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Global agreement on migrant labour

DHAKA (UCAN): A ray of hope broke through clouds of war and desperation when 130 countries agreed to create an international treaty on migration governance at a summit in Dhaka at the Global Forum on Migration and Development held from December 10 to 12.

Some 600 delegates attending the three-day meeting agreed to create a Global Compact on Safe and Orderly Migration.

The world is seeing the largest population movement since World War II. There are people fleeing wars in the Middle East and North Africa and more who are seeking a better future for themselves and their children.

Most undocumented migrants and refugees end up facing serious abuse in their host countries and many die in their search for a friendly welcome. 

However they are not alone, as documented migrants also face problems due to exploitation by unscrupulous agents and middlemen.

Bangladesh, which has some eight million citizens working abroad, proposed a global initiative on migration at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September 2015.

John Bingham, the chief of policy at the c, said that the proposal was supported by countries like Mexico, Benin, Sweden and Switzerland before finally being accepted.

Bingham added that this was the first time governments have discussed all aspects of the migration problem so comprehensively.

The foreign secretary from Bangladesh, Shahidul Haque, said that all 130 countries agreed on the initiative, which is likely to be finalised at an inter-governmental conference in 2018 after a series of consultations beginning early this year.

“There was no blame-game. Even Middle Eastern countries (which have large numbers of migrants), recognised the problems and agreed to have a global treaty,” Shahidul told journalists on December 12.

Ray Jureidini said in an International Labour Organisation report released last year that large numbers of south Asian migrants in Arab countries face forced labour and debt-bondage.

“We spent six to seven hours discussing how to reduce recruitment costs, exploitation and debt. Many millions of people face similar problems, not only from Bangladesh, but from The Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia and many other countries,” Bingham said.

He also cited unsafe migration where workers and refugees have no choice but to move, as being another big concern.

“How we change that and move from the current system that seems to generate more and more undocumented migrants is a real question,” he said.

The governments of Central America and some countries in Africa said at the summit that they are tired of other countries wanting their workers, but not offering them legal protection when they arrive.

The International Organisation of Employers also attended the forum and spoke about how to improve recruitment practices and working conditions. They are now working with the labour organisation and the International Organisation for Migration to standardise recruitment practices.

“There are some employers that are terrible, but some are not,” Bingham said, adding that the International Organisation of Employers has committed to improving the recruitment practices of migrant workers.

He called that a sign of hope. “They started to sit on chairs and fix certain problems,” he reported.

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