ASIA: Intimidation and threats on human rights defenders advocating protection for rights of migrant workers

An Oral Statement to the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organization in general consultative status, and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), a regional non-governmental institution working on and with migrants.

ASIA: Intimidation and threats on human rights defenders advocating protection for rights of migrant workers

Thank you Mr. Vice President,

The ALRC and the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants would like to draw the attention of the Human Rights Council on the growing trend of intimidation and threats on human rights defenders advocating for or protecting the rights of migrants in Asia Pacific.

Human rights defenders for migrants’ rights have become a target of attack for fulfilling their mission to attend to the needs of migrants, documented or not. Criminalization of undocumented migrants, called illegal migrants by some States, is prevalent. In many cases in countries of destination for migrants, the mass arrest, detention and deportation of so-called “illegals” have been carried out by respective States.

Take the case of Mic Catuira, a Filipino migrant worker in South Korea, who has experienced many cases of harassment and intimidation from various agencies of the government of Republic of Korea. Catuira, an official of the Migrant Trade Union affiliated with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, had his employment contract nullified by the Ministry of Labor rendering him undocumented.

When Catuira asserted his right to work and filed a complaint, he was granted a temporary visa by the Ministry of Immigration. However, when he left Korea to Philippines to attend to urgent family matters, he was not allowed entry upon his return. This is despite the Government’s assurance prior to his departure that he will be allowed entry. The Government’s refusal to allow him entry has effectively prevented him in resuming his human rights work.

Catuira’s case happened in 2012, however, this is emblematic to the ongoing threats and intimidation on human rights defenders advocating for or protecting rights of migrants. Similar incidents have been experienced by migrant workers, advocates, unions, organizations, and their partner institutions.

In many cases, the service providers of migrant workers in need of assistance—like the church pastors, social workers and the church institutions—also reported having been harassed by policemen. They feel unsafe and are indirectly told that the police is watching or monitoring them.

The ALRC is concerned that the lack of protection to HRDs working on migrant would increase the vulnerability to abuse and exploitation of migrant workers they are assisting.

We urged the Council to look into this phenomenon.

Thank you.

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About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.