Promoting Migrant Workers’ Rights in South Asia and the Gulf

Every year, millions of migrant workers travel from South Asia to Gulf countries. This migration helps the economies of origin countries through remittances and promotes development and prosperity in destination countries. But there are often risks associated with traveling abroad for employment.

Workers are often brought into jobs on temporary contracts, sometimes after paying an exorbitant amount in recruitment fees, only to find that the jobs they are placed into are different from what they were promised. Too often migrants have their passports or other documentation confiscated, and sometimes, they are under paid or not paid at all. Because of the inherently cross-regional nature of the problem, a comprehensive approach is needed to safeguard migrant workers from labor rights violations. Governments on both sides of the migration corridors, in partnership with labor recruiters, employers, and civil society, including trade unions, can ensure safe and fair migration that provides ethical recruitment practices, decent work, a living wage, and protections from labor exploitation.

In both countries of origin and destination, the United States is supporting the work of civil society in testing new strategies to do so. Recently, I had the chance to meet with various stakeholders from Nepal, India, Qatar, and Kuwait during a workshop in Kathmandu to discuss their successes and challenges around this issue.

The workshop participants included journalists, worker leaders, and members of civil society. They all enthusiastically discussed holistic approaches to protecting labor rights and promoting safe migration, particularly for domestic workers. Pre-departure and pre-employment  trainings, advocacy efforts to establish sufficient laws and ensure their implementation, engagement with ethical recruiters, participation in multi-stakeholder mechanisms, and establishing policies that eliminate recruitment fees paid by workers were some measures discussed to  address the labor violations against migrant workers. Technology-based solutions were also discussed as a way to transparently share information among workers, employers, government, and recruiters in real-time.

President Obama has noted that “[w]e will be a champion for communities that are too frequently vulnerable to violence, abuse, and neglect -- such as … migrant workers.” The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) supports these efforts, and will continue to support civil society organizations as they work to expand social and legal protections for migrant workers and fight unsafe, exploitative, and abusive conditions.

About the Author: Marissa Brescia serves as Lead Program Analyst in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor’s Global Programming Office at the U.S. Department of State.

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Patrick W.
Maryland, USA
May 5, 2016
That's what American worker are fighting for ethical recruitment practices, decent work, a living wage, and protections from labor exploitation. They are treating people that live in everyone's country the same way. It's not the "Migrant Workers" It's the people that are hiring them.
Migrant women workers push hand carts loaded with cow manure, which is used in place of fuel in rural areas, in Amritsar, India.
Posted by Marissa Brescia
May 3, 2016


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