Mekong Migration Network Statement on International Migrants’ Day, 18 December 2016

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Mekong Migration Network (MMN) is a sub-regional network of NGOs and research institutes working to promote and protect rights of migrants in the Greater Mekong Subreion (GMS). 18 December 2016 marks the 26th anniversary of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) <http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CMW.aspx >. While we have witnessed a global rise in divisive politics based on scapegoating, racism and xenophobia that leads to the persecution of people based on their religion, ethnicity or race we stand firm to celebrate diversity, the contribution of migrants, and the joy of living together.

In the GMS, millions of migrants make enormous contributions to both the societies they live in and the countries they have left behind. However, their work continues to be undervalued and characterised by low wages and unsafe working conditions that few locals would ever tolerate. Finding decent work and earning a living wage continues to be out of reach for most migrant workers. Special Economic Zones that are currently promoted as a strategy towards regional economic integration in the GMS are only likely to reinforce the pattern of migrants receiving low wages and living in isolation from mainstream society.

Migration policies are formulated on the false assumption that migration is a temporary phenomenon. This gives policy makers and civil servants little incentive to ensure migrants receive due rights entitlements, much less that they are given the support needed for social inclusion. Service provided by the countries of origin to migrants abroad is also insufficient in most cases.

During the 9th ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour held on 9-10 November 2016, the participants including representatives of the governments, employers’ organisations, workers’ organisations, and civil society organisations from ASEAN acknowledged that “everyone, including migrant workers are entitled to have equitable access to social protection that is a basic human right,” and called for extension of social protection for migrant workers.

In our recently released report on the social exclusion of migrants, we concluded that significant policy and practice changes are needed to transform migrants’ experiences of social exclusion into experiences of social inclusion.

On the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the ICRMW, MMN urges all national governments to sign and ratify this important convention. We also urge ASEAN to develop migration policies founded on the principle of protecting the rights found within this instrument, and to work towards building societies that embrace diversity.

Omsin (Plaii) Boonlert

Advocacy and Research Officer

Mekong Migration Network: MMN

Chiang Mai