Les autorités canadiennes doivent consolider les bases de la protection des droits des travailleurs migrants.

Les autorités canadiennes doivent consolider les bases de la protection des droits des travailleurs migrants

Des travailleurs migrants mexicains cueillent des fraises sur l’île d’Orléans, Quebec, juillet 2020. © Pierre Desrosiers / Getty Images

Dans un rapport sur les pratiques en matière de recrutement de main-d’œuvre du Mexique pour des emplois au Canada, le gouvernement fédéral est invité à accroître la mobilité professionnelle des travailleurs migrants et à endiguer le prélèvement de commissions par les consultants en immigration, tandis que les administrations provinciales sont appelées à mettre fin à l’exclusion généralisée des travailleurs agricoles de l’exercice de certains droits.
 
Le gouvernement fédéral canadien devrait renforcer la mobilité professionnelle des travailleurs migrants, notamment en supprimant le permis de travail lié à un employeur spécifique, et combler les failles de la législation qui exposent les travailleurs migrants au risque d’être exploités par des consultants en immigration abusifs, déclare aujourd’hui FairSquare dans un rapport de 150 pages sur le recrutement de travailleurs migrants mexicains pour des emplois au Canada.
 
FairSquare Projects est une organisation à but non lucratif spécialisée dans la défense des droits humains, en particulier des travailleurs migrants. Consacré à l’examen des modalités du recrutement de travailleurs et travailleuses du Mexique pour des emplois au Canada, le rapport intitulé Du Mexique au Canada : le point sur le recrutement équitable s’inscrit dans le cadre du projet 5 Corridors, dont le but est d’émettre des orientations sur les mesures que les États peuvent adopter pour garantir que le recrutement soit équitable et conforme à l’éthique.
 
FairSquare recommande également que les autorités fédérales ouvrent l’accès au statut de résident aux travailleurs migrants à bas salaire et renforcent les mécanismes d’indemnisation des travailleurs. Le rapport salue les efforts du Canada dans divers domaines, notamment l’interdiction claire par toutes les provinces du paiement de commissions de recrutement par les travailleurs, l’introduction du permis de travail ouvert pour les travailleurs vulnérables, en 2019, et la mise en place du Réseau de soutien aux travailleurs migrants, initiative visant à améliorer le dialogue entre travailleurs migrants, organisations de la société civile et organes du gouvernement.
 
« La pandémie de COVID-19 a montré combien la contribution des travailleurs migrants était indispensable à la société et à l’économie du Canada, tant pour l’agriculture que pour les soins ou les services essentiels », explique James Lynch, cofondateur et codirecteur de FairSquare.

« Cependant, la situation des travailleurs à bas salaire reste bien trop souvent précaire, soit parce que le droit du travail ne s’applique pas à ces personnes en raison du secteur dans lequel elles travaillent, soit parce que leur situation au regard de la législation sur l’immigration les place dans une relation de dépendance vis-à-vis de leur employeur, soit encore parce qu’elles sont endettées après avoir payé des commissions de recrutement exorbitantes pour pouvoir être dans le pays. »
 
Les travailleurs agricoles, particulièrement exposés
La majorité des 30 000 travailleurs mexicains environ au Canada – qui représentent aux alentours de 10 % de la main-d’œuvre migrante présente dans le pays – sont des travailleurs et travailleuses agricoles saisonniers, qui migrent chaque année dans le cadre du Programme des travailleurs agricoles saisonniers (PTAS), administré par le gouvernement. Grâce à la gestion relativement stricte de ce programme, les travailleurs sont rarement amenés à verser des commissions de recrutement illégales pour migrer. Néanmoins, des plaintes récurrentes ont été déposées par des travailleurs dans le cadre de ce dispositif, concernant notamment des retenues sur salaire non justifiées, des horaires de travail excessifs, voire indécents, et des logements bondés aux conditions insalubres. Une travailleuse de la province de l’Alberta a déclaré à l’équipe de recherche qu’en 2020, pendant la pandémie, ses employeurs avaient dissimulé sa présence et celle de ses collègues aux inspecteurs du gouvernement afin de ne pas révéler le nombre réel de travailleuses par chambre.
 
Le droit du travail canadien est établi à l’échelon provincial et, dans de nombreuses régions du pays, les travailleurs agricoles ne bénéficient pas des protections essentielles des travailleurs. Les chercheurs ont appelé cette pratique « l’exception des travailleurs agricoles ». Dans les provinces de l’Ontario et de l’Alberta, qui accueillent le plus grand nombre de travailleurs migrants mexicains, les travailleurs agricoles ne peuvent se syndiquer et engager des négociations collectives. Par ailleurs, les travailleurs agricoles de plusieurs provinces, dont l’Ontario, le Québec, la Colombie-Britannique et l’Alberta, ne sont pas protégés, à différents degrés, par certains droits élémentaires des travailleurs tels que les limites du nombre d’heures de travail, les pauses quotidiennes, le temps de repos entre deux journées de travail, les jours de repos ou la rémunération des heures supplémentaires. L’Organisation internationale du travail (l’agence des Nations unies pour le monde du travail) a appelé les autorités à repenser l’exclusion des travailleurs agricoles du droit du travail et a critiqué en particulier l’interdiction par la province de l’Ontario de la syndicalisation dans le secteur. Les travailleurs et travailleuses domestiques, ou aides familiaux et aides familiales, se heurtent à des exclusions comparables dans plusieurs provinces.
 
Le permis de travail lié à un employeur spécifique
Pour la plupart des travailleurs migrants employés aux termes du Programme des travailleurs étrangers temporaires (PTET), le permis de travail est « lié à un employeur spécifique » ou « fermé », comme il est parfois appelé, alors que les travailleurs du PTAS doivent obtenir l’autorisation de leur employeur pour changer de poste. La crainte de perdre leur emploi et d’être rapatriés par leur employeur fait que les migrants peuvent difficilement refuser d’exercer des tâches dangereuses ou de travailler pendant un nombre d’heures excessif. Un travailleur agricole mexicain du PTAS a déclaré à l’équipe de recherche que l’impossibilité de changer d’emploi « donne à l’employeur la possibilité d’imposer le plus de travail possible au travailleur, qui ne pourra même pas dire : “ça suffit, je vais chercher du travail ailleurs” ».
 
En 2019, le gouvernement fédéral a mis en place le dispositif des permis de travail ouverts pour les travailleurs vulnérables, afin de « fournir aux travailleurs migrants qui sont victimes de violence, ou qui risquent de l’être, un moyen distinct de quitter leur employeur. » Au cours des 18 mois ayant suivi l’introduction du dispositif, environ 800 permis de travail ouverts ont été délivrés, au rythme d’une dizaine par semaine. Néanmoins, les syndicats et les organisations de la société civile qui aident les travailleurs à obtenir ce permis ont déclaré à l’équipe de recherche que le processus est trop complexe, ce que des fonctionnaires fédéraux ont reconnu.
 
