Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Little Protection for Cambodian Domestic Workers

Cambodia: New Regulation Short-Changes Domestic Workers
Revised Labor Migration Policy Weak on Recruitment Abuses

Human Rights Watch

For Immediate Release

(New York, August 30, 2011) – Cambodia’s revised regulation on labor migration, approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen on August 17, 2011, falls far short of minimum protections needed to safeguard migrant domestic workers, Human Rights Watch said today. The regulation omits or only has vague protections for workers and does not adequately address such problems as debt bondage, illegal recruitment of underage workers, and forced confinement by recruitment agencies in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said.

The “Sub-Decree on the Management of the Sending of Cambodian Workers Abroad through Private Recruitment Agencies” was drafted without consulting civil society organizations or migrant workers.

“The Cambodian government didn’t even bother to talk with domestic or international organizations involved in these issues, let alone the workers themselves,” said Jyotsna Poudyal, children’s rights research fellow at Human Rights Watch. “The result is a regulation that doesn’t offer even minimum protections to Cambodians who face serious abuse when they agree to work abroad.”

Human Rights Watch urged the Cambodian government to revise the regulation or adopt a new policy on recruitment agencies that would address key concerns, such as recruitment fees and debts, freedom of movement in training centers, and child recruitment. Such protections should be created in consultation with domestic and international organizations working on migration and trafficking and include detailed methods for enforcement, Human Rights Watch said.

Cambodians travel abroad for work to escape unemployment at home and to send remittances back to their families. Most go to Thailand, South Korea, and Malaysia. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of Cambodian migrants in Thailand alone was 248,000 in 2008. Many migrants, especially domestic workers en route to Malaysia, are subject to a range of deceptive and exploitative practices by poorly monitored recruitment agencies in Cambodia.

Recruitment agencies, and the local brokers they pay by commission, often fail to provide full information to prospective migrants about their training, recruitment debts, and employment abroad. Others help falsify documents to get around Malaysia’s requirement that migrant domestic workers must be at least 21 years old. Many of those who migrate are under age 18.

Women and girls typically must turn over the first six to seven months of salary to repay exorbitant recruitment fees to their labor agents in Cambodia. Once they agree to migrate, the recruitment agents require them to live in training centers in Cambodia for months until they leave for Malaysia. The recruiters require workers to pay the recruitment fees even if they change their minds about migrating and return home. Many workers who come from poor households have little choice but to accept overcrowded living conditions in the training centers and the employment contracts that labor agents require them to sign to work as domestic workers in Malaysia.

“The Cambodian government is well aware that recruitment agencies subject prospective workers, including children, to months-long confinement in overcrowded training centers, charge exorbitant recruitment fees, and harass them about repaying loans,” Poudyal said. “It is appalling that the new regulation fails even to mention these practices, which contribute to even graver abuses, including forced labor and trafficking.”

The new regulation replaces a 1995 measure, “Sub-decree No. 57 on the Sending of Cambodian Workers Abroad,” and includes some positive changes, Human Rights Watch said. It assigns the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training the responsibility to inspect recruitment agencies. It requires the recruitment agencies to supply lawyers for migrants in legal proceedings abroad and contracts in the Khmer language between agencies and workers. It specifies “decent” living standards for the training centers though it does not specify the minimum requirements.

The new regulation includes penalties for violations by agencies. They begin with a written warning and can culminate in the revocation of an agency’s operating license. Agencies may also lose all or part of a US$100,000 surety deposited with the government upon registration. However, the regulation does not create accessible complaint mechanisms.

Human Rights Watch said the regulation failed to include many provisions outlined in the International Labor Organization’s (ILO)
Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, an international treaty adopted in June 2011. Article 15 on recruitment agencies stipulates accessible complaint mechanisms, substantial penalties for agencies that violate standards, and prohibitions on salary deductions for recruitment fees.

“The Cambodian government needs to get serious about protecting people who risk exploitation and abuse abroad to provide for their families,” Poudyal said. “To be effective, and to make a real difference in migrants’ safety, the government should set minimum standards, create rigorous monitoring, and enable prospective migrant workers to file complaints when mistreated.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on women’s rights, please visit:

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Cambodia, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In New York, Jyotsna Poudyal (English): +1-212-377-9437; +1-917-576-6969 (mobile);
In New York, Nisha Varia (English, Spanish): +1-212-216-1858; +1-917-617-1041 (mobile); or
In Bangkok, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +66-85-060-8406 (mobile); or

Friday, 19 August 2011

HK Migrant Domestic Workers Should Also Have the Right to Residency

'Maids in Hong Kong sue for residency rights' By Beh Lih Yi, 13th Aug 2011 Global Nation.

