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  4. June 1996 - Volume 4
  5. Human Rights Across the Borders

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FOCUS June 1996 Volume 4

Human Rights Across the Borders


Asian migrant workers continue, in growing number, to seek employment in the regions' economic growth countries.

This scene characterizes the movements of people across the region in search of better economic opportunities. A development that has impact beyond the economic field.

Mainstream media highlights the highly lucrative labor export and import business, the contribution of migrant workers to the economies of the region, and the economic successes and failures of the workers themselves. Reported too are the well-entrenched systems of exploiting the migrant workers whether legally permitted to work or not.

One is led to ask about the human rights of these migrant workers. Are their rights respected? Can the economic benefits pay for the violations that they endure?

An essential factor to the continuing migration of workers is the economic and social conditions in both sending and receiving countries. While there is an undeniable need on the part of the receiving countries for migrant workers, the legal, social and political systems of these countries fail to provide the necessary support for their work. Instead, migrant workers are treated as disposable units of economic programs - gaining maximum benefits during the pre-determined short period of their use.

Treating migrant workers as low status labor will not lead to respect for their human rights. And again, the economic benefit (which is not necessarily commensurate to the actual cost of labor) gained by the migrant workers cannot compensate for the violation of their rights as workers, as people.

The migrant workers issue must therefore be seen from the perspective of the workers in order to recognize the real value of their work and address the human rights violations that result.