UN launches joint project to protect 100,000 women in South Asia from trafficking

Of the 21 million in forced labour 70% are in forced labour exploitation and 22% are in forced sexual exploitation. Photo: ILO/A. Khemka

15 July 2013 – A new project launched today by the United Nations labour agency and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) seeks to prevent 100,000 girls and women across South Asia from falling victims to labour trafficking.

The project aims to provide South Asian women migrating to the Middle East in search for jobs with skills, pre-departure training and other support to help them avoid being trafficked and to secure a legal contract and decent wage. It will also combat child labour by helping thousands of girls under 16 years old to stay in school so they are not compelled to migrate for work.

“Labour mobility is a reality of our globalized economy but with it comes an increased risk of labour trafficking, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable,” said the Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Guy Ryder.

“We estimate over $12 billion worth of income a year is withheld from those in forced labour in Asia and the Middle East. This is money that should be helping lift families out of poverty.”

Every year, millions of people from poor communities migrate to find employment so they can send money home to support their families. They get jobs such as live-in domestic workers cooking, cleaning and looking after families or in garment factories. Many end-up being deceived and trafficked into jobs with extremely low wages or no pay at all.

According to ILO, around 21 million people are trafficked and in forced labour worldwide. The majority are from Asia with women and girls being the most vulnerable to this practice. Their movement is restricted, their living and working conditions are very poor, and they often suffer physical and sexual abuse.

Through the “Work in Freedom” project, the UK Government is investing £9.75 million ($14.7 million) over five years to help tackle known labour trafficking routes between South Asia, such as Bangladesh and Nepal, to the Middle East including Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

“This ground-breaking partnership with the UK Government is a vital step in making migration for work a safe and legitimate means of improving livelihoods,” said Mr. Ryder.

The project will also focus on helping migrant women avoid paying extortionate, illegal recruitment fees by cracking down on unscrupulous recruitment practices and encouraging recruitment agencies to sign-up to ethical principles and practices.

“Women who want to migrate for work to lift themselves and their families out of poverty should be able to do so safely and securely. The Work in Freedom initiative will help more than 100,000 women and girls in South Asia, a trafficking hotspot, with practical support and advice so that they can earn a living and avoid the dangers of trafficking,” said the UK's International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone.

ILO, DFID and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are also hosting a two-day conference starting today, to bring together Governments, international and regional institutions, the private sector, trade unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to create a network of organizations to take action against trafficking.


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