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Country Projects

 

Access to justice in countries of origin within the Asia-Middle East migration corridor

Low-wage migrant workers routinely encounter harms such as unpaid wages, unsafe work conditions, inadequate rest, inhumane housing conditions, or confiscation of their identity documents by employers. Accounts of exploitation, abuse, human trafficking, debt bondage, and other severe human rights violations are not uncommon. 

The conditions that give rise to such harms often begin at the point of recruitment and persist through workers' return home. In fact, many of these harms can be linked to the lack of transparency and accountability in privatized recruitment, and the inadequacy of pre-departure training and rights-based education that migrants receive. 

Migrants are also frequently frustrated in attempts to access justice, and seek accountabilityIn many destination countries, particularly in the Middle East, opportunities for redress are limited. Further, the supply of migrant labor is greater than the demand, and many destination countries see little incentive to better regulate and enforce regulations protecting migrant workers, particularly those with limited social and political capital.

Countries of origin and private actors operating within them profit significantly from workers’ remittances, recruitment, and insurance costs.  Indeed, in 2012, according to World Bank statistics, global remittances from migrant workers to their origin countries amounted to $534 billion—triple the amount of global development aid. This has positive and negative consequences.  On one hand, it incentivises recruitment agencies to maximize their income at the expense of worker protection.  But on the other, it creates longer-term incentives to ensure that labor migration is effectively regulated and that workers can access justice, for example to receive wages to which they are entitled or compensation for injuries.

Despite the enormous size of this issue, surprisingly little attention has been paid to understanding the legal responsibilities of government and the private sector in workers’ home countries, and the extent to which migrant workers are able to access redress from responsible parties for harms encountered throughout the migration process.   The Project has therefore begun its work here, with a view to improving migrant workers’ access to justice in countries of origin, alongside efforts to strengthen access to redress in destination countries.   

National case studies

To the extent that migrant workers seek redress through or within their home country, they do so through domestic institutions at the national and local levels. Countries of origin generally have a variety of formal and informal justice mechanisms potentially available to migrant workers, each of which is shaped by the particular history, culture, political climate and other factors present in that country or region.

In order to examine the efficacy and accessibility of home-based justice mechanisms, the Project has therefore begun its work by conducting in depth case studies of particular countries. These studies are revealing the range of mechanisms available and differences between countries, and have formed a rigourous, evidence-based foundation for comprehensive recommendations to all stakeholders.