote migrant workers’ rights in the fishing industry.

 

 

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