Earlier this month, TWC2 welcomed 14 foreign delegates to a meeting in Singapore on issues related to work migration. The meeting was co-organised between TWC2 and Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), of which TWC2 is a member. MFA is an Asia-wide alliance of over 20 NGOs working in the migration sector, with members from Japan to Lebanon. The 14 participants at this meeting however, came from closer to Singapore, namely from member NGOs in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, India and Nepal.

Over three days, 11 – 13 June 2018, the group shared news and viewpoints about two international developments: the ASEAN consensus on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers, and the proposed Global Compact on Migration (GCM), which is currently being negotiated at the United Nations in New York. The GCM is scheduled to be finalised in the third quarter of this year and adopted by UN member states in December 2018. There were discussions about how civil society can remain involved in the continued evolution of these frameworks.

A session was also devoted to the nexus between GCM and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Goals #8 (Decent work and economic growth), #10 (Reduced inequalities), #16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions), among others, are due for high-level review in 2019.

A major theme running through the meetings was that of cross-border recruitment. The meeting heard about latest developments with India’s e-migrate digital platform, and the new digitally-based complaints mechanism in the United Arab Emirates. It became obvious that these were very much still work-in-progress with many deficiencies that need fixing. A Recruitment Advisor platform, developed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) with support from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Fair Recruitment initiative, was also on the agenda.

What was most interesting through the meetings was the new, and very serious interest in international accreditation of cross-border recruitment agencies. A session was devoted to the International Organisation for Migration’s International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) which aims to certify recruiters that adhere to high standards of practice. Among the ethical standard aimed for is that of no recruitment fees to workers.

A small delegation from the MFA meeting was also invited to participate in two parallel events organised by third parties:

(a) a stakeholder consultation of another recruiter accreditation system being developed by the Fair Hiring Initiative; and

(b) a lunch meeting with the Leadership Group of the Responsible Business Alliance, and representatives of international brands that are part of the RBA. Also in the meeting were ILO and IOM.

From the latter meeting, it was obvious how serious international brands were about cleaning up their supply chains with respect to recruitment abuses. There is going to be considerable synergy between multinational companies and the efforts to develop recruiter accreditation systems. Initially, international brands in the manufacturing and hospitality sectors seem to becoming on board first.

TWC2’s Peter Teo (right) addressing the delegates during the field visit to our DaySpace

TWC2 hosted a field visit by the participants to our DaySpace in which we introduced the direct services provided by us to migrant workers in need. Participants took the opportunity to interact with workers visiting our DaySpace and other volunteers to learn more of our work. Following this 60-minute field visit, the group headed to a Solidarity Dinner at a nearby restaurant.

As mentioned by TWC2 Vice-President Russell Heng in his welcome remarks at the dinner, TWC2 values our partnership with MFA very highly. Through MFA we get opportunities to share information and views with organisations in source countries, or learn best practices from organisations in other destination countries. MFA has also helped TWC2 gain access to international organisations and forums.

Final group photograph from the meeting