Consultants en immigration et commissions
Toutes les provinces interdisent le prélèvement de commissions de recrutement aux travailleurs migrants, mais les consultants en immigration certifiés sont autorisés à facturer aux migrants des services de conseil en immigration. Or, étant donné qu’un consultant peut exercer simultanément l’activité de recruteur, des prestataires peu scrupuleux peuvent « vendre » des emplois à des travailleurs migrants en leur facturant un service de soi-disant « conseil en immigration ». Comme une personne consultante l’a déclaré à l’équipe de recherche, « le problème vient du fait que c’est en vendant des emplois qu’il y a de l’argent à se faire ».
 
Le rapport invite le gouvernement fédéral à étudier la possibilité d’interdire tout versement de commissions de travailleurs à des consultants en immigration pour une candidature au PTET ou à tout autre programme dans le cadre duquel les permis de travail sont liés à un employeur spécifique.
 
La complexité de la gouvernance du Canada et ses répercussions sur les travailleurs migrants
FairSquare recommande également au gouvernement fédéral et aux administrations provinciales d’améliorer leur coordination et d’harmoniser leurs protections des travailleurs. D’après un document de recherche de 2020 d’Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada (IRCC), la conséquence de la structure de gouvernance fédérale du pays « est une couverture nettement différente en ce qui a trait à la protection offerte aux travailleurs migrants à travers le Canada et des règles incohérentes pour les intervenants concernés, y compris les recruteurs qui exercent des activités dans diverses provinces. » Alors que les provinces du Manitoba, de la Colombie-Britannique et de la Saskatchewan, notamment, ont des dispositifs de certification rigoureux, l’Ontario et plusieurs autres provinces n’obligent pas les recruteurs de main-d’œuvre à se faire enregistrer pour exercer leurs activités, ce que les syndicats et les agences de recrutement appellent à faire évoluer.
 
Les travailleurs migrants disposent d’un large éventail de voies de recours au Canada, mais ils sont souvent tributaires des organisations de la société civile et des syndicats pour identifier celle qu’il leur convient d’emprunter. Le rapport met en évidence le fait qu’aucun financement n’est accordé à l’assistance juridique nécessaire aux travailleurs migrants pour saisir les instances concernées par leurs griefs en matière d’emploi, à moins qu’ils ne relèvent de la traite de personnes. Il recommande que les administrations étudient la possibilité de financer une aide juridique pour aider les travailleurs migrants à déposer des recours aux échelons fédéral et provincial et à mettre en œuvre les procédures connexes, notamment l’obtention d’un permis de travail ouvert en cas de situation d’atteintes aux droits humains.
 
Contexte
Le rapport se fonde sur 59 entretiens approfondis effectués au Mexique et au Canada, notamment avec des travailleurs migrants et travailleuses migrantes, des fonctionnaires, des agences de recrutement, des consultant·e·s en immigration, des employeurs, des ONG, des syndicats, des universitaires, des journalistes et des avocat·e·s. IRCC a fourni une réponse écrite à nos conclusions préliminaires.
 
Les autres pays décrits dans le projet 5 Corridors sont le Koweït, le Myanmar, le Népal, les Philippines, le Qatar, Taiwan et la Thaïlande. Le rapport est disponible dans son intégralité en anglais, avec un résumé des conclusions en français, à l’adresse suivante : fivecorridorsproject.org.
 
Pour tout commentaire, veuillez écrire à Jorge Aceytuno ou à James Lynch.

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Canadian policymakers should build stronger foundations for migrant workers’ rights protection

Canadian policymakers should build stronger foundations for migrant workers’ rights protection

Mexican workers picking strawberries in Quebec, 2020. © Pierre Desrosiers / Getty Images

Report into Mexico-Canada recruitment practices calls on federal government to increase job mobility for migrant workers and to restrict the charging of fees by immigration consultants, while provincial governments should remove blanket exclusions on rights for agricultural workers.

Canada’s federal government should provide increased job mobility for migrant workers, in particular by removing the employer-specific work permit, and remove loopholes that put migrant workers at risk of exploitation of exploitative immigration consultants, FairSquare said today in a 150-page report into the recruitment of Mexican migrant workers for jobs in Canada.

FairSquare Projects is a UK-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, Mexico to Canada: Fair recruitment in review, which examined how workers from Mexico are recruited for work in Canada, was part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment.

FairSquare also recommended that federal authorities expand access to residency to low-wage migrant workers, and strengthen compensation mechanisms for workers. The report commended Canada’s efforts in a range of areas, including the fact that all provinces clearly prohibit worker payment of recruitment fees, the introduction of the open work permit for vulnerable workers in 2019, and the establishment of the Migrant Worker Support Network, an initiative to improve engagement between migrant workers, civil society organisation, and government agencies.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted what a critical contribution migrant workers make to Canada’s society and economy, from agriculture and care to essential services,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s co-founding director.

“But it remains the case that far too many low-wage workers remain in precarious situations, either because they are excluded from labour laws due to the sector they work in, because they are reliant on their employers for their immigration status, or because they are indebted after paying exorbitant recruitment fees to be in the country.”

Agricultural workers at risk
The majority of the approximately 30,000 Mexican workers in Canada – making up approximately 10% of Canada’s migrant workforce – are seasonal agricultural workers, who migrate annually through the government-run Mexico-Canada Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). The relatively strict management of this programme means that workers do not generally pay illegal recruitment fees to migrate. Nevertheless the scheme has seen persistent complaints by workers, including illegitimate pay deductions, excessive and sometimes extreme working hours, and crowded, unhygienic accommodation. One woman working in Alberta told researchers that during the pandemic in 2020 her employers had hidden her and her colleagues from government inspectors in order to conceal the true number of workers staying in each room.

Canadian employment law is set at provincial level, and agricultural workers are excluded from key worker protections in many parts of the country, a practice researchers have termed “farm worker exceptionalism”. In Ontario and Alberta,  provinces which host large numbers of Mexican migrant workers, agricultural workers are not able to unionise and bargain collectively. In addition, agricultural workers in several provinces, including Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta variously lack basic workplace rights such as limits on hours of work, daily rest periods, time off between shifts, rest periods, or overtime pay. The International Labour Organization (the UN labour agency) has called for governments to rethink the exclusion of agricultural workers from labour laws, and has specifically criticised Ontario’s bar on unionisation in the sector. Domestic workers, or caregivers, face comparable exclusions in several provinces.

The employer-specific worker permit
For most migrant workers employed under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), their work permit is “employer-specific”, sometimes referred to as “closed”, while SAWP workers have to obtain the permission of their employer to switch jobs. The fear of losing employment and being repatriated by their employer can make it difficult for migrants to refuse dangerous work or excessively long hours. One Mexican SAWP worker told researchers that the inability to change jobs, “gives the employer the ability to impose everything he can over the worker, then the worker cannot even say ‘you know what, I’m going to look for work elsewhere’.”