Hong Kong is set to hear later this month a Filipino domestic helper’s legal bid for permanent residency in the southern Chinese city, in a landmark case that has sparked heated debate.

A successful legal challenge will be a first of its kind in Asia, activists said, and a recognition of rights and equality for domestic workers, who are mostly from labor-exporting countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia.

Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a Filipino maid who has worked and lived in Hong Kong since 1986, launched the case last year after her attempts for permanent residency were denied by the city’s immigration authorities.

Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, a mini constitution, non-citizens are entitled to permanent residency—which allows them to vote and better access to public services—if they have “ordinarily resided” in the city for a continuous seven years.

The immigration laws however specifically exclude the 292,000 foreign domestic helpers.

To read more click here

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Does Taiwan genuinely respect plurality?

By Hsia Hsiao-chuan 夏曉鵑 Thu, Aug 04, 2011 Taipei Times

The word “Taiwan” has recently been popping up more than usual in international news reports, but unfortunately the exposure the country has been getting amounts to a slap in the face for Taiwanese and the government.

Before he allegedly perpetrated the shocking bomb and gun attacks in Oslo, Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik posted a video on the Internet in which, besides his undisguised loathing for immigrants, multiculturalism, Muslims and Marxists, he expressed his admiration for Taiwan as a country worthy of emulation because, as he saw it, Taiwan was a successful nation state that had rejected multiculturalism.

When this news spread across the Internet, many Taiwanese made Web posts expressing their resentment and saying that Taiwan was not at all how the Norwegian murderer had described.

Government Information Office Minister Philip Yang (楊永明) quickly issued a statement to the media, in which he stressed that Taiwanese society had always respected a plurality of culture. Yang said that a democratic society should be a tolerant one in which different groups respect and appreciate one another, and that this was the kind of society that the -international community generally took Taiwan to be.

National Immigration Agency officials were also quick to assure the public that Breivik had never been to Taiwan. All this was supposedly to prove that Breivik’s remarks about Taiwan were a baseless misinterpretation.

It is true that Taiwan has never had any incidents of right-wing extremists massacring ethnic minority people or immigrants, but does our society really respect plurality and democracy, as claimed?...

Read the full article here

Monday, 8 August 2011

Fear discrimination, not foreign domestic workers

Asian migrants urge gov’t to uphold rights of foreign maids

Press Release 07 August 2011

“If the people of Hong Kong should fear something, it should be exclusion, discrimination and anti-migrant ideas – not foreign domestic workers (FDWs) and our rights.”

This was declared today by Eni Lestari, spokesperson of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body in a press conference to declare the group’s position on the bid of FDWs to challenge the denial of the Right of Abode to FDWs who have been in HK for seven or more years.

“The core issue here is about the right of FDWs against discrimination. If qualified FDWs wish to apply for right of abode, they should be allowed to do so as the Basic Law does not exclude FDWs and international agreements that are used as standards for human rights also guard against discrimination. Human rights should be upheld and never feared,” Lestari added.

Lestari hit politicians and the HK government who have been “dishing out lies and doomsday scenarios” if FDWs are allowed permanent residency. The HK government even threatened to put a cap on the number of consecutive contracts an FDW can have to three to prevent them from staying in HK for seven years.

“Instead of thinking of ways to uphold the rights of migrants, the Hong Kong government is choosing more regressive measures that have been criticized in other countries already. For the HK government, it is better to sow an atmosphere of fear and discrimination rather than create a condition to prevent discrimination,” she added.

Lestari that the projection of a flood of applicants and FDWs bringing in their families is “grossly exaggerated” and creates phantom fears among the Hong Kong people.

Moreover, Lestari said that the image pictured by anti-migrant politicians and government officials of FDWs as parasites is “contemptuous and dangerous.”

“The same anti-migrant ideas breed hate crimes against migrants and immigrants. The same picture painted by these narrow-minded politicians is the reason why we have tragedies such as the recent killings in Norway. Is this the kind of thinking that we should allow to rule in Hong Kong?” Lestari challenged.

