Regional legal instrument for South Asia
Dr. Uttam Kumar Das
Participants at a regional dialogue on migrants' rights recommended to the South Asian governments to adopt a comprehensive strategy and regional legal instrument to address the challenges of labour migration. They urged for a gender sensitive policy in this regard covering all stages of the migration process. These policies shall also take into account the need for providing support to migrant workers and their families for protection and welfare. It underscored the need for promotion of safe migration through facilitating access to work opportunities abroad.
“It is the sovereign right of each State to regulate the admission and stay of foreign labour in its country, similarly each State has a responsibility to ensure safe migration and to protect the human rights of migrant workers- whether in regular and irregular situation,” said a joint declaration of the event.
The dialogue on the “Implementation of International Instruments on Protecting Rights of Migrant Workers” held in Dhaka from 18 to 20 August 2008 with participation of Government representatives from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as well as from international organisations, non-governmental organisations, civil society groups and the private sector. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) have jointly organised the programme.
Other recommendations to the Governments of South Asian states are: establishment of a National Committee on Migration comprising all stakeholders working in the sector, strengthen the internal inter-ministerial coordination on labour migration issues, examine the possibility of concluding bilateral agreements with receiving countries with a view to ensuring protection, entitlements and monitoring of the entire migration process, strengthen the capacity of the missions abroad for the protection and welfare of migrant workers and to explore and expand migration opportunities, ensure adequate representation in the various regional and international fora on migration, consider integrating the protection of the human rights of migrant workers into the national policies and plans to ensure compliance of these policies and plans with applicable human rights instruments, ensure harmonisation of the national laws and policies with the provisions with the perspective of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (Migrant Workers' Convention) and CEDAW. The participants observed that the Governments should also take into consideration the general recommendations put forward by the CEDAW Committee, collaborate with the civil society on issues related to the protection of the rights of all migrant workers, with special attention to female migrant workers.
At the regional level, the dialogue recommended for the South Asian countries to engage in discussing a common strategy to address the challenges of labour migration and develop an institutional framework (working group/task force) at the official level to facilitate this process, pursue cooperation and collaboration in the framework of the Colombo Process, explore the possibility of adopting a regional legal instrument on migration, set up institutions that will build capacity of potential migrant workers, set up a mechanism for monitoring the situation of labour migrants in sending and receiving countries involving all stakeholders in migration including international organisations, NGOs, independent women's organisations, media, migrant associations and other civil society organisations. They also recommend for institutionalisation of cooperation between IOM and SAARC, through the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding.
With regard to international organisations, the dialogue recommends for supporting the governments and other stakeholders in their efforts to promote safe migration and to protect the rights of migrant workers and their families. It urged IOM to prepare a comparative analysis of national laws and regulations of South Asian countries and their relevance to the ratification of the Migrant Workers' Convention, in coordination with relevant international agencies. IOM, UNIFEM and other relevant international organisations are requested to promote sharing of good practices on safe migration and migration management.
For the civil society, the dialogue has following recommendations: to promote awareness, disseminate information and advocate at the national and regional levels on the ratification of the Migrant Workers' Convention, establish networks with their counterparts in countries of destination to draw attention to the need for protecting the human rights of labour migrants, and develop mechanisms to support labour migrants in need, work towards the inclusion of labour migration issues in SAARC, including for the establishment of a regional framework on labour migration, and encourage the establishment of a civil society network on migration within SAARC.
The writer is a National Programme Officer (Labour/Trafficking) of IOM's Mission with Regional Functions for South Asia in Dhaka.