What is the institutional framework governing migration?
The MOLvT is the primary body managing labour migration, in association with other relevant line ministries such as MOI, MFAIC and the Council of Ministers. The Department of Employment and Manpower of the General Directorate of labour is the major office managing the migration of Cambodian workers abroad. Its tasks involve selecting and licensing employment agencies; monitoring and evaluating recruitment agencies; resolving disputes between migrant workers and domestic employment agencies and between migrant workers and their employers; supporting employment agencies in sending workers abroad; and preventing illegal recruitment. The department has five bureaus, responsible for labour inspections, labour disputes, employment and manpower, child labour and occupational health. The Manpower Training and Overseas Sending Board (MTOSB) was added to the structure by Sub-decree 70 in July 2006. It is a public employment agency tasked with recruiting, training, and sending workers to South Korea. It also comprises a special unit within the MOLvT facilitating government-to-government labour migration agreements.
Other ministries have limited and specific engagement. The MOI is responsible for providing passports and preventing illegal recruitment and crossborder human trafficking. The MFAIC is in charge of distributing all relevant documents and regulations, facilitating legal labour migration and managing and resolving disputes between workers and their employers in receiving countries via Cambodian embassies. The Council of Ministers participates in the Inter-ministerial Working Group for Implementation of the Mou with Thailand. There are two inter-ministerial working groups specifically dealing with migration. The group for implementing the Mou with Thailand was created on 10 January 2005 with members from the relevant ministries. Its main tasks are verifying the nationality of illegal Cambodian migrant workers and issuing them with a certificate of identity. The Inter-ministerial Taskforce for Migration was created by Prakas 012/07 in January 2007 to develop and implement policy and action plans on labour migration.
Another important institutional mechanism is the Migration Working Group established in 2012 under the Secretariat of the National Committee to lead the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, labour, and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children, now called the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT). The overall purpose of the group is to promote and protect the safety, rights, and interests of migrants in a way that is gender responsive by using a multi- disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach.
MOI chairs this group, and there are number of vice-chairs, including the MOLVT, MOWA and the Ministry of Justice. Some are critical of the performance of the Working Group and they even suggest a change, especially in terms of empowerment and the leading role of MOLvT.
Like many public institutions, the MOLvT has capacity limitations which include lack of staff and resources, weak co-ordination among relevant ministries and across countries, ineffective mechanisms for monitoring and supervising recruitment agencies and mechanisms to settle grievances. There is no easy way for migrant workers to file complaints about abuse or obtain support in cases of violation of labour rights. This makes migrants vulnerable vis-a-vis recruitment agencies and employers. Cambodia does not yet have a system that can administer and manage labour migration effectively. Private agencies are profit-driven, and weak monitoring leaves room for opportunistic agencies to ignore rules and standards. There are numerous cases of private recruitment agencies extracting excessive payments from workers, confiscating workers’ passports, not providing a standard employment contract and neglecting the welfare and protection of workers (Lee, 2007).
In addition, policy and institutional frameworks are seen as lacking coherence and efficiency. Even though migration is a cross-cutting issue that falls under the authority of several ministries and institutions, the issue has not received enough attention in sectoral development policy design. Consequently, information exchange, inter-ministerial consultations, and joint implementation of migration policies and programmes are weak and limited. These challenges have been firmly recognised by the policy on labour migration for Cambodia 2014. One of its three strategic targets is to improve migration governance through: strengthening the existing roles of the MOLVT and Provincial Departments of Labour and Vocational Training; reviewing the operational structures of the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce for Migration alongside the National Committee to Counter Human Trafficking labour migration working group; and strengthening the enforcement of migration laws.