Petroc Wilton, Journalist- Volunteer, The Diplomacy Training Program (DTP)University of New South Wales, Australia
The Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) joined forces with the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) and the Middle East Centre for Training and Development (MECTD) to host a special workshop in Dubai at the end of April, providing advocates for migrant workers’ rights across the Middle East and Asia with invaluable new knowledge, skills and contacts to help them work more effectively. Emeritus Professor Paul Redmond AM – DTP Chair and former Dean of the UNSW Faculty of Law – and UNSW Associate Professor and DTP board member Justine Nolan, Deputy Director of the Australian Human Rights Centre, played a key role in sharing their in-depth knowledge on the various issues and in leading many of the discussions.
Migrant workers can be amongst those most vulnerable to exploitation and human rights abuses. Often driven to work abroad by poverty or civil strife in their home countries, they can find themselves alienated in a foreign culture and outside the remit of local worker protection law, particularly undocumented migrants desperate enough to work illegally. Many find themselves at the mercy of employers or recruiters and are forced to work and live in dangerous or degrading conditions, have their passports confiscated, or made to pay hefty recruitment fees that can lock them into debt bondage. These issues have become a focus of growing international concern; DTP and the MFA have been providing training on the rights of migrant workers since 2004, helping to reinforce the work of human rights defenders around the region.
Held over three days in Al Barsha, the Regional Workshop on Ethical Business and Recruitment Practices in Labour Migration brought together an extraordinary cross-section of 30 civil society advocates, private sector representatives and senior consular staff from the governments of several countries. Intensive training and discussion sessions explored international human rights standards and their obligations for companies (and their own corporate responsibility programs), as well as the key human rights issues in countries of both origin and destination across the region. Business and consular representatives provided an unparalleled set of insights into their own activities and challenges in safeguarding the rights of workers. And participants from each side of the issue joined together for productive group work, exploring how they might co-ordinate for practical progress in the future.
All sessions were conducted in both English and Arabic, thanks to an exceptional team of dedicated simultaneous interpreters and a number of bilingual participants. DTP, the MFA and the MECTD worked to create an atmosphere of trust with strict Chatham House rules, reflected in both the wide-ranging discussions in the workshop itself and the hundreds of conversations that sprang up on the sidelines as participants cemented new contacts and gained fresh perspectives for their own work.
“I feel empowered, and I’m looking at social services for migrants with a different, new perception!” commented one participant.