Commentary: ASEAN’s Safe Migration Campaign comes up short due to simplistic concept of safe migration

Author: Tommy KS Koh, East Asia Forum, Published on: 10 August 2019

"ASEAN's Safe Migration Campaign comes up short", 1 August 2019

The ASEAN Safe Migration Campaign...is hindered by a simplistic concept of safe migration that falls short of addressing the challenges faced by migrant workers in the region.

Significant ambiguity surrounds the concept of ‘safe’ migration....

...Unpacking the ASEAN Safe Migration Campaign video...emphasises that ‘migration through regular channels is a safer choice’.... Instead of painting a clear picture of what safe migration is, the campaign video defines it by exclusion: safe migration is regular migration and opposed to irregular migration. Simply put, regular is safe.

Coupling safe and regular migration is problematic because regular migration refers to the perceived legal standing of migrants rather than the risks incurred....

Yet migrant workers who do everything correctly by the book can still be exploited, and those who are bear the dual burden of process and exploitation costs....

...Efforts through ASEAN’s Safe Migration Campaign to promote regular channels as a safer process is merely low hanging fruit. As migrants and other stakeholders rally around the Campaign’s call to ‘work together to make safe migration a path everyone can take in ASEAN’, the bigger challenge is ensuring that such a path even exists. To this end, the Campaign can be leveraged for coalition-building efforts between governments, employers, recruitment agencies, non-profits and migrants themselves.

An early step for such a coalition must be conducting a frank risk-assessment of the regular migration process. After points of high-risk are identified, a two-pronged solution comprising corrective action and safety guarantees will help ensure regular migration is safe.

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