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Promoting the rights of migrant workers in Southeast Asia

Labour migration in Southeast Asia is a phenomenon that has existed for centuries. Despite the economic benefits for countries of origin and destination, the situation of migrants and their access to social services is often precarious. Since 2021, AWO International, together with its local partner organisation Migrant Forum Asia (MFA), has been campaigning for the rights of migrant workers in Southeast Asia.

A woman is giving a presentation. She is holding a microphone and standing in front of a flipchart.
MFA networks various state and civil society actors to strengthen the rights of migrants.

Seventy per cent of the more than 10 million international migrants in Southeast Asia are from the region itself. The main countries of origin are Indonesia and the Philippines, while Malaysia is one of the main destinations for migrants in the region. Permeable borders, common cultures and better economic opportunities in destination countries than in countries of origin lead to migration flows in the region. Many migrants are employed in labour-intensive sectors such as plantations and mines, or in service-oriented sectors such as domestic work. Migrants thus contribute significantly to the economies of destination countries and support the economies of their countries of origin through remittances to their families. Despite the benefits that migrants bring to society, their access to social services in Southeast Asia remains fraught with challenges and shortcomings. While Southeast Asian countries expressed interest in strengthening the rights of migrants through the ASEAN Association of States in 2017, this remains non-binding and subject to national laws.

To improve access to justice for migrants and their families in the ASEAN region, MFA and AWO International are conducting research and publications, strengthening civil society organisations working to protect migrants' rights, and facilitating dialogue between relevant stakeholders and legislators. The project aims to conduct evidence-based advocacy campaigns to promote rights-based migration policies in the ASEAN region.

Our local partner: MFA

Formally established in 1994, the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) is a regional network of NGOs, migrant worker associations and trade unions, and individual advocates in Southeast Asia working to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers. MFA works closely with its members and partners to conduct advocacy campaigns and organise dialogues with relevant groups and authorities within ASEAN.


Project Promoting migrants' rights in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region
Place/Region Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia
Partner Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
Target group Parliamentarians, representatives of diplomatic missions, representatives of civil society, migrant workers and the following organisations: Lawyers Beyond Borders and ASEAN Bar Association Coalition on Migration.
  • Verbesserung des auf Rechten basierenden politischen Rahmens für die Steuerung der Arbeitsmigration in den Herkunfts- und Zielländern auf ASEAN-Ebene 
  • Lobbyarbeit für eine stärkere Konzentration der Regierungen auf die Förderung der Rechte von Migranten in ASEAN
Duration 25. Oktober 2021 bis 31. Dezember 2023
Budget 66.000 p.a.
Sponsor BMZ

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