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‘From 1971, around 9m Pakistanis have gone abroad for employment’

ISLAMABAD: One of the most effective ways to combat common abuses of migrants such as underpayment of wages, confiscation of passports, substandard working conditions and confinement in the workplace, is to ensure that migrants are equipped with knowledge and strategies to safeguard their labour- and human rights throughout the migration cycle, said experts. 

According to the UN statement, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development established the Migrant Resource Center (MRC) in Islamabad in 2015 with the support from the ILO-EU funded “South Asia Labour Migration Governance Project” (SALM) and the ICMPD-EU funded project “Silk Routes Partnership for Migration”.

While MRCs already exists in other labour sending countries in South Asia, the center in Islamabad was the first ever to be established in Pakistan. The MRC provides a range of support services to (potential) migrants, migrant workers, and their families including information, counseling, referral and pre-departure orientation.

The Centre was inaugurated today by the Federal Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Khizer Hayat Khan.

Manzoor Ahamd Kayani, Joint Secretary Emigration (MoOP&HRD) mentioned that “from 1971 till today about 9 million Pakistanis have proceeded abroad for employment, mostly go to GCC countries. The majority of workers are low skilled workers and lack of information on safe migration, access to support mechanisms and justice add to their vulnerabilities and thus they face exploitation and abuse during recruitment and employment process”.

He emphasised that “the main purpose of the MRC is to provide accurate and timely information on safe and legal migration, referral and counselling, as well as raising awareness on irregular migration and the related serious risks”.

Ingrid Christensen, Country Director, International Labour Organization (ILO) Country Office for Pakistan stated that “The ILO is the only UN agency with a constitutional mandate to protect migrant workers. The ILO Constitution – which will be one hundred years old in 1919 – speaks to the needs of protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, they should be treated as human beings not as a commodity”.

She also said that the government should consider the ratification of international standards related to labour migration, including the two ILO Conventions Nos. 97 and 143.

Sedef Dearing, Senior Regional Advisor, Silk Routes, International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) mentioned in her speech “that these MRCs are an outcome of partnership of not only EU and ILO but also several other countries as well, namely Bulgaria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom”. She recalled the series of events held under Budapest Process which resulted in decision to support the establishment of MRCs and mentioned that “providing the correct information to the right people is crucial when smugglers attempt to fill in the deficit of information. It is important that right skills are matched with the right jobs so that migrants and the countries of origin and destination make best use of these skills”.

E. István Szabó, Ambassador of Hungary to Pakistan said that “people migrate in search of employment and study so that can contribute to the welfare of their families, unfortunately the well-organized human smugglers and traffickers group take advantage of this, and trap them by providing false information to the vulnerable migrants in order to mislead them and gain more profit without bothering about the future of their victims and their families”.

In concluding his speech, he said that “the MRCs here in Islamabad will be a good source of information for potential migrants to get information on safe migration and consequences of irregular migration”.

Addressing the inaugural event, Jean-François Cautain, Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan said that “historically, Europe has been both a source and a destination for migration, and labour migration is also very much at the heart of the European Union today and while migration can benefit societies in many ways, it can also pose problems, in particular if it takes place illegally, and at the moment Europe is in the middle of an unprecedented crisis of illegal migration, which constitutes a serious test of our cooperation.

Illegal migration is not only a problem for the recipient country but also pose a serious threats to migrants themselves, therefore we look forward an effective partnership with the government of Pakistan to combat with this menace”. Ambassador Cautain continued by saying “We are also in favour to promote legal opportunities as our populations are aging and in the future there will be a growing number of jobs that it will be difficult to fill from within Europe. Therefore, it is in our interest to be able to draw on qualified and interested candidates from the rest of the world.

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