In 2019 the federal government introduced the Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers in 2019, “to provide migrant workers who are experiencing abuse, or who are at risk of abuse, with a distinct means to leave their employer”. In the first 18 months of the scheme’s introduction, approximately 800 open work permits were issued, at a rate of roughly 10 per week. However, unions and civil society organisations supporting workers in accessing the permit told researchers the process is overly complex, a concern that federal officials acknowledged.

Immigration consultants and fee payments
All provinces ban the payment of recruitment fees by migrant workers, but registered immigration consultants are able to charge migrants for advice that they provide on immigration. However, since consultants may simultaneously operate as recruiters, unscrupulous operators are able to “sell” jobs to migrant workers and bill them for so-called “immigration advice”. One consultant told researchers that, “the trouble is that selling jobs is where the money is to be made”.

The report calls on the federal government to consider prohibiting worker payments to immigration consultants when they are applying to the TFWP and other programmes where work permits are linked to specific employers.

Complexity of Canadian governance and its effects for migrant workers
FairSquare also calls on the federal and provincial governments to improve coordination and provide more consistent protections for workers. A 2020 Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) research paper points out that the country’s federal governance structure results in “markedly distinct coverage of migrant worker protections across Canada and inconsistency of rules for relevant players, including recruiters active in multiple jurisdictions.” While Manitoba, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan among others have strict licensing systems, Ontario and several other provinces do not require labour recruiters to register in order to operate, a policy which unions and recruitment agencies have called to be reversed.

Migrant workers seeking to make complaints in Canada have a wide range of options, but are often reliant on civil society organizations and unions to help them identify which type of complaint they should bring. The report highlights the fact that there is no funding for legal aid for migrant workers bringing employment cases, unless they can be classified as trafficking, and recommends that governments consider funding legal aid to help migrant workers with the filing of federal and provincial complaints and related processes, including obtaining open work permits in situations of abuse..

Background
The report is based on 59 in-depth interviews in Mexico and Canada, including with migrant workers, government officials, recruitment agencies, immigration consultants, employers, NGOs, trade unions, academics, journalists and lawyers. IRCC provided a written response on our draft findings.

The other countries featured in the Five Corridors Project are Kuwait, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Qatar, Taiwan and Thailand. A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings in French, is available at fivecorridorsproject.org.

For comment please contact Jorge Aceytuno or James Lynch

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Mexico should invest in enforcement to ensure fair recruitment for its overseas workers

Mexico should invest in enforcement to ensure fair recruitment for its overseas workers

Migrant workers from Mexico arriving at Trudeau Airport, Montreal in April 2020. © Canadian Press, via Shutterstock

Report into Mexico-Canada recruitment practices calls on Mexico authorities to invest in its enforcement of private recruitment agencies and to negotiate so that employers pay all recruitment fees associated with Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Mexico requires an effective and sufficiently resourced labour inspectorate if it is to give force to its laws governing recruitment, and should seek to align the Mexico-Canada Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) requirements with ILO standards on recruitment fees, FairSquare said today in a 150-page report into the recruitment of Mexican migrant workers for jobs in Canada.

FairSquare Projects is a UK-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, Mexico to Canada: Fair recruitment in review, which examined how workers from Mexico are recruited for work in Canada, was part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment.

FairSquare also recommended that Mexico revise its labour law and its Employment Agency Regulations (RACT) with a view to empowering the authorities to tackle labour recruitment fraud, including by unlicensed recruiters, and fully empower the Federal Attorney for Labour Protections (PROFEDET) to assist Mexican migrant workers who have been victims of fraud. With specific reference to the Mexico-Canada SAWP, it urged Mexico to hold accountable any official found to have demanded or accepted illegal payments for access to government migration programmes. The report commended Mexico’s strong and clear legal commitment to ensuring that employers, not workers, should pay the costs of international recruitment.

In 2020, Mexicans overseas sent back a record US$40 billion in remittances, with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hailing migrants  as “heroes”.

“Mexico is one of a handful of states around the world which truly grasps the significance and the consequences of fair recruitment for its workers and we can see this in its very clear laws regarding recruitment fees,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s co-founding director. “But laws are only half the battle and to allow migrant workers  to better support their families and contribute to the Mexican economy, and prevent the siphoning of their earnings and remittances by abusive recruiters, there needs to be a dedicated emphasis on the enforcement of these laws, as well as an adoption of the international definition of recruitment fees.”

Recruiters left unsupervised
Recruiters in Mexico engage in widespread fraudulent and abusive practices, and while charging workers for jobs is banned under the country’s Constitution, it is in reality commonplace and enforcement of the legal prohibition is extremely rare. A survey by the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante has suggested that up to 58% of workers going to the US may be charged illegal fees, paying an average of 12,000 pesos (US$590). Informal, unlicensed recruiters are particularly likely to charge fees to workers, but the practice exists among the small number of licensed operators as well. It is common for workers to find that terms and conditions they were promised in Mexico do not materialise on arrival. Experts said that Mexican workers sometimes pay fees, buy themselves tickets, and get as far as airports in Canada, only to find there is no-one waiting for them. The General Directorate of Federal Labour Inspections, within Mexico’s Ministry of Labour (STPS), is empowered to carry out inspections of licensed recruitment agencies, but officials told FairSquare that the inspectorate is mainly focused on employment standards within Mexico rather than on the recruitment agents who deploy Mexican workers abroad.

Civil society organisations report that STPS rarely inspects recruitment agencies, even on receipt of complaints. Most recruiters are in any case unregistered and operate outside the legal framework, with only nine agencies licensed to recruit Mexican workers for jobs overseas. In addition to improving enforcement efforts, FairSquare called on Mexico to increase the information available to migrant workers about their rights to zero-fee recruitment and options to bring complaints against recruiters.

SAWP and recruitment fees
In contrast to other models of outward migration, the SAWP is strictly controlled by the Mexican authorities and allows workers a relatively “safe” migration journey to Canada. Because the SAWP removes the Mexican private sector from the equation, illegal charging of fees to workers appears to be restricted to cases of corruption among officials (which while not rare are not endemic). Workers receive and sign contracts in Spanish, and undergo pre-departure orientation. A 39 year old woman from Oaxaca state, about to begin her seventh season in British Columbia’s SAWP, told us, “I’ve heard about people paying and I actually know people who recruit workers in exchange of large quantities for money, but I have never paid for anything.” 

