Wednesday, September 19 2018


Migrant workers lack access to legal help

Update: December, 18/2013 - 09:50
Currently, there are about 500,000 Vietnamese workers in more than 40 countries and territories.— Photo daibieunhandan

HA NOI VNS() — Viet Nam needs to ensure its migrant workers have a reliable system to air grievances and gain easier access to legal assistance and apply lessons learnt from other ASEAN members, experts said yesterday.

They were speaking at a conference organised by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) in co-operation with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Viet Nam on the occasion of the International Migrants Day, which falls on today.

Florian Forster, chief of mission of IOM's Viet Nam office, stressed that the legal assistance system for migrant workers should be made simple, easily accessible and transparent so that it would not become a burden.

Ta Thi Thanh Thuy, a labour specialist from MOLISA who had attended the 6th ASEAN Forum on Labour Migration in Brunei late November, said Viet Nam should learn from the successful experiences of other ASEAN members and set up service centres for migrants in destination countries.

Migrant workers should be able to complain about workplace problems they are having, seek the help of interpreters and get advice from legal consultants at such centres, Thuy said.

She also stressed the need for enhanced co-operation between trade unions of different countries to address workers' complaints.

In case workers take their problems to court, it would be important to ensure that concerned agencies in both the departure country and the destination country are well-informed of developments in time, so that timely interventions are possible, Thuy said.

Yuko Hamada, senior regional labour migrant specialist of the IOM's regional office for Asia and the Pacific, said that Viet Nam should learn from the experience of Singapore in organising a grievance mechanism for migrants.

He said that in Singapore, migrant workers who report problems at work are provided adequate victim care services including accommodation, medical care and possible job placement during ongoing investigations into their complaints.

Also, those facing abuse, exploitation, and violence can use various available channels to seek assistance, either by writing an email, making telephone calls or posting their complaints on an online grievance system.

Both Thuy and Hamada stressed the need to strengthen the capacity of staff in overseas missions so that they can provide better support for migrant workers.

Do Cong Hai, deputy director of the Department of Overseas Labour under the Labour Ministry, said the management of migrant workers faced several challenges.

He said that in some cases, enterprises failed to report the list of migrant workers and their addresses to representative offices overseas in a timely manner.

There were also cases of workers who travelled overseas on their own under the guise of tourism or visiting relatives, but stayed on to work.

Hai also cited poor foreign language skills and lack of experience working in international environments as reasons for Vietnamese workers not being able to independently deal with their problems.

Nguyen Manh Tuan, deputy head of the Labour Policy Inspection Department under MoLISA, said Viet Nam was yet to have a legal document in place offering guidance on dealing with labour complaints of its migrant workers.

This meant that there was no clear set of procedures or identification of agencies tasked with addressing these problems, he said.

Viet Nam currently has overseas Vietnamese workers management boards in eight countries and territories — Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Czech Republic, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Labour Policy Inspection Department.

Currently, there are about 500,000 Vietnamese workers in more than 40 countries and territories.

The Department of Overseas Labour has said that as of November this year, Viet Nam had sent nearly 80,000 workers overseas, and it is expected that the country's initial target of sending 85,000 workers overseas will be achieved.

Taiwan is now the leading destination, welcoming over 41,700 Vietnamese workers this year, followed by Japan with 8,100 and Malaysia with 6,900. — VNS

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