ILO interregional consultation explores ways to realize fair migration from Asia and Africa to the Middle East

The two-day high-level event in Beirut brings together ILO constituents and experts from 22 countries in three regions for a technical assessment of key challenges and proposed ways forward to realize fair labour migration and mobility.

News | 04 October 2017
BEIRUT (ILO News) – The ILO Regional Office for Arab States launched a high-level interregional consultation on Labour Migration and Mobility from Asia and Africa to the Middle East in Beirut, Lebanon, on 4 October.

The two-day consultation brings together representatives of governments, as well as social partners, civil society organizations, and prominent academics and researchers from 22 countries in the three regions. Held at the senior technical level the meeting presents an opportunity for all participants to share promising practices, examine the potential for policy reform, and discuss ways forward for realizing fair migration in the interrelated regions.

The consultation was launched by Lebanon’s Minister of Labour Mohammad Kabbara, ILO Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat, Mohamed Ma’ayta of the Arab Trade Union Confederation (ATUC) and Khalil Cherri, Secretary General of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI). A keynote address was delivered by Michelle Leighton, Chief of the ILO’s Labour Migration Branch.

ILO Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat said the purpose of the Consultation is for leading experts in the interrelated labour migration corridors to make a technical assessment of key challenges and proposed ways forward to realize fair migration, including fair recruitment.

“We will explore ways to move forward on these issues through examining four critical themes: achieving fair recruitment, realizing decent work for migrant workers, addressing worker irregularity, and improving the governance of labour migration,” she explained.

The outcome of the meeting will also provide input to the decent work and labour mobility elements of the ongoing regional and global consultations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The Regional Director presented key figures relating to interregional migration from Asia and Africa to the Middle East.

According to ILO estimates, there are 150 million migrant workers worldwide, who form 65 per cent of all international migrants, she noted. The Arab States of the Gulf and Middle East host almost 12 per cent of all migrant workers globally, making the Arab States region the world’s third largest destination for migrant workers after North America and Europe.

Migrant workers comprise 36 per cent of the workforce in the Arab States, giving the region the world’s highest proportion of migrant workers to all workers. In construction and domestic work in some Arab countries, migrant workers make up over 95 per cent of the work force. In some cases, these workers also make up to 80 per cent of the resident population.

Jaradat noted that labour migration from Asia to the Arab States region more than tripled from 5.7 million migrants in 1990, to 19 million in 2015. These migrants are mostly migrant workers employed in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, as well as in certain economic sectors in Jordan and Lebanon. However, there are an increasing number of migrant workers arriving from Africa, particularly from Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

Minister of Labour Kabbara said “today's meeting is a sign of the seriousness of all parties involved to be an integral part of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, as well as the Global Compact on Refugees, through the promotion of the Fair Migration Agenda.”

“Efforts to establish social justice and provide decent work opportunities for migrant workers will only come about through genuine cooperation and dialogue between the countries concerned,” he continued.

Highlighting the importance of the consultations, Michelle Leighton, Chief of the ILO’s Labour Migration Branch, addressing the participants in the meeting, said: “Given the magnitude, diversity and volume of this migration and human mobility, what you do to generate positive outcomes for migrant workers—how you cooperate to assure that economic prosperity is shared by all within your regions, can have a significant global impact. The policies you put into place to do this, will therefore matter greatly.”

Over the two days of consultations, participants will continue to explore how decent work for migrant workers can be achieved, how the prosperity that migrant workers help to generate can be shared more equitably, and how migrant workers can contribute more optimally to sustainable development.