Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Across the Colombo Process Member States, regulating private recruitment agencies attract policy attention and efforts, given their predominance in international recruitment of migrant workers in Asia.

Senior officials of the Colombo Process Member States met in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 23 August 2016 to precisely discuss this issue at the Regional Symposium on “Promoting Regulatory Harmonization of Recruitment Intermediaries in Colombo Process Member States.”

The Regional Symposium was the first of three Regional Symposiums which support one of the key thematic priorities of the Colombo Process, namely Fostering Ethical Recruitment by addressing gaps and reducing differences in recruitment policies and legislation among the CP Member States and with key countries of destination. The First Regional Symposium aimed at:

  • identifying existing regulatory gaps and differences vis-à-vis global standards; and,
  • building consensus on the need for collaborative actions for promoting regulatory harmonization.

In his opening remarks, Mr. G. S. Withanage, the Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Employment, Sri Lanka, highlighted that private recruitment agencies are integral part of facilitating migration, and when they do not act ethically, migrant workers face serious issues such as high recruitment fees, deceit about terms and conditions of employment contracts and the processing of forged documents, which are common complaints on the misconduct of recruitment agencies in the CP countries. He expressed his hope that the symposium would pave the way to identify gaps in our own regulatory frameworks and differences within the CP Member States and with countries of destination to help address this issue.

The discussions at the symposium primarily evolved around two Interactive Panel Discussions, in which Dr. Ray Jureidini, Professor of Migration Ethics and Human Rights from Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar acted as the Host. The Panel Discussions, which focused on “Global standards and initiatives in Ethical Recruitment” and “Existing regulatory gaps and differences”, were enriched by diverse resource persons and discussants from the CP Member States, countries of destination, the private sector, the association of recruitment agencies, and IOM.

The interactive discussions yielded the following key recommendations including:

  • Enhanced understanding of recruitment processes and formal and informal actors involved in the processes thorough research;
  • Improved capacities of recruitment agencies through industry-led associations, notably the Overseas Employment Service Providers - Alliance of Asian Associations (OESPAAA);
  • Streamlined government systems/ alternative mechanisms for international recruitment, such as G2G arrangements or e-processes;
  • Strengthened recruitment monitoring;
  • Strengthened complaint mechanisms through increased collaboration with countries of destination;
  • Improved awareness among migrant workers of risks involved in agency-facilitated migration at every stage of migration;
  • Clarity on fees to be borne by migrant workers;
  • Strengthened engagement with all stakeholders including employers, the private sector, and CSOs; and,
  • Standardized terms of employment for domestic workers by reflecting labour standards and concerns.

The Second Symposium, which is scheduled in early 2017, will build on these key recommendations and further discuss priority collaborative actions.

The Regional Symposium was convened within the framework of IOM’s Regional Project “Strengthening Labour Migration Governance through Regional Cooperation in Colombo Process countries” with funding support from Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

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Report of the First Regional Symposium on “Promoting Regulatory Harmonization of Recruitment Intermediaries in the Colombo Process Member States”