Between 29 and 30 October 2018, the ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour (AFML) was held in Singapore. Since 2008, the AFML has taken place annually with the objective of advancing the principles of the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, an agreement concluded in 2007 by heads of ASEAN states. Each year, the Forum brings together government officials of ASEAN member states, employer and worker representatives, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and international organisations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO). Participants share experiences, challenges and good practices regarding the implementation of previous AFML recommendations and develop new recommendations arising from discussions on the selected theme of the year.
Mekong Migration Network (MMN) has taken part in most of the AFML since its first meeting in 2008. For the 11th AFML in 2018, two slots were available for regional CSO networks; after consultation among regional networks in Asia, MMN and Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) were nominated to participate in the forum. Mr Brahm Press, a member of the MMN Steering Committee, attended the meeting on MMN’s behalf.
The 11th AFML took place under the theme of “Digitalisation to promote Decent Work for Migrant Workers in ASEAN.” The discussion revolved around two sub-themes. The first sub-theme was entitled “Digitalisation of Migrant Labour Management,” which looked into initiatives of ASEAN Member States in leveraging technology to better manage migration. The second sub-theme was entitled “Digital Services for Migrant workers,” which focused in on efforts of ASEAN Member States to facilitate migrant workers’ access to digital support services. Representatives of CSOs, governments of ASEAN member states, and the ILO delivered presentations under each sub-theme before entering into a plenary discussion.
Under the first sub-theme, Mr Press delivered a presentation entitled, “CSOs’ Efforts in Leveraging Technology in Promoting Migrant Workers’ Safety and Health.” He noted that while the internet is a channel of providing information, services, and assistance to migrants, language barriers and migrants’ limited access to the internet or smartphones remain as major challenges. He believed that smartphone applications must work towards developing migrants’ digital literacy and assist them in accessing the benefits of the online world. Applications should be designed to provide sufficient technical support, be in line with migrants’ interests, needs and abilities, and incorporate the input of migrants. Applications that provide assistance must also be disseminated broadly, possibly through government channels or as part of a standard package, so that migrants can become aware of the support available to them.
In addition, Mr Press commented that online complaint mechanisms need to be matched with timely responses, be language appropriate (such as using easily understandable languages as well as making available audio options for those who are not able to read) and include a geo-locator to access information on the location of migrants. At the same time, application developers should make sure that their applications are well maintained and updated, that their fundings are consistent, and that they are not compromising the privacy of migrants’ personal data.
The 11th AFML concluded with participants drafting, discussing and adopting the recommendations for the year. To read the recommendations, please visit; https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—asia/—ro-bangkok/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_648531.pdf.
The 12th AFML will take place in Thailand in 2019, and MMN plans to continue to engage in the process.