Workers on a construction site

On December 18th, Verité will join the global community in celebrating International Migrants Day. International migration and the human rights of migrant laborers is a common theme in Verité’s work across regions and sectors, and in many corporate supply chains. Cross-border migrant workers face increased vulnerability to exploitation and forced labor due to their foreign status in the destination country.

Verité engages directly on this issue through several ongoing projects and participation in United Nations’ dialogues on the global governance of migration.

Verité’s pioneering work in the responsible recruitment space is grounded in the finding that the exploitation of workers in global supply chains happens not only at the worksite, but also during cross-border recruitment. Verité’s Responsible Sourcing Tool identifies migrant workers as particularly at risk of human trafficking due to deceptive recruitment practices, limited freedom of movement caused by passport retention, lack of social support systems in the country of employment, discrimination, restrictions on forming or joining trade unions, as well as debt brought on by the high costs of the recruitment process. Verité’s study on forced labor in the Malaysian electronics sector found that foreign workers faced risks of forced labor at a much higher rate than local workers laboring at the same factories. In fact, nearly all of Verite’s extensive body of research on indicators of forced labor in a wide range of supply chains and countries demonstrate the connection between migration and enhanced risk of forced labor, as well as other labor abuses.

Demand for migrant workers to fill low skilled jobs is increasing in Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) countries in advance of the World Expo in the UAE in 2020 and the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022. These large events as well as an overall increase in the construction of educational and cultural institutions has brought more scrutiny to abuses faced by migrant workers in the GCC. This influx of migrant workers has provided Verité with the opportunity to implement two projects to promote safe and fair conditions for migrant workers in the GCC funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). The first project utilizes a multi-stakeholder approach to promote safe and fair migration from East Africa to the GCC; engaging prospective migrants and their families, civil society organizations (CSOs), government officials, and recruitment agents in Kenya as well as employers in Qatar and the UAE to identify and address risks faced by low skill migrant workers in this corridor, including forced labor and human trafficking. The project engages these stakeholders to reduce the risks that migrants face at the most vulnerable points of the labor recruitment and migration process. In partnership with International Organization for Migration Kenya, this project has supported the development of a professional association of labor recruitment agents in Kenya who are committed to ethical recruitment practices.

Verité is implementing the second project with a long-time partner in India, the Association for Stimulating Knowhow (ASK). This project focuses on improving the capacities of CSOs and information and communication technology resources (such as mobile phone apps) in both sending and destination communities to support low skill workers migrating from India to Qatar and the UAE. This project focuses on building support systems and resources for migrant workers entering low skill jobs who encounter indicators of forced labor such as contract substitution, withholding of wages, and document retention. The project is currently developing a network of CSOs to deliver pre-departure trainings and other outreach for prospective migrants and their families in sending communities in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh.

In addition to these important program activities, Verité is also pleased to have participated in the development process of the UN’s Global Compact on Migration.

The Global Compact on Safe, Regular, and Orderly Migration, as it is formally known, emerged from the High-Level Summit for Refugees and Migrants held in September 2016 by the UN General Assembly. The summit resulted in the unanimous adoption of the New York Declaration, which included a commitment to developing a global compact aimed at improving international cooperation and establishing a coordinated and global response to the large movements of refugees and migrants. This marks the first time the global community came together to address this issue.

The global compact is an important opportunity for the international community to not only address the challenges related to migration but also to recognize the universality of human and labor rights of refugees and migrants. Verité is proud to have participated in the consultative phase for the global compact. Following these consultations, the civil society community issued Now and How: TEN ACTS, an advocacy tool that outlines a rights-based vision for the global compact. Verité has signed on to this document and supports this global advocacy effort to use this once-in-a-generation opportunity to promote human rights, decent work, and labor rights for migrant workers.

For more information, please contact Justine Shakespeare

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