Amnesty report on deaths of migrant workers in Qatar

New report finds Qatari authorities have failed to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers

A new report published today by Amnesty International, with the support of FairSquare, finds that Qatari authorities have failed to investigate the deaths of thousands of migrant workers over the past decade, despite evidence of links between premature deaths and unsafe working conditions.

FairSquare Research provided research support and advice to Amnesty on “In the prime of their lives”: Qatar’s failure to investigate, remedy and prevent migrant workers’ deaths.

The report documents how Qatar routinely issues death certificates for migrant workers without conducting adequate investigations, instead attributing deaths to “natural causes” or vaguely defined cardiac failures. These certifications – described by one leading pathologist as “meaningless” – rule out the possibility of compensation for bereaved families, many of whom are already facing financial difficulties after losing their main breadwinner.

The publication also highlights the risks posed to workers by Qatar’s extreme climate, especially when combined with excessive and physically strenuous working hours. Qatar recently introduced some new protections for workers, but major risks remain and authorities have done little to investigate the scale of heat-related deaths. Steve Cockburn of Amnesty said:

“In failing to investigate the underlying causes of migrant workers’ deaths, the Qatari authorities are ignoring warning signs which could, if addressed, save lives. This is a violation of the right to life. They are also denying bereaved families their right to remedy, and leaving them with painful unanswered questions.”

FairSquare is separately working with a network of partner organisations on the Vital Signs project, an initiative to quantify and research the deaths of migrant workers from five Asian origin countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Philippines – in the six GCC states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE).

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New report on social movements

From protest to reform: A study of social movements’ success

The global philanthropic organisation Luminate has today published From protest to reform: A study of social movements’ success, a report authored by FairSquare Research.

Luminate commissioned FairSquare to explore four recent protests – Armenia’s 2018 “Velvet Revolution”, Brazil’s 2015-2016 pro-impeachment demonstrations, the 2019 “October Revolution” in Lebanon, and Nigeria’s #EndSARS protests of 2020 – to examine why some movements succeed and others fail.

Luminate asked FairSquare to extract trends and factors that contributed to successes and challenges; provide analysis of how social and political movements can succeed at creating profound and necessary disruption but often fall short of creating lasting, sustainable reform; offer some thoughts on approaches that work, and others that don’t; and build an argument building on the above, introducing the case for more sustained work to find and employ the ingredients needed to sustain political reform.

FairSquare Associate Magdalena Mughrabi led research for the report, which draws on interviews with activists and protest leaders, civil society workers, journalists and academics from each of the countries analysed as well as interviews with social movement scholars concerning general mobilization and post-protest dynamics and tactics.

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Kuwait and Qatar must be more decisive in their efforts to tackle abusive recruitment of migrant workers

Kuwait and Qatar must be more decisive in their efforts to tackle abusive recruitment of migrant workers

Nepali migrant workers cleaning windows in Kuwait © Dominique Berbain/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Report into recruitment practices calls on Kuwait to fully ban the payment of recruitment fees for all categories of migrant workers, and recommends that Qatar make employers liable for the actions of  intermediaries in the recruitment process.

Kuwait and Qatar should both strengthen their laws to ban the payment of recruitment fees by all migrant workers, irrespective of where that payment is made, and should significantly increase their focus on stamping out abusive recruitment practices, FairSquare said today in a 162 page report into recruitment of migrant workers in Nepal, Kuwait and Qatar.

FairSquare Projects is a London-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, Nepal to Kuwait and Qatar: Fair recruitment in review, which examined how workers from Nepal are recruited for work in Kuwait and Qatar, 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.

Kuwait, the report said, should also ensure that its efforts to increase the number of Kuwaiti nationals in the workforce, known as Kuwaitisation, is carried out in a way which protects, rather than undermines the human rights of migrant workers, and should take measures to address xenophobia and discrimination against migrant workers. The report commended Kuwait’s explicit and comprehensive prohibition of recruitment fee payment in the Domestic Workers Law, an important measure which could reduce domestic worker indebtedness if effectively enforced.

FairSquare also recommended that the Qatari authorities proactively investigate cases of “kickback” payments by origin country agencies to Qatar employers or their representatives in exchange for jobs. The report welcomed Qatar’s introduction of legislative reforms between 2018 and 2020 removing legal impediments on workers’ job mobility and ability to return home, while noting the critical importance of effective enforcement, and its efforts to reduce the prevalence of workers’ terms and conditions being altered (or “substituted”), through the establishment of Qatar Visa Centers (QVCs). 

“Abusive recruitment of migrant workers is often portrayed by governments in the Gulf region as a problem for origin states to deal with. But the reality is that destination states like Kuwait and Qatar have more leverage and bear more responsibility for dealing with the problem of exploitative fee charging and other abuse. They are the governments that regulate employers, who are by far the most powerful private actors in the recruitment process, with access to jobs, visas and budgets,” said James Lynch, FairSquare’s founding co-director.

