Six-month ban ‘further abuses’ migrant workers

Monday, November 22, 2010
Issue 1171, Page 3
Word count: 805
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The six-month re-entry ban imposed on imported labour should be revoked as it only further exploits the workers who are already in a “very insecure and vulnerable position”, said Aaron H. Ceradoy, program coordinator of the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) yesterday.

Ceradoy, who was invited to give a speech during Migrante Macau’s first anniversary celebration activity at the Caritas Library, told the Macau Daily Times before the event began that it is not uncommon for countries to restrict the entry and conditions of stay of migrant workers especially the unskilled ones.

“That’s what host countries do, they take you to their countries, make you work for long hours and little pay but in turn the benefits or welfare migrant workers can get are very limited. It puts migrant workers in an even more vulnerable position,” Ceradoy said.

“It’s very likely that they [migrant workers] will just accept whatever treatment they suffer from as long as they can be employed. The situation is always like ‘as long as I’ve a job’, a thought that has been promoted by the six-month ban. The quality of life and the working conditions are already out of the question,” he added.

Hence, Ceradoy supports the revocation of the legislation that prohibits a non-local worker to terminate an employment contract in a bid to get another (usually better paid) job.

“If they can get a higher salary and receive benefits from the Macau Government then they won’t want to change jobs frequently,” he said.

“I don’t think the ban serves more purposes other than making the migrant workers get further abused. They are already being exploited as migrant workers but the ban opens up further the exploitation of them,” he told MDT.

Based in Hong Kong, APMM is a cause-oriented regional centre committed to supporting the migrants’ movement through advocacy, organising, and building linkages for the advancement of migrants’ rights.

When asked what problems or difficulties imported workers usually face, Ceradoy pointed out that they come from both the home and the host countries.

“Foreign workers are subject to different policies of the host government that basically maintains or even worsens their conditions of being cheap labour in that country […] These countries need foreign workers who are much cheaper than the local ones. That’s why they [host governments] impose policies in order to maintain the level of cheap labour,” he explained.

However, on the other hand Ceradoy said the home country also looks at migrant workers as a source of income.

Migrant-sending countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam are largely dependent on the sending of their nationals abroad to “keep their economies floating”, he noted.

“The only sector of people who now have the money in these countries are the migrant workers, because they are at least employed abroad and even though they are cheap labour they still earn more when compared to the others who stay and work in their home country,” the APMM coordinator said.

“That’s why the home country keeps on imposing different fees just to collect money from their nationals abroad.”

The labour export programs of the countries indicate that they are “treating human beings as nothing more than commodities”, in other words “making use of their nationals to make money,” he said.

“But they won’t say that they have such programs and instead they will argue that they’re just facilitating the procedures for those who want to work abroad. But in fact these governments have active policies to seek markets in foreign countries – it’s no different from seeking markets for mangoes – where their workers will be needed,” Ceradoy told MDT.

According to Ceradoy, the top destination for Filipino migrant workers remains the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia that is hosting nearly one million of them.

“It’s easier to go to the Middle East than to Macau, for example, as a migrant worker because Macau is more restricted in terms of entry of people,” he said.

Nevertheless, Ceradoy reiterated that even if there is only one Filipino working in a particular country, APMM believes that he or she still deserves the rights as a migrant worker.

“The Philippine Government should be responsible to them and the host government should also look into their situation and not make them nearly as what we call modern slaves,” he said.

Around 40 members of Migrante Macau, which is formed mainly by the local Filipino community, prayed, sang and danced yesterday afternoon to celebrate the first year anniversary of the organisation.

Chairperson Catalina Yamat stressed they will continue to fight for a cheaper e-passport application fee and the revocation of the Affidavit of Support fee amongst other issues. She said Consul General Renato Villapando has promised to meet with various Filipino organisations face-to-face this month but they have not yet heard any news from the consulate.

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