Friday, January 27, 2023

Pakistan’s first Migrant Resource Centre launched in Islamabad

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Migrant Resource Center launched to promote safe migration from Pakistan and offer services to migrant workers and their families

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ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s first ever Migrant Resource Center (MRC) has been inaugurated in Islamabad. The centre will provide a range of services to intended migrant workers, migrant workers and their families, counselling, pre-departure orientation and referral to safeguard their labour and human rights throughout the migration cycle.

Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development  (MoOP&HRD) has established this centre in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), European Union (EU) and International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).

The Centre was inaugurated by Federal Secretary, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Mr. Khizer Hayat Khan, along with the Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan, H.E. Mr Jean-François Cautain; Ambassador of Hungary to Pakistan, H. E. István Szabó; Ms. Ingrid Christensen, ILO Country Director for Pakistan and Ms. Sedef Dearing, Senior Regional Advisor, Silk Routes, ICMPD.

“The main purpose of the MRC is to provide accurate and timely information on safe and legal migration, referral and counselling, as well as raising awareness on irregular migration and the related serious risks” Mr. Manzoor Ahamd Kayani, Joint Secretary Emigration (MoOP&HRD) informed. “Around  9 million Pakistanis have proceeded abroad for employment from 1971 till today with most

“Around  9 million Pakistanis have proceeded abroad for employment from 1971 till today with most heading to GCC countries. The majority of workers are low skilled workers and lack of information on safe migration, access to support mechanisms and justice add to their vulnerabilities and thus they face exploitation and abuse during recruitment and employment process” he added.

Migrant Resource Center will also serve as an effective way to combat common abuses of migrants such as underpayment of wages, confiscation of passports, substandard working conditions and confinement in the workplace by equipping migrants with knowledge and strategies to save migrant workers from exploitation and abuse in the migration cycle.

Referring to Europe’s current migrant crisis, Ambassador Cautain noted that “historically, Europe has been both a source and a destination for migration, and labour migration is also very much at the heart of the European Union today”. While migration can benefit societies in many ways, it can also pose problems when it is legal and at the moment Europe is in the middle of an unprecedented crisis of illegal migration.

Ambassador Cautain urged for an effective partnership with Pakistan government to combat the menace of illegal migration. European Union “promotes legal opportunities as our populations are aging and in the future there will be a growing number of jobs that it will be difficult to fill from within Europe. Therefore, it is in our interest to be able to draw on qualified and interested candidates from the rest of the world.”

H. E. István Szabó, Ambassador of Hungary to Pakistan highlighted the plight of trafficked migrants. “People migrate in search of employment and study so that can contribute to the welfare of their families, but unfortunately the well-organized human smugglers and traffickers group take advantage of this, and trap them by providing false information to the vulnerable migrants in order to mislead them and gain more profit without bothering about the future of their victims and their families”, he said, adding that now “the MRCs in Islamabad will be a good source of information for potential migrants to get information on safe migration and consequences of irregular migration”.

Ms. Ingrid Christensen, ILO Country Director for Pakistan, congratulated Pakistan for the successful establishment of the Migrant Resource Centre. In her speech, she stated that “The ILO is the only UN agency with a constitutional mandate to protect migrant workers. The ILO Constitution – which will be one hundred years old in 1919 – speaks to the needs of protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, they should be treated as human beings not as a commodity”. She also said that the government should consider the ratification of international standards related to labour migration, including the two ILO Conventions Nos. 97 and 143.  She emphasised that “partnership is a key, to achieve tangible and sustainable results to promote safe migration and this MRC is a good example of an effective partnership”.

Ms. Sedef Dearing, Senior Regional Advisor, Silk Routes, ICMPD mentioned in her speech “that these MRCs are an outcome of partnership of not only EU and ILO but also several other countries as well, namely Bulgaria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom”. She recalled the series of events held under Budapest Process which resulted in decision to support the establishment of MRCs and mentioned that “providing the correct information to the right people is crucial when smugglers attempt to fill in the deficit of information. It is important that right skills are matched with the right jobs so that migrants and the countries of origin and destination make best use of these skills”.

In his closing remarks, the Secretary of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Mr Khizer Hayat Khan stated that “the Government of Pakistan has developed a legal and institutional framework aimed to encourage emigration through regular channels under overall supervision of my Ministry”. He also mentioned that “our objective is not only to increase the number of people going abroad for employment but also ensure their welfare and protection” and emphasised that “Strengthening the labour migration governance and policy framework is a priority of the government”. He thanked the EU, ILO and ICMPD for their support to set up this first ever MRC. He together with the speakers of the event unveiled the inaugural plaque of the MRC.

While MRCs already exists in other labour-sending countries in South Asia, the center in Islamabad was the first ever to be established in Pakistan. Recognizing this, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development established the Migrant Resource Center (MRC) in Islamabad in 2015 with the support from the ILO-EU funded “South Asia Labour Migration Governance Project” (SALM) and the ICMPD-EU funded project “Silk Routes Partnership for Migration”.

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