Providing consular services to low-skilled migrant workers
This article by Maaike Okano-Heijmans & Caspar Price was originally published in Global Affairs in January 2020. Please note: this article is paid content, however a limited number of free downloads are available here.
The globalisation of labour and markets, as well as rapid technological and societal developments, raise a range of challenges and opportunities for consular services in protecting their citizens in the international workforce. Additionally, the intersection of international migration, trafficking in human beings, and labour exploitation is increasingly debated in academia and seen as a priority on policy agendas around the world. Given the surge in labour migration and the fundamental responsibility of consular departments to protect their citizens abroad, increased attention and action by consular services is now needed to address this phenomenon.
Considering these dynamics, this article focuses on groups of migrant workers that are not afforded protection by an employer in their home country, nor by an employer in the country receiving them, that often fly under the radar of their home country’s ministry of foreign affairs (MFA). The authors explore cases of domestic, construction and other low paid workers from Mexico in the United States (US); those from South East Asia in the Middle East; as well as migrant workers within the European Union.
“MFAs and consular services are uniquely placed to coordinate relevant actors, facilitate discussions between them, and enable the translation of this engagement into improved policies and best practice development.”
Further, governments around the world need to simultaneously engage in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, public outreach, and tailored programs to prevent (potential) cases of labour exploitation where migrant workers are the most vulnerable. In preventing future cases, protecting potential victims, and prosecuting perpetrators of migrant labour exploitation, deeper partnerships between governments, employers, NGOs and private actors are essential.
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