“Kuwait and Qatar have to put their full weight behind making sure employers are paying the full amount for every worker they recruit into the country.”

Kuwait
Ninety percent of Kuwaiti households have at least one domestic worker, the majority of them women, with many facing abuse, including physical and sexual violence. In 2015, Kuwait adopted legal reforms that provide greater protections to domestic workers’ rights. However, FairSquare found that enforcement of these protections is weak. A 30 year old Nepali woman told researchers she was working 16 hour days for a Kuwait family and was desperate to go back home, but her employers were refusing to return her passport: “if I had it I would have left the country some time ago. My mother is sick but they keep on postponing dates for me to leave.”

There are grievance mechanisms for all migrant workers to make complaints, but many workers fear being falsely accused of “absconding” from employers, a criminal offence, as a reprisal for their complaint. In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kuwaiti government announced it would stop accepting “absconding” complaints, as it was receiving so many false reports from employers.

Kuwait’s laws clearly ban the payment of recruitment fees by domestic workers, but are unclear who should pay for the costs of other migrant workers’ recruitment, effectively making payment by these workers legal, and severely undermining the prospect of fair recruitment. A representative of a state-owned recruitment agency said that the payment of recruitment fees by workers was a problem that origin state governments should deal with.

Qatar
Abusive recruitment practices, including deception over terms and conditions, have been widely documented in Qatar. The report features a Nepali woman who told researchers that her recruiter said that she would be selling coffee in a market but when she arrived, “it was completely different. I am currently working as a household cleaner which was exactly what we were told we would not be doing.”

Qatar Visa Centers (QVCs) in origin countries are supposed to prevent such practices by allowing workers the opportunity to properly review their contracts before migrating. A 47-year old Nepali worker, who said he was illiterate, told researchers that QVC officials talked him through his benefits package and that in Qatar he received “the same wages and benefits as briefed to me”. Nevertheless he still had to pay 56,000 rupees (USD 471) to an agency before travelling, highlighting that the establishment of the QVCs have not stopped workers paying recruitment fees. Qatar’s labour laws clearly prohibit worker payment to Qatari businesses but leave ambiguity about payments made outside the country, including in origin states, undermining efforts to implement the ”employer pays principle”.

FairSquare is recommending that the Qatari authorities should close the accountability gap by making employers liable for the actions of the third-party intermediaries they use to arrange the recruitment of the migrant workforces, and requiring them to demonstrate to labour inspectors their efforts to ensure fair recruitment. While some organisations and businesses in Qatar have pursued positive fair recruitment initiatives, other employers refuse to pay recruitment agencies for their services and even demand “kickback” payments before awarding contracts to recruiters in origin states. The cost of such payments are generally passed by agents onto migrant workers. A former HR manager in Qatar’s construction sector told us some of his clients had engaged in these practices and that they saw recruitment as a means of making money for themselves.

Background
The report’s findings and recommendations are based on 133 in-depth interviews in Nepal, Kuwait and Qatar, including with migrant workers, government officials, recruitment agencies, employers, NGOs, trade union representatives, academics, think-tanks, journalists, lawyers, and representatives of intergovernmental organisations such as the ILO and the IOM.

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

For comment please contact James Lynch at [email protected]

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على الكويت وقطر أن تكونا أكثر حزمًا في جهودهما لمعالجة الاستقدام المسيء للعمّال المهاجرين

على الكويت وقطر أن تكونا أكثر حزمًا في جهودهما لمعالجة الاستقدام المسيء للعمّال المهاجرين

© Dominique BERBAIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

يناشد التقرير حول ممارسات التوظيف الكويت بأن تحظر كليًا رسوم التوظيف لجميع فئات العمّال المهاجرين، كما يوصي قطر بأن تحمّل أرباب العمل المسؤولية عن أفعال الوسطاء في عملية التوظيف.
 
قالت FairSquare اليوم في تقرير من 162 صفحة حول استقدام العمّال المهاجرين في نيبال، والكويت، وقطر إنّه على الكويت وقطر أن ترسّخا قوانينهما لحظر دفع العمّال المهاجرين لرسوم التوظيف، بغضّ النظر عن مكان تسديد هذه الرسوم، وعليهما أن تعزّزا تركيزهما على ردع الممارسات التوظيفية المسيئة بشكل ملحوظ.
 