However, while SAWP workers generally do not pay recruitment fees, they are required every year to pay costs related to recruitment, such as costs related to their work permit, internal transport within Mexico required for this, and part of their airfare to Canada. These charges appear to be out of step with International Labour Organization (the UN labour agency) standards on recruitment fees and related costs, which expect such costs to be borne by employers. Since workers have to go through these processes each year, this can result in them contributing many thousands of dollars to the programme over the course of their time on the SAWP. FairSquare is calling on the Mexican authorities to work with Canada’s federal and provincial governments to press for the alignment of the programme with international standards and stop the payment of these costs by Mexican agricultural workers.

FairSquare also called on the governments of Mexico and Canada to allow workers and their representatives to take part in annual bilateral meetings on the programme, something that they are not currently able to do, and to improve pre-departure information, particularly in relation to Canadian labour protections, which differ substantially depending on province, and federal and provincial complaint mechanisms.

Consular support 
In addition, serious concerns about the SAWP have been raised in the employment phase in Canada, where Mexican consular officials in Canada have a special role in the implementation and monitoring of the programme. Consulates have more resources and authorities available to support SAWP workers than are available for other Mexican workers in Canada, but the large number of workers and the remote locations of farms in Canada places their resources under considerable pressure.

Critics of the SAWP have also accused consular officials of being too close to employers. A female worker told us: “it is like the Consulate is more on the side of employers than of workers, and they just tell you to take care and behave well, and that you came to Canada to work and not to create problems.” The British Columbia Labour Relations Board confirmed in 2014 that the Mexican consulate in Vancouver had identified SAWP workers in contact with unions with a view to blocking them from returning to Canada. These serious concerns notwithstanding, unions and others experts told FairSquare that the provision of consular support by Mexico was much better than other countries not part of the SAWP, and also praised the efforts of some of the Mexican consulates in Canada.

FairSquare is calling on Mexico to provide its missions in Canada with additional resources, and to ensure that they are clearly tasked to prioritise the rights of migrant workers above other concerns. 

Background
A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings in Spanish, is available at fivecorridorsproject.org. The report is based on 59 in-depth interviews in Mexico and Canada, including with migrant workers, government officials, recruitment agencies, immigration consultants, employers, NGOs, trade unions, academics, journalists and lawyers. The other countries featured in the Five Corridors Project are Kuwait, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Qatar, Taiwan and Thailand. 

For comment please contact Jorge Aceytuno or James Lynch

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México debe invertir en el cumplimiento de la legislación para garantizar la contratación equitativa de sus trabajadores y trabajadoras en el extranjero

México debe invertir en el cumplimiento de la legislación para garantizar la contratación equitativa de sus trabajadores y trabajadoras en el extranjero

© Canadian Press / Shutterstock

Un informe sobre las prácticas de contratación en el corredor México-Canadá insta a las autoridades mexicanas a procurar que las agencias de contratación privadas cumplan con la legislación vigente, y a negociar para que los empleadores paguen todas las comisiones de contratación vinculadas al Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales de Canadá.

México necesita un sistema de inspección laboral efectiva y con suficientes recursos para garantizar el cumplimiento de su legislación en materia de contratación, y debe armonizar los requisitos del Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales (PTAT) entre México y Canadá con las normas de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) en materia de comisiones de contratación, ha afirmado hoy FairSquare en un informe de 150 páginas sobre la contratación de trabajadores y trabajadoras migrantes en México para trabajar en Canadá.

FairSquare Projects es una organización no gubernamental de derechos humanos basada en el Reino Unido especializada en cuestiones de derechos de las personas trabajadoras migrantes. El informe De México a Canadá: Revisión de la contratación equitativa, que analiza cómo se contrata a trabajadores y trabajadoras en México para trabajar en Canadá, forma parte del Proyecto Cinco Corredores, que tiene la intención de servir de orientación sobre qué pueden hacer los gobiernos para garantizar la contratación equitativa y ética.

FairSquare también ha recomendado que México haga cambios a su legislación laboral y a su Reglamento de Agencias de Colocación de Trabajadores (RACT) para que las autoridades puedan hacer frente al fraude en la contratación laboral, incluso en el caso de reclutadores no autorizados, y para otorgar plenos poderes a la Procuraduría Federal de la Defensa del Trabajo (PROFEDET) para asistir a los trabajadores migrantes que hayan sido víctimas de fraude. Con referencia específica al Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales (PTAT) entre México y Canadá, la organización pide que el gobierno de México exija responsabilidades a los funcionarios acusados de pedir o aceptar pagos ilegales para poder acceder a los programas de migración
del gobierno. El informe elogia el sólido y firme compromiso legal de México para garantizar que son los empleadores, y no los trabajadores y trabajadoras, quienes deben pagar los gastos que se derivan de la contratación internacional.

En 2020, las personas mexicanas en el exterior enviaron un récord de 40.000 millones de dólares estadounidenses en remesas y el presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador calificó a los migrantes como “héroes”.

“México es uno de los pocos países en el mundo que entiende realmente la importancia y las consecuencias de la contratación equitativa para sus trabajadores y trabajadoras y esto se puede ver en su legislación, que es muy clara en materia de comisiones de contratación”, ha afirmado James Lynch, director y cofundador de FairSquare. “Pero la legislación es solo la mitad de la batalla y para permitir que los migrantes apoyen mejor a sus familias y contribuyan plenamente a la economía mexicana, y para prevenir que reclutadores fraudulentos les roben sus salarios y sus remesas es necesario hacer hincapié en la aplicación de estas leyes, así como adoptar la definición internacional de comisiones de contratación.”

Falta de supervisión a los reclutadores
Las prácticas abusivas y fraudulentas de parte de los reclutadores en México son muy frecuentes y, a pesar de que la Constitución mexicana prohíbe cobrar a los trabajadores y trabajadoras para conseguir un empleo, esta es una práctica habitual y es sumamente raro que se exija el cumplimiento de esta prohibición legal. Según una encuesta del Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, hasta el 58% de los trabajadores y trabajadoras que emigran a los Estados Unidos pagan comisiones ilegales y las tarifas de reclutamiento son aproximadamente de 12,000 pesos (US$590) en promedio. Es muy común que los reclutadores informales y sin licencia cobren comisiones a los trabajadores y trabajadoras, pero esta práctica también ocurre entre los pocos operadores autorizados que hay. Es habitual que los trabajadores y trabajadoras descubran que los términos y las condiciones que se les prometieron en México no se cumplen al llegar a su destino. Según los expertos, en ocasiones los trabajadores y trabajadoras pagan comisiones en México, se compran sus boletos de avión y llegan hasta aeropuertos canadienses antes de descubrir que nadie los espera a su llegada a Canadá. La Dirección General de Inspección Federal del Trabajo, parte de la Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social mexicana, tiene competencias para realizar inspecciones a las agencias de contratación autorizadas pero, como un funcionario explicó a FairSquare, las inspecciones se enfocan sobre todo en las condiciones laborales en México, más que en las agencias de contratación que colocan a trabajadores y trabajadoras mexicanos en el extranjero.

