ITUC and local affiliates spearhead initiative to protect migrant workers’ rights

27 Dec 2020 Ferado

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the world’s largest trade union federation, together with local ITUC affiliates, unveiled the Migrant Workers Recruitment Advisor (MRA) website in Sinhala and Tamil in their efforts to safeguard and protect the rights of Sri Lanka’s migrant workers. 

The MRA website, recruitmentadvisor.org, is an easily accessible platform for Sri Lankan migrant workers to share their experience by reviewing recruitment agencies, enabling others seeking similar opportunities to research and find information relevant to their recruitment option. The website’s functionality allows workers to comment on their experiences and rate the recruitment agencies while enabling them to learn about their labour rights in the process. 

Since 2018, the ITUC and local affiliates have been closely engaging with migrant worker communities in Sri Lanka to gather reviews about recruitment experiences to protect locals from pursuing overseas employment with minimal screening and endorsement. ITUC’s local affiliates include Sri Lanka Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya (SLNSS), Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), and National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) —trade union organisations that extend their support to drive the MRA agenda island-wide to key stakeholders in a collaborative effort to ensure fair recruitment across the labour migration sector.

Spokesperson for the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC AP General Secretary Shoya Yoshida said: “International labour migration from Sri Lanka has seen an increase in recent times, particularly with lucrative employment opportunities offered by countries in the Gulf. Workers often put themselves at risk due to lack of a sustainable income, and with minimal or no research, take up foreign employment offered by agencies that leave them vulnerable to labour exploitation. It is even more alarming when governments have not provided clear requirements in law to protect migrant workers, inevitably leading to a violation of their rights. By launching the Migrant Workers Recruitment Advisor (MRA) website in the Sinhalese and Tamil languages, we believe it can help mitigate the risk of migrant worker exploitation. We encourage all workers to avail of this opportunity to do due diligence and research agencies that promote foreign employment before making any commitment.”

“The impact of COVID-19 has also added undue pressure, with migrant workers left unemployed and forced to be repatriated, leaving them either stranded in the countries of employment or left uncompensated in the process,” he added. 

The MRA website was launched to enable the ITUC and its affiliates to create a global peer-to-peer recruitment review platform that provides accurate information on recruitment to both prospective migrant workers, as well as workers already employed overseas. Ultimately, the website will also allow more transparency for employers, compliant labour recruiters and other relevant actors and a valuable tool to enhance fair recruitment practices in the inter of all. The website was generated as a solution to drive effective mechanisms to reduce deceptive and fraudulent recruitment practices that leave workers more vulnerable to labour exploitation and forced labour across the world. The MRA website presently lists countless agencies in Nepal, Philippines, Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, to name a few.

The ILO’s EQUIP (Equipping Sri Lanka to Counter Trafficking in Persons) project funded by United States Department of States, South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau (US DOS SCA) and ILO’s Global REFRAME project funded by European Union has provided technical and financial support to the ITUC’s local affiliates to implement fair recruitment principle through the MRA website. The MRA is a key tool to promote fair recruitment in practice, in line with the ILO General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment, and the definition of recruitment fees and costs.

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