ITUC reports expose regular abuse of migrant workers

To mark this week highlighting the challenges faced by migrant workers, the ITUC is publishing three reports based on the experiences of working people using the international recruitment system.

An ITUC survey of nearly 1,000 migrant workers from Bangladesh found that most of them have experienced a recruitment system where serious problems and abuses persist.

Based on reviews submitted by 835 Bangladeshi workers to the Recruitment Advisor website, the ‘Survey analysis: Monitoring recruitment of Bangladeshi migrant workers’ shows that:

  • 78 per cent of respondents relied on sub-agents to act as an intermediary with a recruitment agency. This dependency creates potential for abuse.
  • 61% received no pre-departure orientation that led to numerous problems in their destination countries.
  • 822 out of the 835 workers had their passports kept by their employers. An employer may hold a workers’ identity documents for safekeeping, but migrant workers could be coerced through such an action.
  • Some workers were misled about the employment that awaited them with 12% not even receiving the job or the salary to which they had agreed.
  • Only 12% were given information about joining a trade union. The remaining 88% were either unaware of this right, had no access to a trade union or were actively stopped from organising.

ITUC affiliates in Sri Lanka carried out an online survey with 636 returnee migrant workers through Recruitment Advisor. The report outlines the key findings that:

  • 54% paid fees and costs related to their recruitment. The three main costs were recruitment fees, insurance and medical costs.
  • Only 40% received any pre-departure orientation about their rights, obligations, useful contacts and services in the destination country.
  • 80% had their passports kept by their employers.
  • Migrant workers were deprived of the freedom of association, with 97% having no access to a union or workers’ association during their employment abroad.

The third report looks at the experiences of Nepalese workers in Qatar based on 345 reviews posted on the Recruitment Advisor site. It shows that:

  • 99% paid recruitment fees to work in Qatar.
  • 49% has their passports and documents held by their employer.
  • 21% did not receive the employment that they had been promised. 49% were not paid the promised salary.
  • There is no freedom of association for workers in Qatar. 99% of respondents said that they had no access to trade unions.

ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle said: “We are well aware of the daily exploitation faced by many migrant workers, but still these findings are shocking.

“However, we have the answer: governments must provide adequate protection and support to migrant workers. This means access to legal support, protection from exploitation and access to basic social protection, health care and education.

“It makes sense for governments to act because safe migration can promote economic growth, reduce poverty and enhance social and cultural diversity for both the country of origin and the destination.

“Migrant workers deserve to see a coordinated approach from governments, civil society organisations and the private sector to ensure that migration is safe and brings benefits to everyone.”

Launched in 2018 by the ITUC in collaboration with trade unions and the ILO, Recruitment Advisor is a global recruitment and employment review platform giving migrant workers access to information about recruitment agencies and workers’ rights.