Según organizaciones de la sociedad civil, la Secretaría de Trabajo y Seguridad Social rara vez inspecciona a las agencias de contratación, ni siquiera tras recibir una denuncia. En cualquier caso, la gran mayoría de reclutadores mexicanos no están autorizados y operan al margen del marco legal, únicamente nueve agencias en México tienen licencia para reclutar trabajadores y trabajadoras para empleos en el extranjero. Además de mejorar los esfuerzos para aplicar las leyes, FairSquare pidió que México aumente la información disponible para los trabajadores migrantes sobre sus derechos al reclutamiento sin tarifas y las opciones para presentar quejas contra los reclutadores.

Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales y comisiones de contratación
A diferencia de otros modelos de emigración, el Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales (PTAT) está estrictamente controlado por las autoridades mexicanas y garantiza a los trabajadores y trabajadoras un viaje migratorio “seguro” a Canadá. Como el PTAT elimina al sector privado mexicano de la ecuación, el cobro de comisiones ilegales a los trabajadores y trabajadoras se limita a casos de corrupción por parte de funcionarios (que, a pesar de no ser infrecuentes, no son endémicos).

Los trabajadores y trabajadoras reciben y firman sus contratos en español y se les ofrece una sesión informativa previa a su salida. Una mujer de 39 años del estado de Oaxaca que estaba a punto de iniciar su séptima temporada de trabajo en Columbia Británica contratada en el marco del PTAT nos dijo: “He oído casos de personas que tienen que pagar y conozco gente que recluta trabajadores a cambio de grandes cantidades de dinero, pero yo nunca he pagado nada”.

Sin embargo, a pesar de que los trabajadores y trabajadoras contratados en el marco del PTAT no pagan comisiones de colocación, se les exige pagar cada año gastos relacionados con su contratación, como gastos relacionados al permiso de trabajo, al transporte interno en México y parte del boleto de avión a Canadá. Estos gastos parecen ser contradictorios a las normas de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (agencia del trabajo de la ONU) en materia de comisiones de contratación y gastos relacionados, de acuerdo a las cuales estos gastos deberían asumirlos los empleadores. Como los trabajadores y trabajadoras deben pasar cada año por este proceso, pueden llegar a aportar muchos miles de dólares al programa durante el periodo que dura su participación en el mismo. FairSquare pide a las autoridades mexicanas que trabajen con los gobiernos federales y provinciales canadienses para insistir en la necesidad de armonizar el programa con las normas internacionales y que paren el pago de estos costos por parte de los trabajadores agrícolas mexicanos.

FairSquare también pidió a los gobiernos de México y Canadá que permitan que los trabajadores y sus representantes participen en las reuniones bilaterales anuales sobre el programa, algo que actualmente no pueden hacer, y que mejoren la información previa a la salida, particularmente en relación con las protecciones laborales canadienses, que varían sustancialmente según la provincia, así como sobre los mecanismos de denuncia federales y provinciales.

Apoyo consular
También se han planteado serias preocupaciones sobre el período de empleo de trabajadores migrantes bajo el PTAT en Canadá, donde los funcionarios consulares mexicanos en Canadá tienen una función especial en la ejecución y el seguimiento del programa. Los consulados cuentan con más recursos y competencias para apoyar a los trabajadores y trabajadoras que participan en el PTAT que para apoyar a otros trabajadores y trabajadoras en Canadá, pero el gran número de personas trabajadoras y las ubicaciones remotas de las granjas en Canadá ejercen una presión considerable sobre sus recursos. Las personas críticas hacia el PTAT también han acusado a los funcionarios consulares de su cercanía con los empleadores. Una trabajadora explicó: “Es como si el Consulado estuviera más de parte de los empleadores que de los trabajadores, y lo único que nos dicen es que nos cuidemos y tengamos un buen comportamiento, y que hemos venido a Canadá a trabajar y no a causar problemas”.

El Tribunal de Relaciones Laborales de Columbia Británica confirmó en 2014 que el Consulado de México en Vancouver había identificado a trabajadores y trabajadoras del PTAT que habían tenido contacto con sindicatos para impedirles volver a Canadá. A pesar de estas serias preocupaciones, los sindicatos y otros expertos manifestaron a FairSquare que el apoyo consular de México era mejor que el de otros países que no participan en el PTAT y elogiaron los esfuerzos de algunos Consulados de México en Canadá.

FairSquare insta a México a asignar más recursos a sus misiones en Canadá, y garantizar que reciban instrucciones claras para priorizar los derechos de las personas trabajadoras migrantes por encima de otras consideraciones.

Información general
El informe completo, con el resumen de las conclusiones en español, está disponible en fivecorridorsproject.org. El informe se basa en 59 entrevistas en profundidad en México y Canadá, entre otros con trabajadores y trabajadoras migrantes, autoridades del gobierno, agencias de contratación, especialistas en inmigración, empleadores, organizaciones no gubernamentales, académicos, periodistas y profesionales del derecho. Los otros países estudiados en el Proyecto Cinco Corredores son Kuwait, Myanmar, Nepal, Filipinas, Qatar, Taiwán y Tailandia.

Si tienen comentarios pueden contactar a Jorge Aceytuno o a James Lynch.

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台灣應該對其招聘移工的做法進行徹底改革

台灣應該對其招聘移工的做法進行徹底改革

© Jose Lopes Amaral/NurPhoto via Getty Images

關於招聘做法的報告,建議台灣徹底廢除移工支付的仲介費,並為家戶移工提供勞動法保護。

今天,FairSquare Projects 在一份長達102頁的關於台灣和菲律賓招聘移工做法的報告中指出,台灣政府應取消所有外籍勞移工的服務費,並實施一系列其他改革,以便確實改善在台就業的移工的勞動條件。

FairSquare Projects 是一間位於英國的非營利人權組織,重點關注移民工人的權利問題。作為「五走廊計畫」的一部分,該報告研究了菲律賓工人是如何被雇傭到台灣工作的。「五走廊計畫」一直尋求為各國政府提供指導,以便他們可以採取措施來確保符合聯合國標準的公平、道德招聘。台灣和菲律賓是該計畫所研究的九個國家的其中之二。

關於台灣,FairSquare 還建議當局立即將家政工人家庭幫傭和護理人員家庭監護工置於勞動法的保護之下,並將該國的遠洋漁業置於勞動部的監管之下,同時給予這些勞工和其他外國勞工一樣的保護。該報告贊揚了台灣在相關領域所做出的努力,比如完善的法律、法規框架,為外國勞移工提供的申訴機制等,還指出他們在工作流動性方面也取得了積極進展,雖然法律限制仍將勞工與雇主綁定在一起。

