Reflections from Geneva

In March 2017, HOME and TWC2 submitted a joint report for the 26th session of the United Nation’s Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), where the Bangladeshi government’s state report was to be examined. Our submission examined the Bangladesh government’s commitments as a signatory to the United Nations’ Convention on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Thanks to Migrant Forum Asia (MFA), we were able to present our findings in Geneva in April 2017. Our NGO delegation had just three minutes per speaker, but there were follow-up questions by the Committee, which included one about recruitment practices in Singapore. TWC2’s delegate explained how recruitment costs have escalated and its link to training centres in Bangladesh. Members of the CMW appeared shocked at the high recruitment fees.

The Bangladesh government arrived for their afternoon session with an 11-strong delegation. Their delegation assured the Committee that they had processes in place to protect migrant workers abroad, and that there was a licensing framework in place for recruitment agencies.

This experience brought to life the political realities of how treaty bodies work. Drawing CSOs into the CMW process ensures there is empirical relevance, and exposes the gaps between rhetoric (systems and laws ‘on paper’) and reality (what actually happens in practice).

Meanwhile, the UN Committee has responded with its concluding observations. The Committee’s recommendations to the Bangladesh government include improving their overseas missions’ protection of migrant workers abroad and enhancing regulation of the recruitment sector, including punishing recruiters engaged in fradulent and exploitative pratices, among others. These recommendations reflect those raised by CSOs in Bangladesh as well as our joint report. ~ Stephanie Chok

Stephanie Chok is a case manager and researcher with HOME. Her research interests include labour migration, inequality and research ethics.

Stephanie Chok