Mirela Stoia (PwC Geneva) made a presentation at a panel discussion on “Towards a global compact on migration: comprehensive and coordinated initiatives to reduce vulnerability and empower migrants”, which took place on 19 July 2017 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
On 19 July 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hosted a panel discussion on “Towards a global compact on migration: comprehensive and coordinated initiatives to reduce vulnerability and empower migrants” at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The subject of the roundtable was how the protection of migrants in vulnerable situations might be incorporated into the Global Compact for Migration (GCM). The panel members discussed successful mainstreaming in respect of the specific challenges posed by vulnerable populations and how it might be possible to mobilise international coordination to address migration governance. Further topics were the concrete policies and programmes to prevent, address and sustainably resolve migrant vulnerability. The discussion addressed different regional (i.e. ECOWAS) and international approaches (i.e. MICIC) to migrant vulnerability, exploring how such approaches could be integrated as a part of developing and formulating the GCM. The session likewise provided an opportunity to look at the roles of various actors and their mode of engagement, taking account of the need to maximise coordination and cooperation opportunities in a way that avoids duplicating efforts and resources.
Some of this portion of the discussion centred on taking a ‘whole of government’ approach and at looking at the role of civil society in achieving greater inclusion of migrants. The participants focused on what actions they could take to change the narrative surrounding migrant populations and on empowering migrants by proactively seeking to engage with the migrant diaspora communities. Measures for reducing vulnerabilities were also discussed.
The discussion then centred on a consideration of three major areas. The first of these was what roles the different actors play in preventing and addressing migrant vulnerability; the second was how international cooperation and coordinated efforts might be strengthened in order to deal with migrant vulnerability and empower migrants; finally, the group focused on ways in which the multilateral system could foster discussions and consensus on inclusion of these issues in the GCM.
Written statement from a private-sponsor perspective
The workshop sought to define the concept of vulnerable migrants, understand what factors excarberate their vulnerabilities, and what actions can be taken to mitigate the issues faced by vulnerable migrants (e.g. racism, marginalisation of migrants and human rights abuses). From a private-sector perspective, we tend to deal with migrants who arrive in the host country through legitimate and regular routes. Thus, this means that the levels of migrant vulnerability encountered are not the same as the level encountered by those who engage with migrants arriving into a host country as refugees, victims of trafficking, or irregular routes. However, this does not mean to say that migrants arriving to work for a private company through a work-permit operated scheme are not vulnerable. It is simply that the challenges they may face and the means to address those challenges may be slightly different. Nevertheless, it is clear that, whatever the mode of their arrival in the host country, migrants can be empowered through the same means.
Migrants coming to a host country in order to take up pre-approved employment or join family members (e.g. spouses) may have the support of their employers and families as well as financial help, but may nevertheless still face challenges resulting in their becoming vulnerable and marginalised members of our communities. Such challenges include racism and xenophobia, language barriers, cultural barriers (for example, not being familiar with the specific local work ethic, working patterns, work processes, day-to-day cultural norms and traditions of the host country, or even something as simple as queueing), administrative processes relating to registration, school, banking, comprehending the requirement to obtain certain types of insurance (e.g. medical insurance, car insurance etc.), understanding operational procedures for obtaining medical and health care services, accessing emergency services, social etiquette for example, engaging socially with work colleagues outside of work etc. and exploitation at work (being underpaid, forced to work overtime etc.).
These challenges are broadly the same as those experienced by migrants arriving via irregular migration routes. However, it is acknowledged that migrants arriving, for example, as refugees or victims of trafficking etc. are more likely to encounter these challenges, and indeed more often than not will find themselves in particularly exposed circumstances, given that they do not have the support structures comprised of their families, colleagues and employers. However, it is important to recognise that even some migrants arriving via regular migration routes may be exposed to harsh challenges, particularly if they are being exploited by unscrupulous employers or are, for example, victims of forced marriage.
Private-sector organisations/employers must ensure that they operate processes and policies providing full support and opportunity for migrants to address the challenges they face whilst empowering them to assist others in the same situation. Private-sector organisations/employers must first acknowledge the challenges that may face migrants who are either permanent hires or on international assignment. They then will need to provide a number of services and support schemes. These schemes include such aspects as pre-arrival cultural orientation sessions and full relocation support for migrants arriving in the host country, a local host country HR/Global Mobility contact point with whom migrants can raise their concerns/seek support and guidance, arrival orientation, training and guidance with regarding local customs, work processes and signposting to services such as health care, schools etc.