FairSquare 聯合董事尼古拉斯·麥吉漢 (Nicholas McGeehan) 表示,「台灣有能力和專業知識確保被聘僱到該國的勞工的招聘過程是合乎道德的,並在勞工抵達後得到公平對待。如此多的外籍勞移工持續陷入困境並遭受剝削和虐待,應該引起這一尊重人權的進步國家的嚴肅關注,並成為這一重要問題的領導者。」

在本項目中,我們訪問過的幾乎所有勞工都為確保在台灣找到工作而支付了大筆金錢,受雇於嚴格遵守「雇主支付」仲介費的電子公司的工人除外。儘管台灣的仲介機構每年向這些外籍勞工合法收取大約4.84億美元的服務費,但我們的研究發現,很多仲介公司似乎主要是為雇主服務的,損害了他們本該代表的外移籍勞工的利益。我們的報告建議,根據仲介費的國際標準和「雇主付費原則」,台灣雇主應該支付與招聘相關的所有費用,包括目前由外籍勞工支付的全部服務費。

從研究中可以清楚看到,很多在台灣的移工的體驗都是正向的。一位菲律賓移工在接受採訪時表示,她用在台灣工廠工作賺來的錢在菲律賓購買了一家碾米廠和一家商店。在台灣的電子行業中,勞工獲得正面回報的可能性最大。原因在於電子行業的跨國公司注意自身形象,遵守行為準則(包括仲介費的「雇主付費」原則),也要求其供應商遵守這些法則,不過該行業仍然存在一些令人嚴重擔憂的問題。今年6月份,為了因應新冠疫情,一些台灣知名電子公司只允許移工在上班時間離開公司提供的宿舍。在另外一些情況下,地方政府發佈的限制人們自由活動的禁令中,對移工的要求要比普通民眾嚴格得多。這些禁令,並不是由中央衛生當局強制實施來控制新冠疫情的,而是由地方官員隨意頒布的,同時,還污蔑移民工人為病毒攜帶者。地方政府的這些舉措遭到台灣勞工和人權組織的嚴厲批評,台灣最高監察機關——監察院也對此開展了調查。台灣勞工權益組織——桃園市群眾協會所做的一項調查顯示,在2021年影響台灣的最新疫情中,多達60%的移民工人被禁止在空閒時間離開住處。桃園市群眾協會的一名代表說: 「台灣對移民工人的歧視是系統性的,但疫情使情況變得更加糟糕。」

剝削性或非法的工作條件

接受本項目採訪的很多勞工和專家都講述了剝削性或非法的工作條件。一些勞工(特別是在遠洋漁業工作的漁工)所談到的受虐待情形,說明對外籍勞工的保護還有著很大的不足之處。一位菲律賓漁工說:「有些船長在得不到他們想要的東西時會變成魔鬼。」 另外一位39歲的家政工人家戶移工告訴我們,因為勞動時間過長,又在言語中遭受凌辱,她甚至考慮跳窗逃跑。她最終得以更換雇主,但大部分工資仍用來償還債務,包括為在台灣找到工作而欠下的10萬批索(2,085美元)。

台灣還允許其法院強制菲律賓勞工償還為確保在台灣找到工作而在菲律賓所欠的貸款。台灣法律扶助基金會曾經代表幾百名勞工對台灣法院的判決提出質疑。案件的另一方是台灣的借貸機構,他們從菲律賓的借貸機構那裡購買了勞工所欠債務,並通過法院判決強行將這些債務從勞工工資中扣除。

本報告的調查結果和建議是以我們遠程或面對面方式所做的69次訪談為基礎的,我們採訪了一系列的利益相關者和專家,訪談對象包括移工、致力於移工權利的非政府組織、工會代表、學者、智庫、記者、律師、仲介公司以及國際勞工組織(ILO)和國際移民組織(IOM)等國際組織的員工和代表。在本項目的各個階段,台灣勞動部都以面談和書面形式提供了重要見解和訊息。

本報告的完整副本可在 Fivecorridorsproject.org 上下載。
如需評論,請通過 [email protected] 或 +33 7 54 03 53 61 聯繫 Nicholas McGeehan

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Taiwan should overhaul recruitment practices for foreign workers

Taiwan should overhaul recruitment practices for foreign workers

Migrants workers protesting against Taiwan’s recruitment and employment practices, April 2017, Taipei City. (© Jose Lopes Amaral/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Report into recruitment practices recommends that manpower agency fees be abolished and domestic workers provided labour law protection.

The Taiwanese authorities should abolish all monthly service fees for foreign workers and implement a series of other reforms in order to significantly improve conditions for foreign workers in the country, FairSquare said today in a 102-page report into recruitment practices in Taiwan and the Philippines.

FairSquare Projects is a UK-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, which examined how workers from the Philippines are recruited for work in Taiwan, was part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment, in line with UN standards. Taiwan and the Philippines were two of the nine countries under study.

In relation to Taiwan, FairSquare also recommended that the authorities immediately bring domestic workers and caregivers under the protection of labour law, and that they bring the country’s distant water fishing sector under the regulatory authority of the Ministry of Labour and grant them the same protections as other foreign workers. The report commended Taiwan’s efforts in a range of areas, including its impressive legal and regulatory framework, its provision of grievance mechanisms to foreign workers, and noted some positive developments on job mobility despite legal restrictions that continue to tie workers to their employers. 

“Taiwan has the capacity and the know-how to ensure that workers brought into the country are recruited ethically and treated fairly on arrival. That so many foreign workers continue to fall through the cracks and into exploitation and abuse should be of serious concern to a progressive rights-respecting state that could be a leader on this critical issue,” said Nicholas McGeehan, FairSquare’s co-director.

Almost all of the workers interviewed in the course of this project had paid significant sums of money to secure jobs in Taiwan, with the exception being electronics workers employed by firms following strict “employer pays” recruitment fee policies. Every year, the recruitment sector in Taiwan earns approximately US $484 million in fully legal monthly service fees from its foreign workers, but our research found that many of these recruitment agents appear to primarily serve the interests of Taiwanese employers, to the detriment of the foreign workers whom they are also supposed to represent. The report recommends that employers pay all the costs associated with recruitment, including all monthly service fees currently paid by foreign workers, in line with international standards on recruitment fees and the “employer pays principle”.

It is clear from research that many foreign workers in Taiwan have positive experiences. One Filipino migrant worker interviewed for the project that she had bought a rice mill and a shop in the Philippines with the money she had earned working in Taiwanese factories. Positive worker outcomes are most likely in Taiwan’s electronics sector, where image-sensitive international companies adhere to codes of conduct, which include the ‘employer pays’ principle on recruitment fees, and which also apply to their suppliers, but serious concerns remain in that sector too. In June this year, it emerged that some high-profile electronics companies in Taiwan have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by forbidding migrant workers from leaving their company-provided accommodation, except to go to work.

