The 4th Annual Meeting of the Asian Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Labour Migration was convened in Kathmandu, Nepal from 8-9 November 2014. There were 40 participants to the conference, which included current and former Members of Parliament, Parliamentary staff, representatives from civil society and trade unions and select expert resource speakers. Countries represented were Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Singapore.
The two day programme began with updates from Hon. Sabiha Nazir, from the Pakistan National Assembly on the initiatives taken on by the Caucus since the assembly in Bangkok in 2013. In particular, she shared information on the two fact finding missions to Malaysia and Qatar which took place in April and August 2014. The fact-finding missions were organized to look into the situation of migrant workers in these two countries, which both receive a sizeable number of migrant workers. Part of these country visits included meeting with Foreign Missions of countries of origin to learn more about the services they offer to migrant workers and the challenges they encounter in performing their task. Among the challenges encountered by the Missions is the evident lack of financial and human capacity, which translates into a lack of services and support for migrant workers in need. Among other challenges, she also shared that in some cases, those working at Missions were not adequately trained for the position.
The updates given by Hon. Nazir led to the first substantive discussion of the conference, facilitated by Hon. Mu Sochua from the National Assembly of Cambodia, which looked at the role of MPs in assisting or supporting the work of Missions. MPs shared their perspectives on how to support or strengthen the Missions. Among the recommendations made, several included the call to increase the level of capital flowing to Missions, establish shelters for distressed migrants, create a 24 hot line, and ensure Mission staff are properly trained for their position before deployment.
The next session focused on government-to-government recruitment (G2G) where MPs heard from two experts, Mr. Piyasiri Wickramasekara, a former ILO Senior Migration Specialist, as the main presenter and Mr. Manollo Abella, from KNOMAD, as a discussant. The session familiarized MPs with existing G2G agreements on recruitment, as well as their benefits and drawbacks. It was noted that there were very few G2G agreements focusing on recruitment. Among those discussed was the agreement between Malaysia and Bangladesh on the recruitment of workers in the plantation section and the Employment Permit System used in South Korea to recruit workers.
Following the discussion on G2G recruitment, Mr. Aakash Jayaprakash, former consultant at Qatar Foundation, shared Qatar Foundation’s Mandatory Standards for Subcontractors and Contractors. Mr. Jayaprakash shared how the standards were developed, implemented and current initiatives being taken by Qatar Foundation in institutionalizing these standards for all contractors in the country. The first day ended with a launch of a publication titled ‘A Triple Win in Migration: Ensuring Migrant Workers’ Rights to Protect all Workers’, produced by FES and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) looking at essential policies and best practices in Asia and Europe supporting equitable migration systems.
The second day focused on the central theme of the Assembly on how the Caucus could utilize key regional inter-governmental processes to advance the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. In focus were the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, the Colombo Process, and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The day concluded with a break out session looking at how MPs could engage in these processes. Among these recommendations included preparing a memorandum for SAARC governments highlighting the issues from the press statement which outlined the recommendations from the Caucus Assembly; seek dialogue with the relevant ministries that will participate in these processes and share the result of the Assembly and the relevant issues their governments could take in these regional platforms (e.g. standard contract, comprehensive pre-departure and post arrival training and training for employers); introduce bills focusing on combating illegal recruitment, comprehensive pre-departure awareness training camp in the country and post arrival (reintegration) camp in the destination countries through embassies; public circulation of videos about migrant workers in public spaces (e.g. airports); and organizing a parliamentary meeting in each MPs respective country to share the result of the Assembly.
On the same day, the Caucus issued a statement calling on the leaders of SAARC countries, who are meeting on 26-27 November 2014 for the 18th SAARC Summit, to include labour migration in the Agenda. In the presence of local press, members of the Advisory Committee delivered the statement highlighting the 9 demands.
Download the 2014 Press Statement* here.
On the final night of the conference, a social night was organized between the MPs and civil society organizations based in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Several initiatives between the MPs and civil society representatives have been planned based from this night, including a dialogue between NGOs and Parliamentarians in Cambodia. On the morning of 10 November, the Advisory Committee met to discuss the results of the 2014 assembly and to further strategize on how to strengthen the Caucus and to plan for its activities in 2015.
The final report, finalized action plan and relevant documents from the 2014 Caucus Assembly will be posted to this website in due time. Please remember to check back.
*The Press Statement and events of the Caucus Assembly were also published in several newspapers in Nepal. Please see below for links: