HRW (Dhaka): Ministers from Asian labor-sending countries meeting in Dhaka this week should together endorse protections for migrant workers, Human Rights Watch, Migrant Forum in
On April 19 to 21, 2011,
"Abuses against migrants are often linked to gaps in information, poor coordination, and competition for jobs, so it's a big deal for these governments to sit around the table and address these problems together," said Nisha Varia, senior women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The
The briefing paper, "Protecting Asian Migrants' Rights: Recommendations to Governments of the Colombo Process," urges delegates to pledge support for a proposed international convention on labor standards for domestic work, increase civil society participation in future regional dialogues, promote increased multilateral cooperation, and take measures to eliminate recruitment fees charged to migrant workers.
"We are encouraged that governments are reviving the Colombo Process, but migrant voices also belong at the table," said William Gois, coordinator for Migrant Forum in
Some 3 million Asian men and women migrate each year, a large proportion working in domestic service, construction, manufacturing, and agriculture in other Asian countries and the
But inadequate protections mean migrants also risk an array of abuses, the groups said, including recruitment-related deception and debts, unpaid wages, hazardous working conditions, physical and sexual abuse, and forced labor, including human trafficking. Unlicensed recruiters often operate with impunity, migrants have limited information about their rights and channels to seek help, and immigration policies can trap workers with abusive employers.
"When high, and often inflated, recruitment fees leave migrants heavily indebted, they are especially vulnerable to abuse," said Dr. Chowdhury Abrar, chairman of the international relations department at the
Asian and Middle Eastern governments have introduced incremental reforms in recent years, and this year's forum will provide an opportunity to share best practices. While some countries have improved oversight of labor migration through bilateral agreements, uneven bargaining power between sending and receiving countries has meant that the resulting agreements are often weak. Such negotiations may also have unintended consequences, the groups said. When
"Even though migrants from
In the wake of the departure of large numbers of migrants from
The International Organization for Migration provides technical support to the Colombo Process and serves as its secretariat. The labor-sending countries attending the Colombo Process include