Crucial to protect rights of migrant workers

KUALA LUMPUR: Migrant workers are a large part of many Asian economies and with increasing migration it is crucial to ensure their basic rights are protected.

Malaysia has an estimated 1.2 million migrant workers but the figure could be much higher, said Andrew R. Bruce from the International Organisation for Migration.

He added that many countries in the region had poor regulations on employing migrant workers.

“Many migrant workers live in poor conditions with minimal wages,’’ Bruce said yesterday at the Asia Pacific Conference on the Rule of Law here organised by the World Justice Project (WJP).

A speaker from the International Labour Organisation, Thetis Man­gahas, said migration would continue to expand because of the growing need for labour in Asian countries.

She noted that while most migrant workers managed to get decent jobs, a significant number were deprived of their basic human rights.

“It is difficult to push for social security rights as many of them are hired on a temporary basis,’’ Mangahas added.

Anuradha Koirala, the founder and executive director of Maiti Nepal, said there were two types of migration - safe and unsafe - with the latter involving exploitation and trafficking of workers.

Anuradha, one of CNN’s 10 Heroes for 2010 for her part in rescuing 12,000 Nepali women and children from sex slavery, said countries should improve domestic job opportunities so their citizens do not have to migrate for better prospects.