Giving migrant workers a platform to voice their rights

Published: 7 March 2017 7:24 CET

By Mirva Helenius, IFRC

“Today is a happy day for me and my fellow migrant domestic workers. Today it’s all about us and for us. The support from the Red Cross has given me a voice and I’m being heard”, said Kyan Par, a migrant domestic worker who came to Thailand from Myanmar more than 20 years ago.


As one of the attendants of a regional migration consultation in Bangkok which was held from 1-2 March 2017, Kyan Par shared her experiences with an audience of more than 50 participants from various organisations across Asia.


The event was organised by the Rights of Migrants in Action initiative, a project promoting and protecting the rights of migrants through a globally coordinated civil society action. The project is co-funded by the European Union and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), managed by the IFRC in cooperation with National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies from 15 countries across five regions, and implemented in partnership with 43 civil society organizations (CSOs).


The conference in Bangkok brought together representatives from the IFRC, the National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies from the region and civil society organisations from Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal as well as external partners and stakeholders from the European Union, International Committee of the Red Cross, Migrant Forum Asia, Global Alliance against Traffic in Women, the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali Process) and United Nation agencies.


“With this project, we will bring the needs and concerns of migrants to the attention of decision-makers to influence global and regional dialogues. With support from National Societies, we are connecting actors from all levels, ranging from small grassroots civil society organisations to UN agencies, governments and regional networks. And the most importantly, we give space to migrants themselves and empower them to take an active role,” explained Zlatko Kovac, project coordinator of Rights of Migrants in Action from the IFRC Secretariat in Geneva.


The project also encourages the National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies to explore new avenues for supporting migrant populations through collaboration with the civil society and other actors.


“As Thai Red Cross Society, we are pleased that Thailand was selected to be part of the 15 countries globally involved in the Rights of Migrants in Action initiative. In the past year, through collaboration with the civil society organisations engaged in the project, we provided First Aid education for Thai and Burmese domestic workers and psychosocial support training for civil society organisations working with migrants in Bangkok and Chiang Mai,” said Mr. Sawanit Kongsiri, Assistant Secretary General for External Relations of the Thai Red Cross Society while speaking in the opening plenary.


“Now we look ahead to deepening our cooperation and extending our support to stateless persons, migrants and ethnic minorities in the North of Thailand”, Mr. Sawanit Kongsiri added.


This meeting served as a timely opportunity to help identify regional recommendations for development of the Rights of Migrants in Action global policy papers on the human rights of migrants, human trafficking and domestic labour migration. Similar regional consultations were held in 4 regions (Africa, Americas, Europe and Central Asia, and Middle East and North Africa), the event in Bangkok representing Asia being the fifth and final one.


“It was interesting and important to understand that despite coming from different countries with different cultural and geopolitical environments, many of the challenges the migrants are facing are similar. This was a wonderful possibility to learn from each other and to be inspired. I’m looking forward to working more closely with the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and other organisations across the region,”  said Gladys Respati, project coordinator of Ontrack Media, one of the civil society organisations implementing the project in Indonesia.