Commentary: ASEAN travel framework falls short for migrant workers; govts must set policies to address factors that impel workers to choose illegal migration channels
"Why ASEAN’s ‘Travel Corridor’ Falls Short for the Region’s Migrant Workers", 6 May 2022
In looking to the future, ASEAN is making it clear that restarting travel, including labor-related travel, is one of the bloc’s main agenda items. One of the key initiatives being prioritized as part of post-COVID-19 recovery is the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework (ATCAF), which has been in discussion since 2020. It aims to facilitate the essential movement of people while safeguarding public health; particularly establishing the mutual recognition of vaccine certificates and other standardized health measures.
The framework itself may have mentioned the creation of a common set of pre-departure and post-arrival health and safety measures as well as other requirements set out by both sending and receiving states. However, these safety measures can only be implemented for those who migrate through legal channels, whereas those who continue to choose illegal/undocumented channels will not be able to track their health status.
It is therefore essential for sending and receiving governments alike to work together to create and implement policies that get at the factors that incentivize workers to choose migration via illegal channels in the first place. One of the first steps should be to reduce the cost of legal documents and to make the process for obtaining those documents easier.
Cross-border investigations and punishments should also be strengthened for those who are involved in businesses responsible for illegally smuggling or trafficking migrant workers; for instance, illegal brokers and corrupt authorities. In addition, in order to fully ensure the public health safety especially for the migrant workers, it is also crucial for states to start putting more focus on strengthening existing social protection schemes.