Lestari said that discrimination against FDWs is institutionalized in Hong Kong. Citing the New Conditions of Stay, the ban on Nepali migrants and the denial of the right of abode to FDWs, Lestari said that discriminatory ideas and actions in the HK society are fed by the policies that put FDWs in a position vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and discrimination.

“We commend groups and individuals in Hong Kong who recognize the rights of FDWs and help create public awareness on human rights. We appreciate those who recognize the fact that FDWs are integral and productive members of the HK society. We hope that more people will resist the spread of anti-migrant and discriminatory ideas and help build an HK society that is genuinely multicultural and respects the rights of all people,” she remarked.

Lestari announced that AMCB will continuously monitor the issue of Right of Abode for FDWs and make sure that the comprehensive rights of FDWs are upheld.

For reference: Eni Lestari Spokesperson, Tel. No.: 96081475

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Statement on the issue of Right of Abode for Qualified Foreign Domestic Workers

Statement of the Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body (AMCB) on the issue of Right of Abode for Qualified Foreign Domestic Workers

4 August 2011

Uphold the rights of migrant workers
Condemn racial hatred, discrimination and xenophobia

To fight for the right of abode is to fight against discrimination and social exclusion.

Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong have long been denied of this right. Even if the Basic Law does not exclude foreign maids from seeking permanent residency, Hong Kong’s immigration policies have circumvented this basic right to prevent FDWs from obtaining the right of abode.

The Hong Kong government prides itself for upholding the rule of law. Obviously for the government, this does not apply to the rights of FDWs.

The denial of right of abode to FDWs also transgresses international conventions that seek equality of treatment regardless of race, gender or social standing. Agreements such as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families, Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Conventional for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women are just some of the human rights standards that are violated with the continued denial of right of abode to FDWs.

Social exclusion and discrimination are social sicknesses that stem from and reinforced by government policies. FDWs have been, for long, at the receiving end of this disease as shown by the exclusion of FDWs from the Statutory Minimum Wage, the New Conditions of Stay

We condemn the politicians and parties who paint doomsday scenarios if the right of abode is applied to FDWs who seek such. How can upholding this right be destructive to Hong Kong when a just society can only be built and really prosper when the collective rights of people – enshrined in national laws such as the Basic Law and international human rights agreements – are respected?

FDWs are productive parts of the HK society. We contribute to the economic, social, cultural and political development in Hong Kong. We are not parasites who drain resources and burdens Hong Kong. We earn our keep and we are integral part of Hong Kong households and the general society.

The false and exaggerated statistics of FDWs and families ‘flooding’ Hong Kong are but baseless assumptions that only fan xenophobia and racial hatred. It is not FDWs getting permanent residency that should be feared, but the chaos that may arise from the provocative statements issued by some politicians and the Hong Kong government itself. In these times, some of the most hateful of crimes – such as the recent terror attack in Norway – have been committed under the ideology of racism and xenophobia against migrants and immigrants.

Migrant workers have shown our solidarity to the people of Hong Kong. In times of crisis, migrants joined actions to call for meaningful reforms that will benefit all people in Hong Kong. When the August 23 hostage tragedy happened in Manila, migrant workers were some of the first to condemn what happened, condoled with the families of victims, and called for justice.

We condemn those who create racial hatred among the people. Such ideology makes it appear acceptable to treat FDWs as second- or even third-class citizens of Hong Kong. It makes it appear permissible to commit various kinds of abuses to foreign maids. It makes it appear natural to reduce FDWs to modern-day slaves and creates the thinking that the rights of migrants can be selectively given or arbitrarily denied.

At the core of the issue of allowing qualified FDWs to get the Right of Abode is the struggle against discrimination of migrant workers.

We stand by the rights of migrants. We appreciate the pro-migrant politicians, local groups and individuals who have expressed their support to uphold non-discrimination and human rights and resist attempts for the discrimination of FDWs to persist in Hong Kong society.

AMCB will continue to stand for the rights of migrants and the people. Only if the people’s rights – all of the people in Hong Kong – are respected can Hong Kong be a humane society. #

For more information contact:

Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body (AMCB)
Tel no(s): (852) 3156-2447, 2314-7316
Fax no: (852) 2735-4559