إنّ FairSquare Projects منظمة غير ربحية لحقوق الإنسان تركّز على مسائل حقوق العمّال المهاجرين. يشكّل التقرير بعنوان “من نيبال إلى الكويت وقطر: مراجعة للتوظيف العادل”، الذي يستعرض كيفية استقدام العمّال من نيبال للعمل في الكويت وقطر، جزءًا من مشروع الممرّات الخمسة الذي يسعى إلى تقديم توجيهات حول ما يمكن للدول أن تفعله لتأمين توظيف أخلاقي وعادل.
ذكر التقرير أنّه على الكويت أن تحرص على تطبيق جهودها في زيادة عدد المواطنين الكويتيين في القوّة العاملة، أو ما يُعرف بسياسة التكويت، بأسلوب يحمي حقوق الإنسان للعمّال المهاجرين بدلًا من تقويضها، وأن تتّخذ إجراءات لمعالجة رهاب الأجانب والتمييز ضدّ العمّال المهاجرين. أثنى التقرير على حظر الكويت الصريح والشامل لدفع رسوم توظيف بموجب “قانون العمالة المنزلية”، في تدبير مهمّ قد يحدّ من مديونية عمّال المنازل، في حال إنفاذه الفعّال.  
 
أوصت FairSquare أيضًا السلطات القطرية بالتحقيق الاستباقي في قضايا دفع “رشاوى” من وكالات في دول المنشأ إلى أرباب العمل القطريين أو ممثليهم لقاء وظائف. 

رحّب التقرير بالإصلاحات التشريعية التي أجرتها قطر بين 2018 و2020 لإزالة العقبات القانونية أمام تنقّل العمّال بين الوظائف وقدرتهم على العودة إلى ديارهم، ونوّه إلى الأهمية الخاصّة للإنفاذ الفعّال وإلى جهود قطر في الحدّ من انتشار ظاهرة تغيير شروط وظروف توظيف العمّال (أو “استبدالها”) من خلال تأسيس مراكز تأشيرات قطر. 

قال المدير المشارك في تأسيس FairSquare جايمس لينش: “غالبًا ما تصوّر الحكومات في منطقة الخليج التوظيف المسيء للعمّال المهاجرين كمشكلة يجب أن تعالجها دول المنشأ. لكن، في الواقع، دول المقصد مثل الكويت وقطر تملك قوّة تأثير أكبر ولديها مسؤولية أكبر في التعاطي مع مسألة تقاضي رسوم استغلالية وغيرها من الانتهاكات. فهي الحكومات التي تنظّم أرباب العمل الذين هم إلى حد بعيد أقوى الجهات الفاعلة الخاصّة في عملية التوظيف، مع إمكانية الوصول إلى الوظائف والتأشيرات والميزانيات. ينبغي أن تحرص كلّ من الكويت وقطر بكلّ ثقلهما على تسديد أرباب العمل للمبلغ الكامل عن كلّ عامل تستقدمانه إلى بلدَيْهما”.
 
الكويت
في 90% من المنازل الكويتية، ثمّة على الأقلّ عامل منزل واحد، أغلبيتهم من النساء اللواتي يواجهن اعتداءات، بما فيها العنف الجسدي والجنسي. في 2015، تبنّت الكويت إصلاحات قانونية تؤمّن حمايات أكبر لحقوق عمّال المنازل. مع ذلك، وجدت FairSquare أنّ إنفاذ هذه التدابير الحمائية ضعيف. قالت امرأة نيبالية، 30 عامًا، إنّها تعمل 16 ساعة في اليوم لحساب عائلة كويتية، وكانت شديدة اليأس للعودة إلى ديارها، لكنّ أرباب العمل رفضوا إعادة جواز سفرها إليها. قالت: “لو كان جواز سفري بحوزتي، لكنت غادرت البلاد منذ فترة. والدتي مريضة، لكنّهم يستمرّون في تأجيل تاريخ رحيلي”. 
 
تتوفّر آليات تظلّم لجميع العمّال المهاجرين كي يقدّموا شكاوى، لكن يخشى كثيرون منهم أن يتّهمهم أرباب عملهم زورًا بـ”الهروب” الذي يُعتبر جرمًا، للانتقام منهم بسبب شكواهم. في 2020، في ظلّ جائحة “كوفيد-19″، أعلنت الحكومة الكويتية عن التوقّف عن قبول شكاوى “الهروب”، لأنّها كانت تتلقّى الكثير من التبليغات الكاذبة من أرباب العمل.
تحظر القوانين الكويتية صراحةً دفع عمّال المنازل لرسوم التوظيف، لكنّها مبهمة حيال الجهة التي يجب أن تتكفّل بهذه التكاليف عن استقدام عمّال مهاجرين آخرين. بالتالي، بات تكبّد هؤلاء العمّال التكاليف قانونيًا، ما يقوّض بشدّة آفاق التوظيف العادل. قال ممثّل عن وكالة توظيف مملوكة للدولة إنّ تسديد العمّال لرسوم التوظيف مشكلة يجب أن تعالجها حكومات دول المنشأ.
 
قطر
تمّ توثيق ممارسات التوظيف المسيئة، بما فيها الخداع في الشروط والظروف، بشكل واسع في قطر. يتضمّن التقرير شهادة امرأة نيبالية أخبرت الباحثين أنّ الجهة التي وظّفتها قالت لها إنّها ستبيع القهوة في أحد الأسواق، لكن عند وصولها، “كان الأمر مختلفًا تمامًا. أعمل حاليًا كعاملة تنظيف في منزل، وهذا تحديدًا ما قيل لنا إنّنا لن نفعله”.

