New Good Practice Guide Helps Combat Migrant Exploitation in the Indo-Pacific
Bangkok – In the Indo-Pacific region, migrant workers are crucial to global supply chains across many sectors, including agriculture, construction, domestic work, electronics and manufacturing. Despite this, migrant workers are often vulnerable to human rights violations and are at greater risk of labor exploitation, forced labor and trafficking.
The latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery Report revealed that modern slavery increased by 10 million from 2016 to 2021. Out of 28 million in forced labor globally, Asia and the Pacific hosts the largest number at 15 million.
Building on the momentum driven by governments and the private sector to strengthen the protection of migrant workers, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Thailand, Regional Support Office (RSO) of the Bali Process and Government of Australia published Protecting Migrant Workers in Indo-Pacific Supply Chains: A Good Practice Guide for Business and Bali Process Member States.
The guide provides a wide range of examples and solutions for businesses and Bali Process Member States to protect migrant workers – offering guidance on how to acknowledge the scale of exploitation in global supply chains, implement or reinforce preventive policies and legal frameworks, and advance these efforts through public-private collaboration.
The guide is anchored on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), a set of guidelines for States and companies to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations, as well as the Act, Acknowledge, Advance. (AAA) Recommendations, which was endorsed in 2018 by the Bali Process' Government and Business Forum (GABF). The AAA Recommendations outline a range of required actions, including strengthening business awareness, company policies and redress mechanisms.
“No country and no sector are immune to these issues, and no government or business can tackle these alone,” stressed Lucienne Manton, Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking, Australia. “Through public, private and regional collaboration and by adopting these good practices, we can make real progress together to end human trafficking, slavery and other forms of exploitation.”
“Migrant workers are three times more likely than local workers to experience instances of forced labor. Protection of migrant workers is in everyone's interest, an ethical responsibility but also very often a legal obligation for governments and businesses,” echoed Sarah Lou Arriola, IOM's Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
Over 35 stakeholders convened on 24 January for virtual launch of the guide, which featured a panel discussion on promising practices. During the discussion, Nareeleuc Pairchaiyapoom of the Royal Thai Government's Ministry of Justice emphasized the inclusion of migrant workers in its national action plan on business and human rights to ensure access to justice for all. The Remedy Project's Archana Kotecha further highlighted that migrant workers' voices are central to identifying solutions.
Walk Free's Catherine Parsons elaborated on the emerging legal framework to tackle modern slavery, developed in partnership with businesses. Finally, Woolworths Groups' Rachel Elliott and Shahi Exports' Anant Ahuja offered perspectives from the private sector, sharing examples of integrating human rights considerations into day-to-day business operations and helping migrant workers navigate information, social and psychological challenges, respectively.
“The guide serves as a compendium of good practices and solutions to strengthen protection of migrant workers, advancing efforts for public-private collaboration and raising awareness of where impact can be most effectively implemented,” concluded Pak Sukmo Yuwono, RSO Co-Manager (Indonesia).
The publication of the Indo-Pacific Supply Chain Guide was made possible through support and funding provided to IOM Thailand by the Regional Support Office of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Person and Related Transnational Crime and the Government of Australia as part of IOM's. Migration, Business and Human Rights (MBHR) Asia Initiative.
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You can access the recording of our launch event through this link.