This can lead to situations of debt bondage and forced labour, that can in many instances be classified as human trafficking for labour exploitation, which violates both local and international laws.
Speakers at the 16th International Labour Organisation (ILO) Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting requested the drawing up of bilateral and multilateral agreements to eliminate worker payments for recruitment in order to reduce the burden on migrant workers.
The meeting took place at the Bali Nusa-Dua Convention Centre in Indonesia. Speakers were addressing the topic of “Fair Migration with a Focus on Recruitment”.
Professor Ray Jureidini of the Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar said: “There should be bilateral and multilateral agreements between the Country of Origin (COO) and the Country of Destination (COD) which specify the supply of labour at no cost to migrant workers.”
In order for such agreements, both parties must make their laws on recruitment consistent and there needs to be coordination in legislation and enforcement, he added.
Mentioning the reasons for the reduced payments to workers, Jureidini said the charges levied on prospective migrant workers are generally well in excess of actual recruitment fees, commissions and administrative costs. This excess feeds fraudulent activity throughout the industry.
That fraudulent activity includes kickback bribery and extortion, as well as payments to personnel of the employing companies in the country of destination.
According to a presentation by Michelle Leighton, ILO's Chief of Labour Migration Branch, 77% migrant workers in Arab states and Asia received lower wages than they were promised before departure, while 14.7% did not receive wages on time.
Furthermore, 30% of migrant workers do not have signed contracts before experiencing departure related health problems. Of this group, about one in five experienced serious, work related injuries.
Michelle said: “Positive effects of migration are reduced by the labour migration cost”
The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda recognized the positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development, she added.
The presentation said that a Bangladeshi worker has to pay $3136 to go Kuwait, which is equal to 9 month wages. The workers earn $347 a month.
The experts also suggested the establishment of training and accreditation programs to develop more trustworthy recruitment agencies to ensure fair, ethical and compliant recruitment for low-skilled migrant workers.
At the session, Secretary General of Bangladesh Employers’ Federation Farooq Ahmad added that the risks of unforeseen links to forced labour, child labour, or human trafficking cannot be mitigated by exercising fair recruitment practices only, and ensuring transparency in the labour supply chain is essential.
He said: “Having clear and transparent national immigration laws and policies that do not hinder the free movement of labour are greatly beneficial for all the stakeholders. Labour market protection and national laws are at risk when such systems are changed with regular frequency.”
The majority of the labour migration in the Asia and the Pacific region is facilitated and regulated primarily by national migration systems.