من المفترض أن تمنع مراكز تأشيرات قطر في بلدان المنشأ مثل هذه الممارسات عبر السماح للعمّال بمراجعة عقودهم بشكل مناسب قبل هجرتهم. أخبر عامل نيبالي، 47 عامًا، قال إنّه أمّي، الباحثين أنّ المسؤولين في مركز تأشيرات قطر شرحوا له عن حزمة المنافع وأطلعوه على أنّه سيتلقّى “الراتب والمنافع نفسها التي شُرحت لي” في قطر. مع ذلك، اضطُرّ إلى دفع 56 ألف روبيه (471 دولار) لوكالة قبل سفره، ما يؤكّد أنّ تأسيس مراكز تأشيرات قطر لم يحمِ العمّال من دفع رسوم التوظيف. تمنع قوانين العمل في قطر بوضوح دفع العمّال للشركات القطرية، لكنّ الإبهام يحيط بالدفع الذي يجري خارج البلاد، بما في ذلك في بلدان المنشأ، ما يقوّض الجهود الرامية إلى تطبيق “مبدأ ربّ العمل يدفع”.
 
توصي FairSquare السلطات القطرية بسدّ ثغرة المحاسبة عبر تحميل أرباب العمل المسؤولية عن أفعال الوسطاء، أي الطرف الثالث، المعتمدين لترتيب استقدام القوى العاملة الوافدة، وإلزامهم بإبراز جهودهم في تأمين التوظيف العادل أمام المفتّشين العماليين. بينما اعتمدت بعض المنظمات والشركات في قطر مبادرات إيجابية للتوظيف العادل، يرفض أرباب عمل آخرون الدفع لوكالات التوظيف لقاء خدماتها، ويطلبون حتى “رشاوى” قبل منح جهات التوظيف في دول المنشأ العقود. نتيجة لذلك، بشكل عام، تنتقل هذه التكاليف من العملاء إلى العمّال المهاجرين. أخبرنا مدير سابق لقسم الموارد البشرية في قطاع البناء في قطر أنّ بعض عملائه تورّطوا في ممارسات مماثلة ووجدوا في التوظيف بابًا لكسب المال.
 
معلومات أساسية
تستند نتائج التقرير وتوصياته على 133 مقابلة معمّقة في نيبال والكويت وقطر، بما فيها مع عمّال مهاجرين، ومسؤولين حكوميين، ووكالات توظيف، وأرباب عمل، ومنظمات غير حكومية، وممثلين عن نقابات عمّالية، وأكاديميين، ومراكز فكرية، وصحفيين، ومحامين، وممثلين عن منظمات ما بين الحكومات مثل منظمة العمل الدولية والمنظمة الدولية للهجرة.

الدول الخمس الأخرى التي يشملها مشروع الممرّات الخمسة هي كندا، والمكسيك، وميانمار، ونيبال، والفلبين، وتايوان، وتايلاند.
تتوفّر نسخة كاملة عن التقرير مع ملخّص عن النتائج باللغة العربية على الرابط التالي: https://fivecorridorsproject.org
 
للإدلاء بأيّ تعليقات، الرجاء التواصل مع جايمس لينش على [email protected]

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Press Release: Nepal should eliminate recruitment fees and increase enforcement capacity to prevent exploitation of its migrant workers

Nepal should eliminate recruitment fees and increase enforcement capacity to prevent exploitation of its migrant workers

Nepalese migrant workers queue to receive official documents in order to leave Nepal © Prakash Mathema/AFP via Getty Images)

Report into recruitment practices commends elements of government policy but recommends Nepal drop recruitment fee cap in favour of true ‘zero-cost’ model, in line with international standards.

The Nepali authorities should make all worker fee payment illegal and significantly increase their enforcement capacity, as part of a package of reforms in order to ensure fair recruitment, FairSquare said today in a 162 page report into recruitment practices in Nepal, Kuwait and Qatar.

FairSquare Projects is a London-based non-profit human rights organization with a focus on migrant workers’ rights issues. The report, Nepal to Kuwait and Qatar: Fair recruitment in review, which examines how workers from Nepal are recruited for work in Kuwait and Qatar, is 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 addition to its recommendations on fees and inspections, FairSquare also recommended that the Nepali authorities immediately introduce legislation to make licensed labour recruiters liable for the actions of any unlicensed partners and intermediaries, and that it cooperate and coordinate with other origin states that send workers to the Gulf in the identification of abusive employers. The report commended Nepal’s efforts in a range of areas, including the increased importance it had placed on worker protection in the negotiation of new bilateral arrangements with destination countries including UAE and Malaysia, and the development of technical initiatives aimed at increasing transparency in the recruitment process and eliminating deceitful practices such as contract substitution. 

