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East and Horn of Africa states sign agreement to address overseas workers exploitation

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PHOTO/COURTESY: leadership.ng

A two-day forum of Labour and Social Protection Ministers and high-level government officials from the East and Horn of Africa nations hosted by the Kenyan government last week culminated in the signing of a  regional cooperation agreement that will make it harder for human traffickers to exploit young people looking for work in Gulf states. 

The agreement, which is supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), aims to harmonize labour migration policies in the region to make labour migration, safe, orderly and humane by establishing a common platform for engagement with the Gulf states and other countries that are major employers of African migrants. The lack of harmonized labour migration policies means migrants risk exploitation and abuse through unfair practices including excessive working hours, passport confiscation, confinement and denial of salary. 

“This committee, with additional membership from development partners, will take the lead in driving the implementation of key agreements from the Forum. It will also advise and provide progress reports to the ministers in charge of Labour Migration in the region on the Agenda of this and subsequent forums,” said Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection Simon Chelugui. 

The ministers consequently agreed to cooperate on the provision of diplomatic and consular assistance for migrant workers, especially in countries where some states did not have diplomatic representation, and committed themselves to expanding bilateral labour migration agreements beyond the level of unskilled workers, such as domestic workers, to incorporate other professionals.

The rescue last week of roughly 100 children and young Ugandan women as they prepared to fly to United Arab Emirates to labour as domestic workers, reinforces the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) recent assessment that human trafficking has become a menace in East Africa over the past decade.

 “Sadly, there are similar stories from countries across the region. It is important to ensure countries have policies and legislation in place to address the violations of migrant workers’ rights, smuggling and trafficking in persons as well as combatting organized crime,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director for the East and Horn of Africa.  

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