Organisations and employers should also schedule regular reviews over a 6-12-month period in which the host country HR/Global Mobility contact checks in with the migrant to discuss any concerns, issues, well-being and thereby obtain general feedback. Ongoing communication, training and engagement with all staff regarding diversity and discrimination policies would ensure that migrants feel welcome and host country employees understand the necessity for respect and tolerance.
Organisations and employers should also liaise with government bodies and policy makers by responding to consultations and requests for contribution to policy making to ensure that immigration rules and regulations (both existing and proposed) will not be discriminatory to migrants and will afford the same employment rights (so far as practicable) to migrants as to resident workers. Whereas immigration conditions may be imposed on migrants, it is important for the private sector to advocate for and represent the interests and its migrant workforce vis-à-vis employers so as to ensure migrants do not suffer detriment from a career perspective and any immigration policies allow migrant integration into the host country. Conversely, private-sector organisations/employers should not make recommendations to policy makers that will result in undercutting the resident labour market whilst enabling exploitation of migrant workers. Legislative and government bodies charged with immigration policy making must ensure that whilst incorporating the interests of the private sector into any immigration laws, vulnerabilities faced by migrants will not thereby be exacerbated.
Private-sector organisations/employers must also ensure that there is an educational strategy in place enabling stakeholders to recognise and support particularly vulnerable migrants
employed within the organisation, for example, refugees. Private-sector actors need to be aware of and acknowledge the different support mechanisms necessary to address the vulnerabilities of specific types of migrants, e.g. refugees or victims of trafficking. For example, additional counselling services, confidential advice and support contacts for particularly vulnerable migrants should all be made available. Further, stakeholders involved in the recruitment and retention of particularly vulnerable migrants must have the appropriate training and support available to them so that they can address the vulnerabilities of such migrants whilst enabling their empowerment.
The private sector can play a key role in helping empower migrants through: (1) their internal processes and support procedures; and (2) advocating on behalf of migrants and the value they bring to the workforce. For example, migrants may suffer xenophobia and by advocating on behalf of migrants, private-sector actors can outline the benefits of having a diverse and multicultural workforce that can compete in an increasingly globalised market whilst emphasising migrants’ contribution to the economic and industrial strategy of a host country (e.g. addressing demographic challenges/soft power and cultural and language skills). In doing so, private-sector actors with the power of their brands reassure the public and help to address negative perceptions of migrants which, in turn, can lead to empowering migrants as they will feel more included and integrated into the host community.
It is important for private-sector organisations/employers to share best practice and engage with one another regarding the mechanisms and processes that are able to address migrant vulnerabilities. Sharing best practice at local, national and international levels can lead to a consistent and efficient approach in addressing migrant vulnerabilities and empowering migrants. Private-sector engagement with policy makers at all levels is also important as reviewing practices in other jurisdictions can lead to international cooperation, international coordination of consistent policies, and also avoid duplication of efforts.
In the last 12-24 months there has been an increased focus on engaging the private sector to take a conceptual leadership role regarding the integration and empowerment of migrants (both regular and irregular). It is crucial that this engagement continue as private-sector organisations can use the power of their brands to support integration and inclusion initiatives as they pertain to migrants. Further, private-sector organisations operate on a global level and can utilise their extensive networks and experience to share best practices and advise on not just the theoretical aspects of addressing migrant vulnerabilities but also the practical steps that can be taken to implement mechanisms empowering migrants. Inclusion of private-sector organisations in multilateral systems, roundtables and conferences is an ideal opportunity for the sharing of ideas with NGOS, government agencies and those operating on the ground.
Furthermore, the private sector can learn from those directly involved in the humanitarian and policy arenas as they relate to migrants. In these areas, private-sector actors can better focus their CSR and HR strategies not just in respect of employing migrants, but also for the benefit of talent recruitment. Specifically, if private-sector actors can better understand the push-and-pull factors which fuel migrant movement from home countries, they can look at their global expansion and business strategies to evaluate whether they can take advantage of and provide opportunities to individuals in jurisdictions which are the focus of any such strategic plans. This understanding can potentially lead to business growth for private- sector organisations in countries of interest whilst assisting with the economic development of those countries. This understanding can in some ways thereby stem the flow of migration instigated by lack of economic opportunities.
Some impressions of the panel discussion:
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