“Nepal’s migrant workers make huge sacrifices to support their families and Nepal’s economy and they deserve every protection that the Nepali state can provide, which includes ensuring that recruitment is fair. This report reflects where progress has been made in that regard, but its key contribution is in outlining to the government the precise steps that it needs to take to end systematic abuse in the recruitment process, starting with the abolition of fees,” said Anurag Devkota, FairSquare’s Nepal researcher and human rights lawyer at LAPSOJ.

Nepal’s “Free Visa, Free Ticket” policy has since 2015 limited the amount workers can be charged to 10,000 rupees (USD 83) for workers migrating to the Gulf and Malaysia. Nepal calls this “zero cost” recruitment, but in reality, migrant workers routinely pay far in excess of the legal cap, with sums up to 160,000 rupees (around USD 1,350) not uncommon. In 2019, the Supreme Court ordered government bodies to enforce the FVFT policy effectively. The failure to ban recruitment fees outright creates a grey zone that enables agencies to charge far in excess of the legal limit, and the fact that a group of agencies committed to “zero-cost recruitment” has so far been unable to mobilise any workers underscores the failure of the policy. 

Some workers featured in the report said that when they refused to pay fees above the legal cap, agents told them that their jobs did not fall under the policy, or that their employers refused to cover any recruitment-related costs. Others reported not receiving any receipts for the payment of fees, receiving receipts only for 10,000 rupees, or being threatened with deportation if they reported how much they had actually paid. One man, who sold his bike and some gold in order to pay 116,000 rupees (US 965) to fund his migration to Kuwait, told us he was asked on the day he travelled to record a video clip in English stating that he had only paid 10,000 rupees (USD 83), the legal maximum.

Recruitment agencies for their part told us that there is intense competition between origin states for highly prized jobs in the Gulf and Malaysia, and that if they do not charge workers they will not be able to secure jobs from employers. The Covid-19 pandemic has made this competition even fiercer, leaving workers at risk of being charged even higher fees. The Nepali government in 2020 called for “a more concentrated approach among labour sending countries using platforms like the Colombo process” to deal with this problem. The Five Corridors Project is calling on Kuwait, Qatar and other destination countries to more effectively regulate employers to provide a much more consistent demand for ethical, zero-cost recruitment, including tackling the practice of demanding “kickbacks” from recruiters in exchange for demand letters.

The report also details how the Department of Foreign Employment (DOFE)’s investigation capacity and skills are out of step with the scale of the abuses identified in Nepal’s recruitment industry – the department continues to employ only four investigators, while there are more than 800 licensed agencies and tens of thousands of informal subagents. A 2020 Memorandum of Understanding between DOFE and the police has the potential to alleviate capacity problems by allowing Nepali police to carry out preliminary investigations based on worker complaints and to fully investigate unregistered recruiters, but the report recommends that Nepal increase the capacities and capabilities of DOFE investigating staff, and that it increase resources devoted to investigating and prosecuting corruption within the department. The report also recommends that Nepal significantly strengthen the capacity of diplomatic missions in the Gulf to support migrant workers facing exploitation and other abuses. MOLESS has acknowledged that capacity at diplomatic missions in major destination countries is “inadequate”.

“Nepal generates huge sums of money from the remittances that its migrant workers send home, yet it allocates scant resources to ensuring that the ministries with a mandate to protect these workers are adequately staffed and properly trained. That’s a self-defeating policy both in economic and human rights terms”, said Anurag Devkota.

Background
With remittances making up almost a third of its GDP, Nepal is one of the largest remittance recipient countries in the world. 

The report’s findings and recommendations are based on 133 in-depth interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and experts either remotely or in person in Nepal, 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. Interviews were conducted with a number of current and former senior officials at the Department of Foreign Employment (DOFE), Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MOLESS), and the Ministry of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. We also spoke to Nepali diplomats at missions in the Gulf. We benefited from the ability to refer to the 2020 MOLESS Labour Migration Report, a thorough and transparent evaluation of Nepal’s migrant labour governance.

The other countries featured in the Five Corridors Project are Canada, Kuwait, Mexico, Myanmar, the Philippines, Qatar, Taiwan and Thailand. 