In some cases, local government officials issued orders that placed heavier restrictions on migrant workers’ freedom of movement than for the general population. These restrictions were not mandated by central health authorities to control COVID but were arbitrarily imposed by local officials and stigmatised migrant workers as disease carriers. These measures came under heavy criticisms by Taiwan’s labour and human rights civil society and are the subject of an investigation by the government’s ombudsperson body, the Control Yuan. Taiwanese labour rights group Serve the People Association conducted a survey that suggested that in the latest Covid outbreak to affect Taiwan in 2021, as many as 60% of migrant workers have been forbidden from leaving their accommodation in their free time. “Discrimination of migrant workers in Taiwan is systemic, but the pandemic has made it a lot worse,” said a representative of Serve The People.

Exploitative or illegal working conditions
Many workers and numerous experts described exploitative or illegal working conditions, and some – particularly those in the country’s distant water fishing sector – spoke of abuses that indicate serious gaps in protection for foreign workers. “There are captains who turn into devils when they don’t get what they want,” one Filipino fisherman said. One 39-year old domestic worker recounted how overwork and verbal abuse led her to consider jumping out of a window to escape from her Taiwanese employers. She was able to transfer employers but she still spends most of her salary repaying debts, including the 100,000 Pesos (US $2,085) she paid to get her job in Taiwan.

Taiwan also allows its courts to enforce the repayment of loans that Filipino workers take out in the Philippines to secure jobs in Taiwan. The Taiwanese Legal Aid Foundation (TLAF) has represented hundreds of workers who have challenged Taiwanese court orders sought by Taiwanese lending agencies, who effectively buy workers’ debt from Philippines-based lending agencies and use court orders to enforce deductions from workers’ salaries.

The report’s findings and recommendations are based on 69 interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and experts either remotely or in person in Taiwan, including migrant workers, NGOs working on migrant workers’ rights, trade union representatives, academics, think-tanks, journalists, lawyers, recruitment agencies, employers and representatives of intergovernmental organisations such as the ILO and the IOM. Taiwan’s Ministry of Labour provided important insight and information at various stages throughout the project, both in person and in writing.

A full copy of the report is available at the dedicated Five Corridors Project website

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Philippines should do more to incentivize fair and ethical recruitment

Philippines should do more to incentivize fair and ethical recruitment

Applicants look at job offers in the window of a recruitment agency in Manila. © REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo/Files via Alamy

Report into recruitment practices recommends that Philippine authorities abolish all recruitment fees for overseas workers and set up a taskforce to investigate licensed recruitment agencies.

The Philippine authorities should abolish all recruitment fees for its overseas workers, in line with internationally accepted definitions, and implement a series of other reforms to effectively incentivize fair and ethical recruitment in the country, FairSquare Projects said today in a 102-page report into recruitment practices in Taiwan and the Philippines.

FairSquare Projects is a UK-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, which examined how workers from the Philippines are recruited for work in Taiwan, was part of the Five Corridors Project, which has been seeking to provide guidance on what states can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment.

In relation to the Philippines, FairSquare also recommended that the authorities institute an ethical recruitment framework into its licensing and regulatory machinery, pass legislation that explicitly prohibits Philippine lending agencies from selling migrant worker debt to foreign lending agencies, and enable prospective new agencies to obtain a license without having already identified new markets and received job orders. The report commended the Philippines’s efforts in a range of areas, including its impressive legal and regulatory framework and its extensive and well-resourced overseas bureaucracy, which can provide direct support and assistance to its overseas workforce, its use of standard employment contracts and its efforts to exercise some level of control over foreign employers and recruitment agents. It also recognised the progress that the Philippines had made in tackling illegal recruitment, but was critical of what it described as a narrow characterisation of this offence.

“The Philippines has long had a reputation as being the origin country that offers the best protection for its nationals overseas, but it faces very little competition in this regard and its overseas workers continue to be subjected to unfair recruitment and serious abuses abroad” said Nicholas McGeehan, FairSquare’s co-director. “One area where it can and should aim to go further is in relation to recruitment fees and in working to ensure that more ethical recruitment agencies can enter the sector and prosper.”

It is clear from research that many Filipinos who migrate for work overseas have positive experiences. One Filipino migrant worker interviewed for the project said that she had bought a rice mill and a shop in the Philippines with the money she had earned working in Taiwanese factories. Domestic workers constitute nearly 50% of Filipino workers overseas and it is their mistreatment abroad that has arguably shaped the protective dimensions of Philippines migration policy in relation to placement fees, standard employment contracts and bilateral labour agreements.

Recruitment agents in the Philippines are prohibited from charging placement fees for their services to domestic workers, for example, whereas for most other workers (seafarers and workers going to countries that themselves prohibit placement fees are the other exceptions) they can charge workers a placement fee equivalent to one month’s salary. The Philippines recruitment sector is quite open about its desire to continue charging workers’ placement fees, and agencies continue to use loopholes in the law to pass recruitment costs onto workers, by over-charging workers for mandatory training, medical and accommodation costs, or working in tandem with lending agencies who charge high-rates of interest on loans. Because of these loopholes, which the authorities have done little to address, the prohibition on domestic workers paying placement fees has had little to no effect – domestic workers pay as much in fees as other categories of workers.

The Philippines introduced what it now describes as a “hard-to-enter, easy-to-go” policy in 2002, with the aim being to make it difficult for new entrants to get into the recruitment sector, and easy for the authorities to strip the licenses from violators of the regulations, but the policy appears to have had the effect of blocking new, ethical actors from entry, and prospective new agents are encouraged to buy pre-existing licenses, circumventing the entry requirements altogether. A further disincentive to ethical recruitment is the volume-driven business model that the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency has encouraged through its annual performance awards which are weighted heavily in favour of deployment and reduces the administrative burden (and associated oversight) of agencies that deploy large numbers of workers abroad. 

Almost all of the Filipino workers interviewed in the course of this project had paid significant sums of money to secure jobs in Taiwan, with the exception being electronics workers employed by firms following strict “employer pays” recruitment fee policies. 

The report’s findings and recommendations are based on more than 70 interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and experts either remotely or in person in Taiwan or the Philippines, including NGOs working on migrant workers’ rights, trade union representatives, academics, think-tanks, journalists, lawyers, recruitment agencies, and representatives of intergovernmental organisations such as the ILO and the IOM. We met with numerous Philippines officials in Taiwan, and in the Philippines, we held preliminary meetings with the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration in November 2019, but were unable to secure follow up meetings with the POEA, or other key agencies such as the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA). We sent a summary of the report’s key findings and recommendations to the Philippines authorities in April 2021. 

A full copy of the report is available at the dedicated Five Corridors Project website

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Launch of Five Corridors Project

Multi-country study urges wealthy states to take the strain to ensure fair recruitment of migrant workers and prevent abuse

“Five Corridors” Report into recruitment practices in nine countries urges destination states to do more to incentivize fair recruitment, and calls for the end of tied visa systems and discriminatory exclusions from labour protections. Origin states should fully enforce “zero fee” policies for their nationals.

