Repression and Resilience

East and South East Asia: Online public discussion launching a research outcome on covid-19 response measures and migrant workers’ rights in East and South East Asia, available to watch below on Youtube. We also covered situations of undocumented people and people with irregular status too…

You can see the report and the recording of the event. I recommend to watch the keynote speech of Eni Lestari, the chairperson of International Migrants Alliance, who is an Indonesian domestic worker activist in HK and globally. She is amazing.


About the Discussion: The pandemic has emphasised on border controls, as countries use travel bans and restrictions to protect their own population from the virus entering into their borders. It can be mandated by each country’s constitution, allowing them to focus on protecting and serving their own citizens, however at a time of crisis, it may gear up the use of politics based on sectarian populism or nationalism.

Migrant workers globally have become one of the most vulnerable and disproportionately affected groups from the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and who are faced with the greatest risk of coronavirus infection. Temporary, low-wage and/or undocumented migrants have limited or no access to healthcare, information, daily necessities and personal protective equipment (PPE), poorer occupational safety and health, lack of physical distancing in employer-provided housing and lack of firewalls and fears of arrests and detention, therefore their rights to health is unfulfilled. This is despite the fact that migrant workers play an especially crucial role in the fight against COVID-19, such as in care and frontline settings. The discrimination that migrant workers faces has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Migrant workers are also suffering the economic ramifications due to the pandemic’s effect on the global economy.

Joined by scholars and experts of civil society organisations working on the frontline to address the challenges faced by migrant workers, this study aims to 1) assess the impact of pre-existing migration policies and COVID-19 public health measures, often based on strong national interests, on migrant workers, 2) explore how vulnerabilities translate to real-life experiences of migrant workers, and 3) how state and non-state actors, including businesses and civil society, are dealing with challenges faced by migrant workers. This research is also aimed at amplifying voices of those who are affected and bringing them to the multi-stakeholders at the national and regional levels.

This research is part of an initiative of civil society actors in both East and Southeast Asia to work collaboratively to address issues faced by an increasing number of migrants moving cross-regionally.

Keynote, Speakers and Discussants:

  • Eni Lestari, Chairperson International Migration Alliance (IMA)
  • Mariko Hayashi, Research Coordinator, Director of Southeast and East Asia Center
  • Andika Wahab, Fellow Institut Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
  • Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, Director, Service Center and Shelter for Migrant Workers, Serve the People Association, Taoyuan (SPA)
  • H.E. Umar Hadi, Indonesian Ambassador to South Korea
  • Shamini Darshni KaliemuthuExecutive Director of Forum-ASIA

Moderator and Facilitator:

  • Adeline Tinessia, Australia National University (ANU)
  • Rafendi Djamin, Senior Advisor Human Rights Working  Group

About the organisers:

  • The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)is a Bangkok-based regional network of 81 member organisations across 21 Asian countries, with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity-development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has sub-regional offices in Geneva, Jakarta, and Kathmandu.
  • The Indonesian NGOs Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG) was established by several NGOs working on different issues but shared common interest in human rights to serve the need for elaborate advocacy works already in place with the aim of maximising the goals and putting more pressures on the Indonesian government to execute its international and constitutional obligations to protecting, fulfilling, respecting and promoting human rights in the country.

Also please note: URGENT ACTION Free the HRDay 7!

At dawn, on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2020, simultaneous raids were conducted by the Philippine National Police in various residences of trade union organizers in Metro Manila, Philippines. With search warrants on hand issued by a City Executive Judge, the police forced their entries into the residences and planted pieces of firearms, ammunition and explosive devices. These events then led to the arrest of six trade union activists and a journalist namely:

Dennise Velasco of Defend Jobs Philippines
Romina Astudillo, Deputy Secretary-General of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Metro Manila
Mark Ryan Cruz, Regional Executive Committee of KMU-Metro Manila
Jaymie Gregorio Jr. of KMU-Metro Manila
Joel Demate of Solidarity of Labor Rights and Welfare (SOLAR)
Rodrigo Esparago of Sandigang Manggagawa sa Quezon City (SMQC)
Lady Ann Salem, Communication officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), and editor for online news site Manila Today

Trade unions in the Philippines condemn this brazen attack on trade union activists. The HRDay7 is just the latest of cases of illegal arrest and detention of unionists in the Philippines, as state security forces intensify their crackdown among activists. Ramon Rescovilla, national vice-president of transport federation Piston and Jose Bernardino, organizer of zone workers and drivers of Workers’ Alliance in Region III (WAR 3 KMU) were also arrested during the militarist lockdown.

We call for the immediate release of the HRD7 and a stop to the filing of manufactured criminal charges against activists. We call on trade unionists and rights defenders across the globe to:

1) Issue statements of support for the HRD7, calling for their immediate release and dropping all charges against them; Sign the online petition here.
2) Write the Department of Justice to appeal the release of the HRDay7 and all detained unionists in the Philippines;
3) Take part in the 7 for HRDay7, and join the globally coordinated action to Free Our Unionists on December 21;
4) Petition the Philippine government to accept the International Labor Organization High Level Tripartite Mission that could look into the cases of trade union and human rights violations among Filipino workers;
5) Lobby your respective governments to take action to urge the Duterte Administration to respect human rights in the Philippines;
6) Contribute to the legal and campaign fund for the HRDay7.

Free Our Unionists will hold ‘7 for HRDay7’, or seven days of protests to free the HRD7 from December 14-21. We hope that you could extend your solidarity and support for this campaign.