Study identifies major hurdles in way of justice for migrant workers

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Ineffective complaint mechanisms coupled with missing coordination among grievance registration and redressing systems, and lack of awareness about their availability have been identified as major hurdles in access to justice for the migrant workers in a study.

Conducted by the Punjab labour department with the support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the study has also prepared some suggestions to rectify the situation as thousands of grievances are piling up with various authorities.

The report will be shared with the federal authorities by the ILO soon.

The purpose of the study was to see where and how a complaint could be enlisted, how it could be followed up, how easy it is to get a complaint registered, lay claims (if any) and get compensation, an ILO official told Dawn.

Including the protectorates under the Overseas Pakistanis Ministry, community welfare attaches at foreign missions, Overseas Pakistanis Foundation and Federal/Punjab ombudsman multiple forums are available to workers to lodge their complaints both within and outside the country but their impact was not visible underlining the need for flagging the gaps and weaknesses in the existing mechanisms, argued Saadia Hameed, national programme officer for ILO’s South Asia labour migration governance project.

The Bureau of Emigrants, which does not have an online complaint system, through its seven protectorates in the country received 436 complaints during 2013-2015.

About 90 per cent of them were against overseas employment promoters and 10pc about a breach of contract in the destination countries. But they don’t share the action taken on the complaints other than giving vague statements that the promoters were made to pay for their ‘sins’.

Whereas, the OPF receives 6,000 plus complaints per year on an average on issues ranging from foreign exchange remittances to passport, death and disability compensation, repatriation, airlines, passport and OPF itself, shows the data available with the Foundation’s IT department. The disposal rate is around 75pc.

The complaint cell at the Federal Ombudsman office says it received 1,100 plus complaints from migrant workers, while the Punjab Ombudsman was approached by 11,873 migrant workers in just one year. (In the latter case, all the complaints were related to provincial departments).

The Federal Ombudsman recommended relief in 15 cases, rejecting 415 complaints as not admissible. But the statistics with the Punjab Ombudsman office did not categorize the complaints from migrant workers.

(Originally published in the Dawn, Pakistan.)

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