Protecting migrant workers from exploitation in the EU: workers’ perspectives’, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

This report is the EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s fourth on the topic of severe labour exploitation. Based on interviews with 237 exploited workers, it paints a bleak picture of severe exploitation and abuse. The workers include both people who came to the EU, and EU nationals who moved to another EU country. They were active in diverse sectors, and their legal status also varied.

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Promoting fair and ethical recruitment in a digital world

This joint report by the ILO and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) explores innovative state-facilitated digital technology platforms from four different contexts, with a focus on the Employment Permit System of the Republic of Korea, Musaned from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, eMigrate from the Republic of India and the European Network of Employment Services.

The study maps four examples of state-facilitated digital technology platforms that assist the recruitment, placement, and/or job matching for migrant workers. In reviewing some of the promising practices and lessons learnt, the study aims to offer preliminary guidance to States developing similar online applications and platforms, while also discussing possible approaches on how to best leverage new techniques and technologies, including blockchain technology. When designed and implemented in an inclusive way, these digital technology platforms have the potential to promote institutional transparency and fairness, and can reduce the costs of labour migration and limit the potential for collusion between private recruitment agencies.

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Business and private sector engagement

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Locked down and in limbo

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on migrant workers and their access to decent work. Beyond the immediate public health crisis, response measures including lockdowns and border closures had specific implications for the hiring and employment conditions of migrant workers. These measures have increased the vulnerability of migrant workers at the same time as the economic and social dependence on migrant workers who deliver essential services such as healthcare and sanitation has deepened.

To chart and understand this impact in detail, the ILO commissioned a series of rapid assessments in some of the world’s most significant corridors for low-wage migrant workers. Completed in the initial months of the crisis (early to mid-2020), these assessments gathered primary data in the form of interviews and surveys from the perspective of migrant workers and key stakeholders (including governments, civil society, the recruitment sector, employers’ organizations, unions and workers’ organizations) engaged in migration governance, migrant worker deployment and the protection of the rights of migrant workers.

These rapid assessments provide valuable snapshots of the immediate impact of the pandemic and early responses to the pandemic on migrant workers in various parts of the world. Common themes emerging from the research also illustrate the ways in which the pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities and vulnerabilities experienced by migrant workers globally. These themes demonstrate the clear linkages between the impact of the pandemic on migrant workers and the structural causes of the inequalities and vulnerabilities embedded in many current labour migration processes and practices.

Drawing on the rapid assessments, this report provides a global picture of the impact of the crisis on migrant workers, and provides valuable recommendations for ensuring protection of migrant workers’ rights.

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