SINCE the arrival of migrant workers to Malaysia in the 1980s, the community continues to shape the growth of Malaysia.Their contribution to the development and economy of Malaysia is undeniably, immense.As we celebrate International Migrants Day today, the National Human Rights Society (Hakam) unequivocally calls for the dignity, human and labour rights of migrant workers in Malaysia to be respected, and safeguarded.During the lockdown in Malaysia, migrant workers served as front-liners alongside Malaysians, in health, transport and food services to make our lives more bearable.We salute all front-liners who unselfishly served the nation in this time of need.The Covid-19 pandemic had affected, and continues to affect, Malaysians and migrants alike.However, the migrant population has been disproportionately affected by arbitrary job terminations, wage cuts, unpaid wages, forced leave, involuntary repatriation, discrimination and xenophobia.Many of them were stranded without their source of income when companies shut, some permanently, while others declared bankruptcy.With flights grounded and international borders closed, migrants had no avenue to return home.While migrant workers have always faced constant discrimination and exploitation, the pandemic only highlighted and amplified the vulnerability of the population further.Hakam observed that xenophobia in Malaysia during the Covid-19 pandemic had hit an all-time high, with many anti migrant statements, and policies against migrants and refugee populations.The immigration raids during the pandemic also, regrettably, caused Covid-19 clusters in immigration detentions.As a member of the United Nations and signatory to key human rights and labour conventions and international standards, the Malaysian Government should not use the pandemic as an excuse to relegate on its obligation to protect the rights of migrant workers in the country.Hakam urges the government to:(a) make public the report of the independent committee on the management of foreign workers and implement the recommendations therein;(b) closely monitor businesses’ adherence to housing regulations and labour laws including ensuring that migrants are not forcibly returned home without due process;(c) expedite the release and repatriation of all detained migrants in detention;(d) cease the detention of undocumented migrants and allow them to avail themselves of the recalibration programmes to legalise or return;(e) work with Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in its quest to stamp out corruption in all enforcement agencies;(f) accede to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 1990, which recognises and guarantees respect for the dignity and rights of all migrants, regardless of their national origin or immigration status;(g) adopt the domestic workers’ convention 2011 and enact a national domestic workers act to recognise domestic workers and provide them with fundamental workers’ rights;(h) adopt the violence and harassment convention 2019 to protect all individuals in the world of work;(i) implement provisions of the Asean declaration on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers and the Asean consensus on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers as well as the recommendations from the 13 Asean forums on migrant labour, and(j) adhere to the principles in the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration wherein Malaysia is a signatory. – December 18, 2020.* Press statement by the National Human Rights Society. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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