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Vietnamese migrant workers lack access to legal help

Publication Date : 19-12-2013


Vietnam needs to ensure its migrant workers have a reliable system to air grievances, gain easier access to legal assistance and apply lessons learnt from other Asean members, experts said on Wednesday.

This was brought up during a conference organised by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (Molisa) in cooperation with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Vietnam in conjunction with International Migrants Day on December 18.

Florian Forster, who heads IOM's Vietnam office, stressed that the legal assistance system for migrant workers should be made simple, easily accessible and transparent.

Ta Thi Thanh Thuy, a labour specialist from Molisa who had attended the 6th Asean Forum on Labour Migration in Brunei late November, said Vietnam should learn from the successes of other Asean members and set up service centres for migrants in countries where they are based.

Migrant workers should be able to lodge complaints about workplace problems they face, and receive advice for consultants at the centres, Thuy said.

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

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

Yuko Hamada, a senior regional labour migrant specialist at the IOM's regional office for Asia and the Pacific, said that Vietnam should learn from the experience of Singapore in setting 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 forum.

Both Thuy and Hamada suggested strengthening the number 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 submit the list of migrant workers and their addresses to representative offices overseas.

There were also cases of workers who travelled overseas on their own pretending to be tourists or visit relatives, but stayed on to work.

Hai also cited poor foreign language skills and lack of overseas working experiences as reasons why some Vietnamese workers are unable to deal with their workplace problems by themselves.

Nguyen Manh Tuan, deputy head of the Labour Policy Inspection Department under Molisa, said that Vietnam has yet to put in place guidelines on how to deal with issues faced by migrant workers.

This means that there is no clear set of procedures or agencies tasked with addressing these problems, he said.

Vietnam currently has overseas 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 working in more than 40 countries and territories.

According to data compiled by the department, Vietnam has sent nearly 80,000 workers overseas as of November this year, and is expected to achieve its target of sending 85,000 workers overseas by the end of the year.

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


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