Regional Thematic Workshop

“Access of migrant workers to protection mechanisms”

6th – 7th June 2016

Almaty, Kazakhstan

The purpose of the Regional Thematic workshop was to strengthen the capacities of participating government and non-government stakeholders in the sphere of addressing the complex challenges of migrant workers’ access to protection mechanisms in Kazakhstan. This will be achieved through familiarizing participants with International Law, sharing of best practices and existing initiatives in providing assistance, identifying gaps and providing recommendations.

The event was organized within the framework of the IOM program “Adressing Mixed Migration flows in Central Asia through capacity building” Phase II (2015-2016) funded by the Government of the United States (BPRM-PIM).

Access to protection mechanisms from the perspective of migrant workers includes the access of migrant workers to social services, access to services and information on legal and safe opportunities for employment and access to rights protection mechanisms for both prospective and current migrants.

The overall objectiveof the project “Adressing Mixed Migration flows in Central Asia through capacity building” Phase II (2015-2016) is to enhance the Central Asian States’ ability to manage mixed migration flows more effectively and humanely. The Regional Thematic Workshop supported this objective by building knowledge and capacity of relevant stakeholders in the sphere of addressing the access of migrant workers to protection mechanisms.

The regional thematic workshop enhanced the capacities of social partners, NGOs / lawyers, employment centers, relevant ministries and employers on human and labor rights of migrant workers. Relevant participants will be exposed to International law, best practices and existing initiatives in providing professional legal assistance / consultations to migrant workers, setting up and ensuring access to rights protection mechanisms. 

To achieve this, the training focused on :

  • the relationship between social development and migration, and the ways in which migrants’ potential can be harnessed for local development. The participants will discuss how to match returning migrants’ skills with local labor market needs, identify gaps in existing policy frameworks, and consider how migration can contribute to Central Asia’s development. Participants will also learn about international experience in leveraging migrant remittances for development, and will discuss how to facilitate remittance flows and increase their developmental impact through implementing appropriate policies;
  • review of the principles and instruments for protection of national labour market, applied by selected European countries, and consider the effects of protective measures on labour migrant flows (drawing comparisons with the Central Asian practice). The participants will become familiar with the mechanisms of verification of legality of employment and the administrative consequences of unauthorized work;
  • considering the difficulties involved in designing and implementing the policies for attracting those migrants who are needed for achieving competitive advantage in the globalizing world. The training will explore questions like: Which countries and policies win the “race for talent”? What are the advantages and shortcomings of various systems for facilitating employment of skilled migrants, applied by leading countries of destination? What needs to be included in the package to attract various groups of migrants?
  • giving participants knowledge of the recent trends in migration in Central Asia, and will identify the specific issues in observance of labour rights. Attention will be paid to the problems of the most vulnerable groups, and best practices in assistance to these groups by national governments and IOM will be shared;
  • analyzing the main components of developed systems of migration law enforcement through reference to selected national frameworks, and investigate legal norms and operational procedures regulating the conditions of employment and employment contracts as well as planning and implementing of labour inspections;
  • applying a sociological approach to the question of migrant vulnerabilities; data collected in the field will add a new perspective on vulnerabilities of migrants through the lens of migrants’ experiences, and will show how the voices of migrants can reveal more complex aspects of vulnerability that should be addressed on a policy level both by state agencies and civil society. Attention will be also given to specific vulnerabilities of female migrants, especially concerning re-entry bans.
  • analyzing migrants’ strategies used to face difficulties and new challenges through informal channels such as networks and community practices. Particular attention will be given to cases when those strategies succeed in guaranteeing migrants’ protection and cases when they don’t.  It will be considered how the informal aspects of migration may better address the specific needs of re-entry banned migrants.

Background on the theme

One of the challenges migrant workers in Central Asia face is limited access to existing protection mechanisms to ensure respect of their rights. Migrants with irregular status are even more vulnerable and lack such access. In Central Asia, unlike in Europe or North America, undocumented migration in its form of illegal crossing of frontiers is relatively rare, with the bulk of irregularities consisting of overstaying or unauthorized employment. Problems related to unregistered employment include inter alia lack of access to protection mechanisms, withholding or delays in payment of wages, unlimited working hours, unsafe work conditions, labour exploitation, abuse and trafficking etc. Irregular migrants fear penalization and deportation and do not seek protection of their rights or have no access to it. The various solutions of the issue of recruitment and labour intermediation as well as employment in national laws do not always offer sufficient protection against abuse or explicitly propose it.

Central Asian countries have on the whole recognized the importance of supplying prospective and current migrants with reliable services and information on the legal and safe opportunities for employment and access to rights protection mechanisms. Building up the capacities and closer cooperation with social partners, NGOs, migration agencies and employment services of the destination/origin country could facilitate the exchange of information on existing protection mechanisms and changes in procedures for employment and entry, which could then be shared with potential or returning migrants in order to minimize abuse and exploitation and protect their rights.

A survey conducted by IOM with support from UKaid in 2012 revealed several obstacles for migrant workers to accessing social services in Kazakhstan. The respondents were Tajik and Kyrgyz migrant workers in Kazakhstan. The survey revealed institutional barriers, such as the difficulty in officially registering in the country, with a number of migrants in irregular circumstances. In addition, there were issues with employers not registering their workers, and also a number of migrants who were self-employed and therefore not registered under the system of employers’ registration. Furthermore, there were non-institutional challenges recognized, such as language challenges, lack of knowledge of rights and provision of services, lack of trust in institutions, and lack of integration in welfare system despite long stays in the country (average up to five years). Most migrants get their information and services through their networks, some through organizations such as IOM and the Red Crescent, and a few services are provided by employers. Infringements of migrants’ rights were also recorded, such as harassment by officials, confiscation of documents, restrictions in their freedom of movement and expulsion of children from school, which are not helping to build trust and support of host institutions.

Relation of the training to the Sustainable Development Goals

The proposed training is in line with 4 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nation’s 193 Member States during the Post-2015 Summit in September 2015. Specifically, along with the practical purpose the training will contribute to eradicating forced labour, human trafficking and child labour; promoting and informing about migrant worker rights, especially women migrants; empowering of migrants and promoting access to services for migrants in Central Asian countries. In addition, the participants will be familiarized with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and discuss how well-managed migration plays an integral role in sustainable development in their countries.


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