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Colombo Process Member States Urged to Promote Pre-Departure Orientation for Migrants

Manila, 16 March 2023 – The Colombo Process (CP) Thematic Area Working Group (TAWG) on Pre-Departure Orientation and Empowerment concluded a two-day meeting in Manila today, emphasizing the need to collaborate on the promotion of pre-departure orientation programmes to help ensure decent work and safe migration across South, East and Southeast Asia.

Representatives from CP Member States, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam were joined by participants from civil society organisations, trade unions, the private sector and UN agencies in a hybrid meeting to discuss the need for the development and implementation of policies to address the vulnerabilities of migrant workers. Member States also discussed their three-year work plan and agreed to further the overarching goal of the TAWG, adding a new objective on migrant worker empowerment.

According to the World Migration Report 2022, the number of international migrants has grown from 84 million globally in 1970 to 281 million in 2020, representing 3.6 per cent of the world’s population. IOM’s Asia-Pacific Data Migration Report shows that the number of migrants from countries in the region has almost doubled over the last two decades and found that labour migration was the dominant form of international migration with 24 million international migrant workers in 2021. Migrants contribute with their knowledge, networks, and skills to build stronger, more resilient communities in their countries of origin and destination.

The CP is a regional consultative process of 12 Asian countries that focuses on the protection and provision of services to migrant workers, optimizing the benefits of organized labour migration for sending and receiving countries for both migrants and their families. This is increasingly relevant in the region as Governments recognize that migration issues cannot be addressed unilaterally.

The CP addresses the five thematic priority areas of: Skills and Qualification Recognition Processes, Fostering Ethical Recruitment Practices, Pre-departure Orientation and Empowerment, Promoting Cheaper, Faster and Safer Transfer of Remittances and Labor Market Analysis.

Sarah Arriola, IOM Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific said, “The gathering of member states for the Colombo Process to discuss pre-departure orientation and empowerment after 5 years comes at a significant time for the region as more and more migrants continue to seek employment opportunities overseas.” She added, “This is the opportune time for us to share experiences, lessons learned, and best practices on overseas employment, review the current policies from countries of origin and destination and identify our steps towards improving overall labour migration governance.”

Joining the inaugural session, Secretary Susan Ople of the Department of Migrant Workers, the Republic of Philippines, said, “I salute every one of you for being part of the Colombo Process – for not giving up on your belief that migrants’ rights are human rights, and that in compromising these rights, we diminish humanity.”

The work of the TAWGs is within the framework of the Governance of Labour Migration in South and Southeast Asia (GOALS) Programme, a joint programme implemented by IOM, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women, with financial assistance from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Céline Fürst, Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines, said, “Switzerland encourages the Government stakeholders of countries of origin and countries of destination to collaborate increasingly for improved conditions of labour migrants and their families.”

“There is a shared responsibility of all relevant stakeholders – including government and non-non-governmental actors. Thematic Area Working Group discussions are good examples in this regard which provide space for collective efforts and to ensure multi-stakeholders engagement towards achieving the common objectives,” she added.

The meeting also included a panel discussion on “When the Unexpected Happens: Protecting Migrant Workers in Times of Crisis” facilitated by Geertrui Lanneau, IOM’s Senior Regional Labour Mobility and Social Inclusion Specialist. This discussion covered a review of the COVID-19 response for returning migrants and a sharing of the best practices for the return and reintegration of migrant workers during crises such as the pandemic.

The two-day meeting was attended by over 50 participants representing the Colombo Process Member States, the SDC, the partnering UN Agencies including ILO and UN Women and regional and local observers from Social Science Baha, Pakistan Rural Workers Social Welfare Organization (PRWSWO), WARBE Development Foundation, South Asian Regional Trade Union Council, KAMPI, PASEI and Connected Women.

The meeting was chaired by the Republic of the Philippines with the support of the Colombo Process Technical Support Unit (CPTSU) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the Philippines.

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