Reducing vulnerability to forced labor: Building a safe labor migration ecosystem in source communities
July 13, 2020
In partnership with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), GFEMS is working with Association for Stimulating Know-how (ASK) to build a safe labor migration ecosystem in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, India. The migration ecosystem involves all aspects along a migrant’s journey abroad: from awareness of risks, to support provided by their family, community, and employers, to access to the means and resources to work abroad, to access to systems helping resolve issues. Focusing on major source communities for migrant labor, the project aims to reduce the prevalence of forced labor among migrant workers extremely vulnerable to slavery by creating an ecosystem that addresses specific source-side vulnerabilities.
ASK has been working for the past 27 years to build knowledge and skills for vulnerable populations and to bring about sustainable and measurable change in the lives of the people they work with. ASK’s core expertise includes planning and management of large-scale projects in the field of safe migration, sustainability, livelihoods, and health and education, with an approach to reducing community vulnerabilities grounded in economic empowerment and support services. Aligned with the Fund’s efforts to reduce the supply of vulnerable workers, ASK works closely with migrant workers to improve their economic well being and ensure stakeholder adherence to labor and human rights.
The Fund’s scoping research showed that UP and Bihar are key migrant sending states for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Accordingly, the project provides interventions for aspiring overseas migrant workers originating from UP and Bihar. Specific vulnerabilities to be addressed by this project include: reliance on unsafe migration channels, lack of migrant preparedness in the recruitment process, lack of family and community awareness about the recruitment process, lack of support services (or use of them) for migrants and their families, economic vulnerabilities of migrants and their families, and debt bondage.
To help build a safe migration ecosystem, ASK will establish Migrant Resource Centers (MRCs) within two Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). The MRCs will deliver migrants services that reduce source-side drivers of vulnerability to forced labor. Services include pre-decision and pre-deployment training, basic paralegal and reintegration support (primarily through referrals), and assistance registering for entitlements for aspiring, in-service, and returning migrants and their families.
In parallel, ASK will build the capability and capacity of the CSOs to own and operate the MRCs beyond the project implementation period. These MRCs are a key example of the Fund’s focus on interventions that can be sustained beyond GFEMS funding, ensuring programs have continuing and long-term impact.
The dual lack of financial knowledge and access to quality financial services is a key problem for migrants and their families. Without financial literacy and access to financial services, migrants are vulnerable to economic shocks. In response, this project, with support from Mitrata Inclusive Financial Services, will test financial health innovations to determine if migrant-focused financial products or services work and if there is a market for them.
In the long term, this project will reduce migrant vulnerability to unsafe practices in the recruitment and labor migration process that often lead to forced labor. Specifically, it will ensure survivor recovery and reintegration and reduce the number of workers who pursue risky migration and who fall into debt bondage, reducing the vulnerabilities that lead to modern slavery by.