Migrant workers must have access to justice

Published: 00:05, Jun 19,2017 | Updated: 00:24, Jun 19,2017

 
 

SUCCESSIVE governments have hardly put in efforts to secure justice for migrant workers who make a significant contribution to the national economy by way of remittances. Migrant workers have — as lawyers, rights campaigners and government officials say — very limited access to justice in cases of cheating and abuse at home and abroad. The absence of justice for migrant workers is more acute especially at home. Eighty per cent of the migrant workers, as New Age reported on Sunday, are not under the coverage of justice at home while 20 per cent of them do not get access to justice in destination countries. In the absence of a transparent recruitment system, workers travel abroad without proper knowledge of their legal entitlements. Taking into consideration that there is a declining trend in the remittance inflow and this failure to ensure adequate access to legal system for migrant workers, the government should take immediate steps to redress the situation. It will, otherwise, negatively impact the already declining inflow of remittances.
An inadequate access to justice system for migrant workers shows that the government is inattentive towards the plight of people in poverty. In recent years, the incumbents have failed to effectively control and regulate the involvement of brokers in the recruitment process and in this void, brokers have only exploited workers. While the exploitation of workers has not ended at home, they are also abused in destination countries, with the female workers in Saudi Arabia being a case in point. The problem of undue working hour and accommodation is perpetuating for the lack of bilateral agreements with hiring countries. The government is also failing to pursue effective diplomatic initiatives to involve legal institutions of hiring countries in monitoring the abuse of migrant workers. Moreover, not all the migrant workers are listed on the government database. Workers not listed on the database are, therefore, left in a vulnerable situation with a strong chance of abuse and injustice. Uniformed of their legal rights, migrant workers avoid reporting any abuse. It is evident that the incumbents have failed to establish an effective mechanism to make migrant workers aware of the laws and their rights.
It is in this context that the government must immediately take initiatives to resolve the pending legal concern of migrant workers and strictly enforce the policy to ensure that no workers leave the country without being enlisted on the government database. The incumbents simultaneously must take a long-term initiative to control broker involvement in the recruitment process. It should emphasise on making effective bilateral agreements with hiring countries and pursue diplomatic initiatives to involve legal institutions of those countries in cases of violation of worker rights. More importantly, it should ensure a strict enforcement of the Overseas Employment and Migration Act to protect migrant workers.

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