A full copy of the report, with a summary of findings in Nepali, is available at fivecorridorsproject.org

For comment please contact Anurag Devkota at [email protected] or on +977 9851195949

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प्रेस विज्ञप्तिः नेपाल सरकारले वैदेशिक रोजगारीको भर्ना शुल्क खारेज गर्नुपर्छ र वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा जाने कामदारको शोषण रोक्न कानुन कार्यान्वयन गर्ने क्षमता बढाउनुपर्दछ ।

नेपाल सरकारले वैदेशिक रोजगारीको भर्ना शुल्क खारेज गर्नुपर्छ र वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा जाने कामदारको शोषण रोक्न कानुन कार्यान्वयन गर्ने क्षमता बढाउनुपर्दछ ।

© Prakash Mathema/AFP via Getty Images

भर्ना अभ्यास सम्बन्धी प्रतिवेदनले सरकारी नीतिका केही अंशहरूको प्रशंसा गर्दछ, तर अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय मापदण्ड अनुसार सही अर्थमा ‘शून्य–शुल्क’ हुने गरि नेपाल सरकारले भर्ना शुल्कको सिमा घटाउनुपर्दछ भन्ने सिफारिस गर्दछ ।

आप्रवासी कामदारहरूको अधिकारको विषयमा काम गर्ने गैर–नाफामुखी मानव अधिकार संस्था फेयर स्क्वायर प्रोजेक्ट्स्ले नेपाल, कुवेत र कतारको भर्ना अभ्यासहरूबारे १६२ पृष्ठको प्रतिवेदन जारी गर्दै नेपाल सरकारलाई न्यायोचित भर्ना सुनिश्चित गर्नको निम्ति गरिने सुधारहरूको अंशको रूपमा कामदारहरूले तिर्ने सबै शुल्कलाई गैरकानुनी बनाउन र यस प्रावधानलाई कार्यान्वयन गर्ने क्षमतामा उल्लेख्य वृद्धि गर्न आह्वान गरेकोछ ।

लण्डनमा आधारित फेयर स्क्वायर प्रोजेक्ट्स् आप्रवासी कामदारहरूको अधिकारको विषयमा काम गर्ने गैर–नाफामुखी मानव अधिकार संस्था हो । पाँच करिडोर परियोजनाको अंशको रूपमा, नेपालदेखि कुवेत र कतारसम्मः न्यायोचित भर्नाको समीक्षा (नेपाल टु कतार एण्ड  कुवेतः फेयर रिक्रुटमेण्ट इन रिभिउ) शिर्षकको उक्त प्रतिवेदनले नेपालबाट कुवेत र कतारमा कामको निम्ति कामदारहरूलाई कसरी भर्ना गरिन्छ भन्ने विषयको लेखाजोखा गर्दछ । पाँच करिडोर परियोजनाले न्यायोचित तथा नैतिक भर्ना सुनिश्चित गर्न राज्यहरूले के गर्न सक्छन् भन्ने विषयमा केही सिफारिसहरू प्रदान गर्ने प्रयास गर्दै आएको छ ।

शुल्क र निरीक्षणहरू सम्बन्धी आफ्नो सिफारिसका अतिरिक्त, फेयर स्क्वायरले नेपाली अधिकारीहरूलाई इजाजत प्राप्त श्रमिक भर्नाकर्ताहरूलाई आफ्ना इजाजत नभएका कुनै पनि साझेदार तथा बिचौलियाहरूको कामको लागि उत्तरदायी बनाउने गरि तत्काल नयाँ कानुन जारी गर्न सिफारिस गरेको छ, र खाडी मुलुकमा कामदार पठाउने अन्य उत्पत्ति मुलुकहरूसँग शोषण गर्ने रोजगारदाताहरूको पहिचान गर्नको निम्ति सहकार्य तथा समन्वय गर्न सिफारिस गरेकोछ । प्रतिवेदनले नेपालले संयुक्त अरब इमिरेट्स् (युएई) र मलेसिया लगायतका गन्तव्य मुलुकहरूसँग द्विपक्षीय सम्झौताको लागि वार्ता गर्दा कामदारहरूको संरक्षणलाई दिएको प्राथमिकता, र भर्ना प्रक्रियामा पारदर्शिता बढाउने र करार प्रतिस्थापन जस्ता ठगीका अभ्यासहरूलाई निराकरण गर्ने लक्ष्यले गरिएका प्राविधिक पहलहरू लगायत नेपालले गरेका  विविध प्रयासहरूको प्रशंसा गरेको छ ।

‘वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा जाने नेपाली आप्रवासी कामदारहरूले आफ्नो परिवार  र नेपालको अर्थतन्त्रलाई सघाउन ठुलो त्याग गरेका हुन्छन्, र तिनीहरूलाई न्यायोचित भर्नाको सुनिश्चितता सहित नेपाल राज्यले प्रदान गर्न सक्ने सबै संरक्षण प्रदान गर्नुपर्दछ । यस प्रतिवेदनले सो सम्बन्धमा कहाँ कहाँ प्रगति भएका छन् भन्ने कुरा उल्लेख गरेको छ, तर यसको प्रमुख योगदान चाहिँ भर्ना शुल्कको खारेजीबाट सुरु गरेर सरकारले भर्ना प्रक्रियामा हुने प्रणालीगत ठगीलाई अन्त्य गर्नको लागि लिनुपर्ने निश्चित कदमहरूको रूपरेखा प्रदान गर्नु हो,’ फेयर स्क्वायरका नेपालस्थित अनुसन्धानकर्ता तथा ल्याप्सोज संस्थामा आवद्द मानव अधिकार कानुन व्यवसायी अनुराग देवकोटाले बताए ।

