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ISLAMABAD (ILO News): Under the auspices of Governance of Labour Migration in South and Southeast Asia (GOALS) programme, the International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resources Development (MOP&HRD) and with its constituents, hosted a national consultation on role of intermediaries /subagents in the foreign employment recruitment process on Monday 23 May 2022. The multistakeholder consultation built on the recommendations derived through four provincial policy dialogues and brought together relevant actors and stakeholders for deliberations to identify concrete measures to better understand the role of sub-agents in the foreign employment industry and to develop possible pathways for their regularisation in Pakistan.

The participants deliberated on the policy measures for fair foreign employment process and good practices discussed through policy measures to reduce exploitation and vulnerabilities of foreign migrant workers in Pakistan. The delegates proposed a set of policy recommendations including endorsement of national emigration and welfare labour policy; increasing number of Overseas Employment Promoters (OEPs) and their outreach in recruitment process.

A total of 35 senior delegates participated in the national consultation, representing the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resources Development (MOP&HRD), Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BE&OE), Overseas Employment Corporation (OEC), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Vocational & Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC), Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF), Trade Unions, Pakistan Overseas Employment Promoters Association (POEPA), International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), IOM, UN Women and civil society organisations.

While opening the dialogue, Mr Saghir Bukhari, the Senior Program Officer-ILO Country Office for Pakistan shared that Human mobility as a key factor for sustainable development, ILO’s Constitution of 1919 calls for the “protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own”. Pakistan is obligated under the ILO Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (FPRW) (including protection from forced labour resulting from abusive recruitment of migrant workers) and the SDGs (especially SDG 8 on decent work for all, including migrant workers, and SDG target 10.7 on ’Facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies’. He further shared the background and objectives of series of dialogues organised in provinces to prepare those recommendations to regularise the role of sub agents/intermediaries in fair recruitment of Pakistani migrant workers for foreign employment.

Mr Ishrat Ali, the Federal Secretary of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistani and Human Resource Development (MOP&HRD) highlighted that despite formal institutional structures, systems and mechanisms in Pakistan, the role of sub-agents or unregistered intermediaries in recruitment process is a matter of concern. He emphasized the need for social partners to enhance their role in creating wider awareness and outreach of licensed OEPs. He stated that the recommendations should include mechanism to regularise sub-agents and highlighted the need develop a action plan to operationalise the regularisation of sub-agents. Mr Ali also discussed the need to overcome challenges and remove barriers for women migrant workers. He also urged different stakeholder to work collaboratively to ensure safe migration.

Mr Shabarinath Nair, the Labour Migration Specialist for South Asia moderated a session which included panellist from Mr Farrukh Jamal, Director Research, Bureau of Emigration, Ms Aisha Qazi, Director International Coordination- NAVTTC, Mr Muhammad Jamal, Assistant Director- FIA, Mr, Abur Rauf, representative -PWF, Mr. Aqeel Awan, Former Chairman- POEPA. The session was chaired by Mr Ishrat Ali, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development, Government of Pakistan. Mr Nair emphasised that the Global Compact of Migration, which was adopted and endorsed by Government of Pakistan, highlights the importance of “people centered approach” for migration. He stressed the need for various stakeholders, including recruiters, trade unions, employers and government to work together to promote safe and fair recruitment process. He also mentioned that, in terms of ILO’s general principles and operational guidelines regarding fair recruitment processes, provides guidance in relation to costs of recruitment and the role of different institutions/stakeholders.

Mr Amish Karki, Technical Officer GOALS programme highlighted that national consultation builds on the recommendations derived through four provincial policy dialogues and brings together relevant actors and stakeholders for deliberations and identifying concrete measures to formalise the role of sub-agents in the foreign employment industry in Pakistan. The ILO firmly believes that without credible and effective law enforcement of the entire recruitment industry including the informal part, the un-registered sub agents will continue to abuse with impunity while undermining the possibility of a ’fair’ recruitment market. He highlighted that that recognition and regularisation of all relevant stakeholders is important to ensure fair recruitment process for migrant workers.

Mr Shahzad Ahmed, the National Project Officer of the GOALS Programme, shared that ILO Pakistan assures its continued technical assistance to the relevant actors to reduce abusive practices, and exploitation to protect the rights of migrant workers to reduce challenges around labour migration. The ILO Country Office for Pakistan highly commends the efforts of Government of Pakistan for the protection of rights of migrant workers, including digitization of registration of departing migrant workers, provision of valuable information in Urdu and English on Bureau’s Website and social media pages, related to relevant laws, workers’ rights, registration process, workers welfare programmes, registered overseas employment promoters, authentic foreign jobs, grievance addressal mechanisms among others. Mr, Ahmed also mentioned the Government’s reformative agenda, which demonstrates right vision and sincere efforts to deal with the affairs of Overseas Pakistanis.

The session concluded with a joint commitment to advocate for fair recruitment practices across the country, and a request to the Federal Government of Pakistan to finalize and implement the National Emigration and Welfare Policy, in order to protect the rights of Pakistani migrant workers.

The event was organized by UN Joint Programme “Governance of Labour Migration in South and Southeast Asia” (GOALS) funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resources Development.

Source of original article: Press releases from ILO in Asia and the Pacific (www.ilo.org).
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