Migrant Forum in Asia

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Policy Briefs of the Open Working Group on Labour Migration and Recruitment

The following policy briefs were complied based on inputs from members of the Open Working Group on Labour Migration and Recruitment through a series of online discussions, conferences, and interviews.

With members from civil society organizations across the world, the Open Working Group is committed to knowledge sharing and collective advocacy to reform migrant labour recruitment practices globally. Building upon years of civil society advocacy on labour migration, human rights, and recruitment reform, the Open Working Group was initiated in May 2014 by Migrant Forum in Asia and the Global Coalition on Migration (GCM) together with other civil society organizations. The Working Group is coordinated by Migrant Forum in Asia and forms part of the Migration and Development Civil Society Network (MADE).

Policy brief 1: Recruitment "Fees" & Migrants’ Rights Violations

Across regions and national contexts, a familiar feature of labour migration is the charging and collection of fees from migrant workers by recruitment agencies and their sub-agents. For the sake of clarity, we refer to fees charged to workers “recruitment fees,” but it is important to note that this term needs to be deconstructed to unmask what often amounts to a labour rights violation.

Policy brief 2: South Korea’s Employment Permit System: A Successful Government-to-Government Model?

South Korea’s Employment Permit System (EPS), introduced in 2004, was implemented by the government in response to concerns about the treatment of migrant workers in the country. Prior to the establishment of the EPS, migrant workers were brought to South Korea as “trainees”—treated as interns who were paid only stipends for their work and who did not fall under the country’s labour laws. The trainee system, which was in place from 1992 to 2006, resulted in considerable abuse and exploitation of foreign trainees who were essentially providing their labour for free.

Visit the Recruitment Reform website for more information about the campaign and relevant activities for the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers in the recruitment process.


Resource: Policy briefs on bilateral agreements; joint and several liability

MFA published two new policy briefs covering the following issues:

Bilateral Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. In recent years, a number of Asian governments have forged bilateral agreements (BLAs) and memoranda of understanding (MOUs) to govern labour migration. These government-to-government agreements are negotiated frameworks to facilitate the recruitment and movement of workers from country of origin to country of destination. BLAs and MOUs can be useful documents by which migrants, migrants’ rights advocates, lawyers, and other stakeholders can understand the commitments that origin and destination country governments have set for themselves in governing labour migration. Members and partners of Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) have long been engaged in monitoring such agreements where they exist and in advocating for greater transparency and involvement in the process of their negotiation. In some cases, MFA members have advocated for the establishment of rights-based BLAs or MOUs where none yet exist as a mechanism of encouraging States to commit, on paper, to migrant labour regimes that respect and promote the rights of migrant workers and members of their families.

Joint and Several Liability of Recruitment / Placement Agencies with the Principal/Employer Under Philippine Laws

Access to justice is one of the principal challenges faced by migrant workers. In many cases, abused or illegally dismissed workers find it difficult or even outright impossible to file and prosecute labor complaints against their foreign employers. Once employment is terminated, the migrant worker has very limited options. Oftentimes, they are deported or opt to return to the home country without receiving their unpaid salaries, benefits and other monetary claims. Upon arrival in their home countries, migrant workers have no means to seek compensation from their abusive foreign employers. Having this scenario in mind, Philippine policy makers embodied in its laws the joint and several liability of recruitment/ placement agencies and the principal/employer for money claims of overseas Filipino workers to ensure that they can still prosecute their just claims against the foreign employer and the recruitment/placement agencies after they have returned to Philippines.


#OurHands campaign

Migrant Forum in Asia and Christian Aid, along with our many campaign supporters from around the world, are excited to celebrate May Day with the soft launch of a new social media campaign - #OurHands. This campaign will engage domestic workers around the world in learning about and advocating for their rights. We are writing to invite you to join the campaign by becoming a supporter. The official public campaign launch will be June 16th - International Domestic Workers' Day. Many thanks to those who have already agreed to support the campaign — your organization will be listed on our website soon.

The #OurHands campaign aims to inform domestic workers of their rights as enshrined in ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The campaign aims to reach to domestic workers across through social media and encourage them to share know-your-rights materials with other domestic workers who do not have access to social media. Informing domestic workers is a crucial step in enabling domestic workers to mobilize in collaboration with domestic workers groups and to act collectively to ensure that their rights are protected and upheld. The campaign also aims to mobilize wider solidarity from other groups and supporters by calling for the rights of domestic workers.

Why #OurHands? #OurHands means that empowering and protecting the rights of domestic workers is a collective responsibility. We aim to create an enabling environment for domestic workers to articulate their rights, organize themselves, negotiate their terms of employment, and participate in social dialogue that concerns them.

The campaign held its soft launch on 1 May 2015, with the release of its website and social media platforms: www.DWRights.org, Facebook page (Facebook.com/DomesticWorkerRights), and Twitter feed (Twitter.com/DWRights).

To support the campaign:

1. Please send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and inform us that you would like to support the campaign - we will list your organization and website among our supporters on www.DWRights.org. Thanks to those who have already agreed to support!
2. Please Like us on Facebook and/or Follow us on Twitter.
3. Please share this information with your networks and encourage others to join!
4. Once we officially launch the campaign in June, help us to popularize the campaign among domestic workers - we will share more information about what you can do to support this effort in the coming weeks.


The Right to Work and the Right to Mobility: Respect the rights of all workers everywhere

May Day Statement, 2015
Migrant Forum in Asia

Every year on May 1st, workers around the world celebrate the history of the labour movement and mobilize around the world to call on states to fulfill their obligations to protect and promote the labour and human rights of all workers. On this day of global solidarity, Migrant Forum in Asia joins with trade unions, worker associations, grassroots organizers, and civil society organizations in renewing our commitment to the global struggle for decent work for all workers.

No worker should have to pay recruitment fees to secure decent work

We live in a world in which many workers, even after having developed their skills through education and training programs, are required to pay intermediaries to secure employment. In some cases, the amounts paid are so high that workers become indebted to friends, family members, and money-lenders. For migrant workers, taking on significant debts for job placements abroad is so common that it has become an expected feature of labour migration, even in contexts in which governments have heavily regulated or banned the charging of recruitment fees. Too often, migrant workers find themselves in debt bondage and exploitative employment relationships, their choices constrained by their need to relieve this financial burden.

Migrants’ rights advocates worldwide are speaking out against the practice of charging recruitment fees to workers. Join the global Recruitment Reform Campaign and support our call for Zero Fees for Migrant Workers. #ZeroFees #RecruitmentReform

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Step It Up: Dignity, Rights, Development
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Domestic Work Global Campaign