Type of practice:
The Centre for Indian Migrant Studies (CIMS) is a Non-Governmental Organization that aims to safeguard the rights of international migrant workers from India. One of the major works that CIMS have taken up since its launch is tracing the migrants who have gone missing in foreign countries. Over the years, CIMS have attended cases where the migrant workers, especially domestic workers who undergo missing were put under house-arrest by their employers without letting them go out or contact families in the Gulf region. Many migrant workers choose to abscond because of severe abuse by their employers or they ended up in desert farms like conditions. There are also cases where the missing migrants were found to be jailed in the destination countries or found dead. CIMS has many success stories of not only finding the missing migrants, but also helping them return to India with the help of the expatriate community. Our network includes Indian migrants who volunteered themselves to support the activities of CIMS. Since 2000, we had developed a strong network of more than 35 whistle blowers in destination countries, mainly in the GCC countries. Until 2020, 1635 missing cases were handled by CIMS during its past 23 years’ journey. Apart from rescuing the workers and bringing them home, CIMS helps them to economically reintegrate back to the home society with the help of diaspora philanthropists, private sector, government and non-Government entities. Most of the beneficiaries are either migrants who are rescued from the destination countries or migrants or women domestic workers. To bring out the issues of the vulnerable migrants, CIMS conduct various advocacy activities with the support of ILO, Migrant Forum in Asia ( MFA ) and its partners at the provincial state, national, regional and global platforms. CIMS advocate for the implementation of GCM objectives in the country by conducting stakeholders’ consultation at the state and national levels.
Benefit and Impact
CIMS documented grievances and missing cases for advocacy and the documented data were instrumental in influencing one of the key policy decisions of government of India. Traffickers and recruiters used tourist visa and other channels to bypass India’s eMigrate recruitment platform. CIMS identified certain matters of grave concern and used TV show to publicise the severity of the trafficking as well. Despite poor responses from Indian missions, CIMS had brought back more than 85 women domestic workers. After a number of communications, then Protector General of Migrants, MC Luther tweeted openly on his official Twitter handle advising women not to travel on tourist visas. CIMS’s efforts has managed to send signals to the policy-makers about the issues within new recruitment system. Followed by that, the government announced removal of security deposit for employing a domestic worker and assigned the recruitment of domestic workers and nurses to six state-run agencies. CIMS actively advocated among the Indian parliamentarians about the importance of adopting the GCM objectives and it led to comprehensive discussions on GCM in the Indian parliament. CIMS efforts on reintegrating the distressed migrants is a huge step in building sustainable reintegration model in Kerala. The model ensures sustainability and profit from the reintegration assistance through a Government-CSO partnership
The documentation of cases is key to a successful advocacy campaign. The documentation of missing migrants, non-payment of wages, visa frauds etc by CIMS were often act as the most vital tools in policy making on migrants.
Another notable aspect is the failure of developing effective reintegration policies. The systemic failures which influence the ‘decision to migrate’, the existence of irregular channels, the exploitation in the host countries and failure to reintegrate the domestic workers socially and economically are yet to be resolved even in a state like Kerala which is known for its alternative development models such as women empowerment initiatives and established migration management system. It is important to understand the reasons and factor which contributes to the vulnerability among women domestic workers before and after migration. The government’s reluctance to join hands with grassroot level organisations and civil society as a whole act as a hindrance. CSOs shall not only ensure the sustainability of policies/programs such as safe and ethical migration, Orientation programs, reintegration programs but also help the government to reach out to the needy.
Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)
- Strengthen the operations of origin country missions and provide free shelter and safe repatriation for distressed/irregular migrants
- Provide firewalls for irregular workers to access basic services at the destination countries
- Bilateral and multilateral migrant grievances handling mechanisms which ensures referral and follow up of cases
- Mandatory and free pre-departure, post-arrival and pre-return orientation for migrant workers
- Permanent aid fund for distressed migrant family members and children
- Promote employers-pay/zero recruitment fee model in migrant recruitment regimes
- Encourage documentation of cases at the grassroot level and develop a system to analyse and address the cases.
- Recognise and Incorporate CSOs as an important actor in the implementation of GCM objectives, especially in Indian context.
- Establish sustainable and replicable economic reintegration models that cater the needs of migrant returnees in various socio-economic categories and develop partnership at the grassroot level to strengthen monitoring of reintegration programs.
- Recognise Civil society as an important actor in the local, national, regional and international processes and platforms to develop an inclusive migration governance system globally.
- Use media as a key tool to disseminate information and protect the rights of migrants at all stages of migration by carrying out global, regional and national level campaigns