Amnesty International (AI) reports between 2009 and 2013 have exposed South Korea, where Malawi is exporting its labour force effective this year, as having a history of various abuses on migrant workers.
AI’s latest report released on May 22 says apart from government’s crackdown on unionism and workers’ strikes, migrant workers are abused.
“In August (2012), the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern that in South Korea migrant workers are subject to discrimination, exploitation and lower or unpaid wages,” reads part of this year’s report.
Since Malawi expressed interest to export labour to South Korea, human rights activists in the country, including the Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU), have cautioned government to do a thorough research of the South Korean working conditions before sending its citizens there.
In an interview on Monday, MCTU secretary General Pontius Kalichero said although over 300 workers are about to leave for South Korea, the union has not yet received a feedback on whether government has made a thorough check on the South Korean working conditions.
“Government just said it will come back to us. Unfortunately, as MCTU, we cannot do the checking on our own unless we go through International Labour Organisation (ILO),” said Kalichero.
Minister of Labour Eunice Makangala said on Monday when government officials went to South Korea and visited the areas where the Malawian workers would be deployed, they were satisfied with the conditions as well as the environment.
“[Of course] as a person there is no workplace that can satisfy you 100 percent but I would say almost 75 percent of what we saw was generally satisfactory. The fortunate thing is that we have some countries, about 16 of them, who already have workers there and Malawi will be number 17,” Makangala said.
AI first raised an alarm on the appalling working conditions for migrant workers in 2009 .
And the 2012 report further documented how the South Korean Government was suppressing migrant worker’s trade union through arrests and deportation of leaders of the Migrant Trade Union (MTU).
“Since MTU was founded in 2005, the government had arrested and deported at least five of its leaders, suggesting that the authorities were attempting to stop it from conducting its legitimate union activities,” reads the report.
Makangala said the 336 successful workers will be leaving once they obtain their travel documents.