Engaging Migrants

Apart from civil society organisations, employers, commercial enterprises, academia and other non-state actors, migrant workers need to contribute to policy-making processes. There is a need for mechanisms to register their experiences (both positive and negative) in the host country. Migrants need an avenue to express their challenges and frustration in a timely fashion to the relevant authority in the host country, without being penalized. Only then, can issues be identified and addressed promptly. For many low-skilled migrant workers in Southeast Asia, this is not even a remote possibility. They risk losing employment, unfair treatment and even repatriation for voicing their grievances. They encounter the threat of ‘losing’ their passports (which are held by their employer on the pretext of safekeeping) or non-renewal of their work permits, should they raise an issue that is deemed ‘unfavourable’ to the employer. The threat of becoming an undocumented migrant is a stark reality. This is only one instance of the potential danger to a migrant worker. A few states have robust systems to monitor such situations. The rest do not. 

Migrant workers, especially low-skilled and low-wage migrant workers need a voice in the host country’s policy-making processes. They need proper representation in appropriate fora to highlight their difficulties. Migrant organisations and unions within the host country could facilitate this. However, migrant workers are not allowed to organize themselves in such ways in many states. It must be understood that a host country is not doing the migrant worker a favour by allowing him into its jurisdiction. This is supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement, with the host country fulfilling its demand for labour and the migrant fulfilling his financial need. It is an economic transaction, where the migrant worker contributes to the host country’s economy. In order to maintain migrants’ work performance at an optimum level, their welfare and security must be ensured. This is in the best interest of the migrant, as well as the host country. It facilitates sustainable economic development. The first step to safeguarding migrants is to engage them in policy-making processes. Accurate feedback should be obtained directly from them in a neutral environment. For this to happen, they need to have confidence and trust in the host country’s migration governance system. Migration policy can be effective if it addresses the actual concerns of migrants. Therefore, we need to explore ways in which these genuine concerns can be sieved from what migrants are expected to say. 

We Want To Be Heard!

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