Type of practice:
ICMPD is currently supporting seven (7) Migrant Resource Centres (MRCs) in South, West and Central Asia jointly with relevant Ministries in the countries. The MRCs are physical structures located in government premises that are geared towards raising awareness on safe and regular migration and on the consequences of irregular migration and eventually enable potential migrants to make informed decisions on migration. To achieve these goals, various strategies and platforms are utilised by the MRCs such as traditional and social media, individual and group counselling, community outreach sessions, sessions in academia and vocational training institutions, pre-departure briefings, and workshops with national and local stakeholders related to migration. The practice applied to enhance awareness is adopted by each MRC to respond to the country contexts These are largely based on the results of assessments conducted in each country to identify the information needs of the public and the most effective means to reach them. In addition to strong collaboration with Ministries and other government agencies at national and local level, MRCs also partner with civil society and migrant organisations, private sector, media, community-based associations, and development partners. The partnership with Ministries is essential towards ensuring ownership on their part, integrating the MRC as a regular structure within government set-up, and building sustainable mechanism for awareness raising and community education on migration within the countries covered. The MRC builds on a three-tiered intervention logic that aims at reaching the wider public to inform on MRC services through mass media tools, and then provides trusted, personalised and in-depth information, counselling and guidance to potential migrants, their families, friends and returnees through personal counselling and community outreach. Linked with capacity building of government structures as well as journalists and media houses, and the establishment of a referral system to various services and support networks for migrants, both inside and outside the country, the MRC is a long term structure that addresses the shortfalls of classic media campaigns – namely short-viewed interventions without trust building into the message and personalised approaches. The activities implemented in each country link together through their various targeted results and ensure that people are not only aware on migration regulations, services and mechanisms, but also trust in the information provided and form their decisions accordingly. Interventions in each country are tailored to the specific context and have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Government ministries in South and West Asia are involved in this partnership: Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs , Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment Promotion.
Benefit and Impact
• Bridged the institutional gap between government services and migrants: MRCs link people and communities with established government services for labour migrants or set-up initial services for migrants at local and national level, which did not exist previously. As part of the institutional set-up, MRCs build trust in migration messages, and by linking communities, potential migrants and local stakeholders, including media and community leaders.
• Developed strong partnership with government agencies is an important and useful element of the MRCs. Some partner Ministries have appointed additional personnel from their structure to work with MRC staff while in other countries, there are focal points assigned to expedite coordination with the MRCs. Some Ministries have adopted longer strategic plans to ensure that activities are continuous, sustained and mainstreamed in their regular programming and budgeting.
• Linked together several information strands and services (a) during the pre-decision, pre-departure, during and post-arrival migration stages; (b) covering regular and labour migration, irregular migration, return and reintegration, student mobility, family reunification, etc.; (c) on origin, transit and destination countries; and (d) promoting and accessing programmes and services primarily of the government and also of other support networks.
• Enhanced engagement with the private sector, including recruitment agencies, makes awareness raising a part of the whole-of-society approach to migration management, matching it with the private sector’s corporate social responsibility such as ensuring ethical recruitment.
• Offer real-time feedback to EU and National governments: Through personal counselling and working with local communities, the MRCs see the change in migration trends and patterns as they develop. In the past, ICMPD has shared some new and emerging trends with local embassies and the respective EU Delegations. In this sense, the MRCs have become a unique structure with first-hand information on new trends and changes in migration patterns, which can be an important source of timely information for policy makers and government officials in both the countries of origin and destination for immediate action, policy reforms and responsive programming.
Despite having MRCs in key capitals or cities in the region and with already considerable number of people reached at their inception, there remains a large number of population that are not covered. To have more MRCs in other key areas particularly in border or exit points or with higher concentration of potential migrants based on the result of the needs assessment, will have major advantages. Not only will remote areas and its population have access to information, which is otherwise dearth, the services are also brought nearer to them which consequently results to less costs, faster action or immediate response.
The more MRC staff, the more counselling can be provided and activities conducted. Awareness raising also demands for additional or follow-up work. A counselled person needs further follow-up or referral to other agencies, which will require monitoring especially if it involves redress of grievances. Referral is not only to the partner ministries and their attached agencies, but at times to destination countries through labour or community welfare attaches and other support networks.
While MRCs’ set-up is geared towards full government ownership and operation, majority of partner Ministries are not yet ready to fully take-over the MRCs given its one to four years existence. It might take 3-4 years more for MRC to operationalise with donor/development partners’ technical & financial support.
MRCs are intensifying coordination among each other as there are related work & common clients despite located in different countries. MRC Bangladesh & Pakistan coordinate with MRC Iraq for referral of Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrant workers in Iraq; MRC Afghanistan refers some clients to MRC Pakistan & Tajikistan on matters such as acquiring residency permits. Iraq’s Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs has been requesting for dialogue with Pakistan and Bangladesh governments, targeted on ensuring the regular migration of labour migrants. Private recruitment agencies in Iraq are also attempting to have dialogue or arrangement with their counterpart agencies in the other countries in the region to facilitate legitimate recruitment process, reduce costs and ensure compliance with employment contracts. These can be facilitated by the MRCs being a common structure within these countries that could communication and coordination for a joint objective.
Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)
- The need to be flexible, which means potentially covering all types of migration in all cycles/stages
- The importance of working at the grassroots level for direct service to potential migrants and their families (especially those in far or vulnerable communities) but at the same time, bring their insights and recommendations as policy recommendations to national authorities
MRCs are set-up with the vision that these will form part of the government structure at a given point to ensure that the MRCs are sustained beyond development project timelines. They are easily scalable and expandable, as manifested by frequent requests from government partners of setting-up additional MRCs in other key or migration-prone areas. While most of the focus of MRCs are on pre-migration and pre-departure stages, they are easily scalable to cover on-site/in-service and return and reintegration phases in more expanded way, subject to availability of resources.
During COVID period, MRCs have maximized use of social media in awareness campaigns and online tools for capacity building and other outreach. In terms of content, MRCs also highlighted COVID-related information in its campaigns such as occupational safety and health, safe return processes, vaccinations and new health protocols for migrants. It also partnered with health-related agencies to promote COVID-related information drive.