Governments around the world, and particularly governments that host significant numbers of migrant workers, need to take more concerted action to prevent systematic abuses in transnational recruitment processes, a major research study said today. The FairSquare Five Corridors report, based on research in nine countries and five migration corridors, urged states to focus their resources on a series of key priority issues, and urged destination states to assume the burden of incentivizing fair recruitment models.

The Five Corridors project examined the problems faced by low-wage workers in international recruitment processes, as migration for work has increasingly become temporary or “circular”, with workers returning to their origin countries at the end of their contracts. Exploitation in these recruitment processes, which have spawned a global industry of private recruitment agencies to furnish complex labour supply chains, leave many millions of migrant workers around the world acutely vulnerable to serious human rights abuses, including the charging of exorbitant fees in exchange for jobs and deception over terms and conditions.

FairSquare Projects is a London-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The Five Corridors project focused on five labour migration corridors: Myanmar to Thailand; Nepal to Kuwait; Nepal to Qatar; Philippines to Taiwan; and Mexico to Canada.

Ensuring employers, not workers, pay the costs of recruitment
Drawing on more than 300 in-depth interviews with workers, government officials, businesses and activists, the report urges destination states to take more seriously their responsibility as regulators, and ensure that employers pay the full cost of migrant workers’ recruitment. In many countries, businesses expect to be able to hire migrant workers at little or no cost, knowing that the demand for better paid jobs is so high that workers will accept taking on large debts in order to finance their migration, leaving them at greater risk of forced labour and other abuse. In Thailand, Qatar and Taiwan, researchers found that some employers even charge recruitment agencies “kickback” bribes before they allow them to recruit on their behalf.

“Governments have gone to great lengths to show their commitment to tackling human trafficking and forced labour, yet the abusive recruitment processes that fuel exploitation continue,” said Ambassador (retd) Luis C.deBaca, Five Corridors Project senior adviser, who previously coordinated the US government’s global anti-trafficking work. “To date, the complexity of transnational recruitment has made it easy to dodge responsibility — this research fills that critical gap by using a wealth of evidence to chart a path forward for governments to confront this serious issue.”

Tied visas and exclusion from core labour protections
The report also finds that tied visas, which generally restrict migrant workers to a single employer and link their immigration status to their employment, play a major role in undermining fair recruitment, as they leave workers less able to complain or switch jobs in the event of fraud or abuse. All five destination countries in the study operate some form of tied visas. A worker from Myanmar told us his inability to switch jobs in Thailand was “like you are tied up and beaten up”, while a Mexican agricultural worker in Canada said the system “gives the employer the ability to impose everything he can over the worker, then the worker cannot even say ‘you know what, I’m going to look for work elsewhere’.”

Migrant workers working in domestic work, agriculture, fishing are often also excluded from labour laws, meaning they have little protection against being made to work extreme hours, fewer rights to breaks and days off, and may be unable to join trade unions.

“The combined effect of restrictive tied visa systems, leaving workers at risk of losing their immigration status if they complain, with blanket exemptions from basic protections, is to hugely undermine efforts at ensuring workers’ recruitment is genuinely fair,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s founding co-director.

The report also calls on origin states, for their parts, to enforce full prohibitions on worker payment of recruitment fees, and urges all states to put in place more effective grievance systems for migrant workers, and to coordinate better across corridors to prevent abuse, including through considering government-government recruitment programmes.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the drivers of migrant workers’ exploitation. The UN labour agency (ILO) has warned that exploitative recruitment fees are likely to increase in light of the contraction of many economies. While some migrant workers have been celebrated as “key workers”, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs and been stranded in their host countries, often facing stigma and demonisation. In Kuwait, high-profile celebrities blamed migrant workers for the pandemic’s impact on the country, with one calling for them to be “thrown into the desert”, while in Thailand the Prime Minister fuelled xenophobia by blaming migrant workers for spreading the virus and saying they had “brought much grief”.

Background
Recent years have seen an expansion of efforts to develop consensus on the regulatory steps required to ensure fair recruitment. These have been led by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), complemented by the efforts of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), which stewarded the development of the Dhaka Principles. In 2018, the Global Compact on Migration saw UN member states making a series of commitments on fair recruitment.

A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings is available at the dedicated Five Corridors website. In addition to the main report, FairSquare have published separate, in-depth reports for the migration corridors under study. A launch event for the project’s findings is being held on 7 July 2021, in partnership with the IHRB.

For more information please contact James Lynch or Nick McGeehan.

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Five Corridors Project on fair recruitment – launch event

Event: Launch of Five Corridors Project on fair recruitment

FairSquare and the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) are holding a joint event on Wednesday 7 July 2021, to discuss the fair recruitment of migrant workers. “Destination, Destination, Destination”: What governments can do to ensure fair and ethical recruitment will take place on the day FairSquare publishes its Five Corridors Project, a major research study.

REGISTER TO ATTEND THE EVENT (IHRB SITE)

The Five Corridors Project, which FairSquare has been working on since late 2019, aims to enhance understanding of how governments can strengthen regulatory and enforcement mechanisms to address abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices, resulting in more positive outcomes for workers. More than 300 workers, recruiters, employers, govt officials, activists and other experts have been interviewed as part of the study into the recruitment of migrant workers in five corridors:

1. Myanmar to Thailand 
2. Nepal to Kuwait 
3. Nepal to Qatar
4. Philippines to Taiwan 
5. Mexico to Canada

The study has examined the steps taken by governments to ensure the human rights of migrant workers in the recruitment process, against 44 common indicators based largely on the ILO General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment.

Based on this research, the Five Corridors Project makes a set of key recommendations to destination and origin states, highlighting priority actions to prevent fraud and exploitation in migration and employment. Detailed reports into each corridor will also be made available on the dedicated Five Corridors website, which will go live on 7 July.

FairSquare has delivered the Five Corridors Project with the support of the Open Society FoundationsHumanity United and Porticus.

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Business and human rights in Saudi Arabia

Guidance for businesses operating in Saudi Arabia

FairSquare has collaborated with Amnesty International on the production of new guidance for businesses operating in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has been seeking support from international investors and businesses to help deliver its flagship Vision 2030, with its expansive development plans capped by a set of “giga-projects” designed to spearhead the development of whole new economic sectors.

The Amnesty briefing highlights six of the most salient human rights risks for companies to consider in Saudi Arabia, given the possibility of one or more of them intersecting with their business operations, activities or investments:

– the abuse of migrant worker rights;
– discrimination against women;
– risks linked to surveillance, data gathering and “smart cities”;
– risks linked to land, housing and development projects;
– risks to business partners; and
– war crimes in the conflict in Yemen.

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