नेपालमा सन् २०१५ मा लागू गरिएको ‘फ्रि भिसा, फ्रि टिकट’ नीतिले खाडी मुलुक र मलेसिया जाने कामदारहरूबाट लिन पाउने अधिकतम शुल्क रु १०,००० तोकेको छ । नेपालले यसलाई ‘शुन्य लागत’को भर्ना भन्ने गरेको छ, तर यथार्थमा आप्रवासी कामदारहरूले कानुनी सिमा भन्दा अत्यन्त धेरै तिर्ने गरेका छन् । रु १,६०,००० सम्म तिर्नु पनि असामान्य होइन । सन् २०१९ मा, सर्वोच्च अदालतले सरकारलाई ‘फ्रि भिसा, फ्रि टिकट’ नीतिको प्रभावकारी कार्यान्वयन गर्ने आदेश दियो । भर्ना शुल्कलाई पूरै खारेज नगर्दा एजेन्सीहरूलाई कानुनी सिमा भन्दा अत्याधिक धेरै लिन मिल्ने गरि एक किसिमको अन्यौलको क्षेत्र सिर्जना गरेको छ, र ‘शुन्य लागत भर्नामा प्रतिवद्ध एजेन्सीहरूको एक समूहले हालसम्म कुनै पनि कामदार विदेश पठाउन नसकेको यथार्थले यस नीतिको असफलतालाई दर्शाउँछ ।

यस प्रतिवेदनमा उल्लेख गरिएका  कतिपय कामदारहरूले आफूले कानुनी सिमाभन्दा धेरै शुल्क  तिर्न अस्वीकार गर्दा एजेन्टहरूले आफ्नो रोजगारीलाई उक्त  नीतिले नसमेट्ने वा तिनका रोजगारदाताले भर्ना सम्बन्धी कुनै पनि खर्च नव्यहोर्ने बताएको उल्लेख गरे । अन्य कतिपय कामदारले आफूले तिरेको रकमको लागि रसिद नपाएको वा रु १०,०००को लागि मात्र रसिद पाएको, वा आफूले तिरेको वास्तविक रकमबारे उजुरी गरेमा स्वदेश फर्काउने धम्की दिएको बताए । कुवेत जानको लागि रु १,१६,००० जुटाउन सुन र आफ्नो मोटरसाइकल बेचेका एक पुरुष  कामदारले हामीलाई, विदेश यात्राको दिन उनलाई अंग्रेजी भाषामा आफूले रु १०,००० (कानुनले तोकेको अधिकतम रकम) मात्र तिरेको भनी कबुल गरेको भिडियो खिच्न लगाइएको बताउनुभयो ।
अर्कोतिर, भर्ना एजेन्सीहरूले खाडी र मलेसियामा आकर्षक रोजगारीको लागि कामदार पठाउने उत्पत्ति मुलुकहरूबिच अत्यन्त धेरै प्रतिस्पर्धा रहने गरेको र कामदारबाट शुल्क नउठाउने हो भने रोजगारदाताबाट कामदारको माग प्राप्त गर्न नसक्ने बताए । कोभिड–१९ महामारीले यस प्रतिस्पर्धालाई झन् बढाएको छ, र यसले कामदारलाई अझै बढी शुल्क तिनुपर्ने जोखिममा पारेको छ । यस समस्याको सम्बोधन गर्न सन् २०२०मा नेपाल सरकारले ‘कोलम्बो प्रक्रिया जस्ता माध्यमहरूको प्रयोग गरि कामदार पठाउने मुलुकहरू माझ अझै सघन उपाय अपनाउनुपर्ने’ विषय उठायो । पाँच करिडोर परियोजनाले कुवेत, कतार र अन्य गन्तव्य मुलुकहरूलाई कामदारको मागपत्र पठाए बापत ‘घुष’ माग्ने अभ्यासलाई निराकरण गर्ने लगायत नैतिक र शुन्य लागत भर्नाको नियमित माग प्रदान गर्नको लागि रोजगारदाताहरूलाई प्रभावकारी रूपमा नियमन गर्नको लागि आह्वान गर्दछ ।

