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Backlash Against Migrant Workers Sparks Human Slavery Concerns

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“While the research did not determine why attitudes toward migrant workers are declining, it does demonstrate that we are not successfully countering racism, xenophobia and hate”

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The United Nations has raised concerns over human slavery as support for migrant workers in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand is decreasing. The UN has now raised concerns about the risk of human slavery.

Most people in the three nations have limited knowledge about and increasingly negative attitudes toward migrant workers. The do not think migrants should receive the same benefits or pay as local workers.

Such attitudes can condone discrimination, exploitation and violence against migrant workers, and influence policies on labor migration, according to the U.N. International Labour Organization (ILO) and U.N. Women.

As many as 10 million migrants are estimated to work across Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Campaigners say debt bondage, limited state oversight, and unscrupulous employment practices leave them vulnerable. Especially to labor abuses and slavery.

Many are undocumented, meaning they are at greater risk of being exploited or enslaved. They are also less likely to speak out for fear of reprisals.

“While the research did not determine why attitudes toward migrant workers are declining, it does demonstrate that we are not successfully countering racism, xenophobia and hate,” ILO advisor Anna Engblom told Reuters.

“It is likely that human slavery will be allowed to flourish if the general public sympathizes with such values.

International Migrants Day

Engblom comments came on International Migrants Day on Dec. 18th. Set by the United Nations to raise awareness on the issue. Human slavery has also been a major concern in Thailand’s fishing industry.

The research – a follow-up to a 2010 poll – was based on interviews with about 4,100 people in the three countries. The survey also included Japan, which did not feature in the previous survey.

More than half the respondents in Malaysia and Thailand, and a quarter in Singapore, said there was a need for more migrant workers in their countries. However over a third of those polled in each nation agreed that migrants were “a drain on the economy”.

About half of the people surveyed said they thought crime rates had increased because of migration.

There is a belief that migrant workers are taking away our social, economic and political resources.” Glorene Das, the head of the Malaysian migrant workers rights group Tenaganita told Reuters.

Adisorn Kerdmongkol, a coordinator at the Migrant Working Group, also said such negative attitudes would result in further exploitation and human slavery.

“Governments will take less action to protect migrant workers because they will be concerned with public perception.”

“Workers will also be afraid to speak out due to concern they will be disliked by locals, which will cause problems.”

Source: Reuters

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