GFMD insists on and on to protect rights of migrants
File Photo: Mr John K Bingham

Mr John K. Bingham is Head of Policy, Coordinator civil society activities, Global Forum on Migration and Development. He has recently visited Dhaka ahead of the upcoming summit of GFMD to be held in Bangladesh. 

Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) started its journey in 2007. It is a government-led non-binding process. All member countries of United Nations can participate in the GFMD summit. Migration issues, which play an important role in terms of global development, are elaborately discussed at the summit. The civil society puts forward a set of recommendations to improve rights of migrants. As GFMD is a non-binding process, the government implements the recommendations upon their wish.

Bangladesh is one of the largest labour sending countries in the world. The country receives $15b annually. Bangladeshi migrants are playing a very important role by participating in the development activities of the labour recipient countries. They also contribute to the home country bringing huge amount of remittance every year.

In this context, the GFMD meeting scheduled to be held in December in Bangladesh is highly significant. Ahead of the meeting, Mr John K. Bingham accompanied United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for International Migration Peter Sutherland to visit Dhaka from January 19 to January 21.

During his recent visit to Dhaka, John K. Bingham talked to on various issues relating to migration. How do you view the role of GFMD to address migration issues?

John: Migration is a global phenomenon. The migrants are contributing to national development as well as global development. A large number of migrants migrate for economic purposes while many are forced to leave home country due to war and climate change effects. In the process, the migrants’ rights are violated at different countries. So GFMD discusses all issues relating to migration. It organizes group of meetings at the summit. Governments, Civil Society and rights activists join the discussion. Through the meetings, we put pressure on the governments to abide by international laws on migration. We insist on and on to protect rights of the migrants. We have to do more to yield better results. What is your assessment over the treatment of migrants by the Middle East countries?  

John: In the Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, the kafala (sponsorship) system curbs rights of migrants. It ties migrant workers’ residency permits to “sponsoring” employers. Migrants require written consent from their employers to change employers or leave the country under normal circumstances. Some employers illegally confiscate passports, withhold wages, and force migrants to work against their will. Kafala system in the Middle East countries is to stop. Bangladeshi migrants have to spend huge amount of money for migration. Many manage money on high interest rate. Even they have to sell small piece of land to arrange money for migration. Sometimes, the migrants cannot recover the spent money. AS a result, they overstay and become undocumented in the labour recipient countries. Do you advocate for zero migration cost? 

John:  Yes, it is a big problem for economic migrants. I think the employers should bare the expenses of migration. It is in no way acceptable that poor migrants will lose small pieces of their lands. But the migration cost is very high due to visa trading in the labour recipient countries. Although visa trading is prohibited, it goes on. Moreover, there is a high competition. International laws are flouted.  How do you view this menace?  

John: It is true visa trading is going on. The international laws do not allow visa trading. But the labour recipient countries as well as the countries of origin have failed to address this problem. It requires massive reform in the recruitment process About a million people risked their lives, and crossed the Mediterranean last year. Nearly 4,000 people died on the way. But unfortunately many European countries turned their backs on those who survived. These countries refused their entry.  How do you view the approach of the European countries? 

John: This is a wrong approach. This is terrible. It is the responsibility of all countries to protect human rights of vulnerable section of the globe. The European countries must not overlook the human rights of vulnerable migrants.  

Thank You 

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