प्रतिवेदनले वैदेशिक रोजगार विभागको अनुसन्धान क्षमता तथा दक्षता नेपालको भर्ना उद्योगमा पहिचान गरिएका ठगीलाई सम्बोधन गर्न आवश्यक स्तरभन्दा कम रहेको विवरण प्रस्तुत गरेको छ । हाल ८०० भन्दा बढी इजाजत प्राप्त एजेन्सीहरू र दशौँ हजार अनौपचारिक सब–एजेन्टहरू रहेको परिवेशमा विभागमा जम्मा चार जना अनुसन्धानकर्ताहरू छन् । वैदेशिक रोजगार विभाग र नेपाल प्रहरी बिच सन् २०२० मा गरिएको सम्झौता पत्र अनुसार कामदारहरूको उजुरीको आधारमा नेपाल प्रहरीले प्रारम्भिक अनुसन्धान गर्न पाउने र दर्ता नभएका भर्नाकर्ताहरूलाई पूर्ण छानबीनको दायरामा ल्याउने प्रावधान भएकाले यसले केही हदसम्म विभागमा रहेको क्षमता अभावको समस्यालाई सम्बोधन गर्न सक्छ, र यसले गर्दा विभाग भित्रको भ्रष्टाचारको अनुसन्धान र अभियोजनको लागि छुट्याइएको स्रोत पनि वृद्धि हुन्छ । यस प्रतिवेदनले शोषण र अन्य दुव्र्यवहार सामना गरिरहेका आप्रवासी कामदारहरूलाई सहयोग गर्न नेपाल सरकारलाई खाडीमा रहेका आफ्ना कुटनीतिक नियोगहरूको क्षमता पनि उल्लेख्य रूपमा  वृद्धि गर्न सिफारिस गरेको छ । श्रम, रोजगार तथा सामाजिक सुरक्षा मन्त्रालयले प्रमुख गन्तव्य मुलुकहरूमा रहेको कुटनीतिक नियोगका क्षमता ‘अपर्याप्त’ रहेको कुरा स्वीकार गरेको छ ।

‘नेपालले वैदेशिक रोजगारीमा गएका आफ्ना आप्रवासी कामदारहरूले पठाएको विप्रेषणबाट ठुलो रकम आर्जन गर्दछ, तर  यी कामदारको संरक्षण गर्ने जिम्मा पाएका मन्त्रालयहरूमा पर्याप्त तथा सुप्रशिक्षित कर्मचारी भएको सुनिश्चित गर्न  ज्यादै कम  स्रोत विनियोजन गरिएको छ । अर्थतन्त्र र मानव अधिकार दुवैको दृष्टिकोणले यो अनुपयुक्त नीति हो,’ अनुराग देवकोटाले भने ।

पृष्ठभूमि
विप्रेषणले कुल ग्रार्हस्थ उत्पादनको झण्डै एक तिहाइ हिस्सा ओगट्ने मुलुक नेपाल संसार भरमै सबै भन्दा धेरै विप्रेषण प्राप्त गर्ने मुलुक मध्येको एक हो ।

यस प्रतिवेदनका निचोड तथा  सिफारिसहरू आप्रवासी कामदारको अधिकारको क्षेत्रमा काम गर्ने गैरसरकारी संस्थाहरू, ट्रेड युनियनका प्रतिनिधिहरू, प्राज्ञहरू, थिंक ट्यांक वा बुद्धिजीवि संगठनहरू, पत्रकारहरू, कानुन व्यवसायीहरू, भर्नाकर्ता एजेन्सीहरू, र  अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय श्रम संगठन (आइ.एल.ओ.) र अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय आप्रवासन संगठन (आइओएम)जस्ता अन्तरसरकारी निकायहरूका  प्रतिनिधिहरू लगायत नेपालमा गैरस्थलगत रूपमा  वा प्रत्यक्षरूपमा विविध सरोकारवालाहरू  र विज्ञहरूसँग गरिएका १३३ ओटा गहन अन्तर्वार्ताहरूमा आधारित छन् । वैदेशिक रोजगार विभाग; श्रम, रोजगार तथा सामाजिक  सुरक्षा मन्त्रालय; र कानुन, न्याय तथा संसदीय मामिला मन्त्रलायका बहालवाला  र भूतपूर्व गरि थुप्रै वरिष्ठ अधिकारीहरूसँग अन्तर्वार्ता गरिएको थियो । हामीले खाडी मुलुकमा रहेका नेपाली नियोगका कुटनीतिज्ञहरूसँग पनि कुरा गर्यौँ । हामीले श्रम, रोजगार तथा सामाजिक सुरक्षा मन्त्रालयले नेपालको आप्रवासी श्रमिक सम्बन्धी प्रशासनिक व्यवस्थाको विस्तृत र पारदर्शी मूल्यांकन गरि प्रकाशन गरेको श्रम आप्रवासन प्रतिवेदन २०२०बाट सन्दर्भ लिएर पनि लाभ लियौँ ।

पाँच करिडोर परियोजनामा समावेश भएका अन्य देशहरूमा क्यानाडा, कुवेत, मेक्सिको, म्यान्मार, फिलिपिन्स्, कतार, ताइवान र थाइल्याण्ड पर्दछन् ।

नेपाली भाषामा निचोडको सारांश सहित प्रतिवेदनको पूर्ण पाठ https://fivecorridorsproject.org मा उपलब्ध छ ।

थप टिप्पणीको लागि कृपया अनुराग देवकोटाला[email protected]  मा वा +९७७-९८५११९५९४९ मा सम्पर्क गर्नुहोस् ।

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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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