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IOM, EU, Sweden Launch Drive to Protect Migrant Worker Rights in Asia

Bangkok, 20 February – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) together with the European Union (EU) and Sweden today launched a USD 12 million project to highlight migrant workers’ rights in Asia. The Migration, Business and Human Rights (MBHR) Programme builds on over a decade’s work with the private sector on protecting migrant employees.  

The progamme aims to promote full respect for the rights of migrant workers in supply chains in the region focusing on key destinations including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. Protection from exploitation, unsafe conditions, and unethical processes will allow migrant workers in the region to flourish, so they can contribute economically in both their home and host nations. There are 85.6 million migrants in the region. 

“When migrants can fully access their rights, they can truly unlock their potential and harness the full power of labour migration,” said Amy Pope, IOM Director General.  “The private sector remains an indispensable partner for IOM as we work together to uphold human rights, conduct business responsibly and foster a greater expansion of regular migration pathways. s. Not just any pathway, but safe, regular, quality pathwayswhere people enjoy their full human and labour rights.” 

According to the 2022 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery Report, , Asia and the Pacific hosts more than half of the 28 million victims of forced labour globally. This and the fact that some 86 per cent of forced labour cases are found in the private sector, with migrant workers three times more likely to be exploited than local workers.  

IOM has consistently highlighted that uneven governance, limited labour migration pathways and unethical recruitment and employment business practices have rendered migrant workers at greater risk of exploitation, hindering development outcomes for migrants, home and host countries alike. 

IOM recognizes that safeguarding the rights of migrant workers is a shared responsibility. Grounded in the “Protect, Respect, and Remedy” framework of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), IOM collaborates with governments, businesses and civil society members to uphold migrant workers’ rights in business operation and global supply chains. 

"Business isn't just about profits; it's about people. The private sector holds the power to shape the realities of migrant workers’ journey and influence policy outcomes,” said H.E. David Daly, Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand. “At the EU, we strongly believe that strengthening private sector engagement not only reinforces its commitment to human right due diligence legislations but also contributes to concrete actions aimed at creating pathways to dignified and decent employment for migrant workers.” 

"Strengthening the rights of migrant workers throughout supply chains and in recruitment processes is impossible without meaningful engagement of the private sector,” emphasized H.E. Anna Hammargren, Ambassador of Sweden to Thailand. “IOM has demonstrated great ability to facilitate such engagement, while always keeping the perspectives of migrant workers front and center of any action. To defend and promote human rights is a cornerstone of Sweden’s Foreign Policy and we are very pleased to continue the support to IOM in strengthening the rights of migrant workers in Asia.” 

To date, IOM has worked with partners to support more than 600,000 migrant workers, assisting fair recruitment, responsible employment practices, and ensuring there are processes in place for when things go wrong in the workplace. 

Over the next five years, through MBHR Asia, IOM will continue working with our partners to strengthen integration of migration in the business and human rights dialogue and encourage ethical recruitment and responsible employment, while promoting regular labour migration pathways as an alternative to irregular migration.  

 

IOM’s Migration, Business and Human Rights in Asia Programme is funded by Sweden and the European Union. 

 

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SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals