By Shada Islam
Senior Asian and European officials meet in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, next week for discussions on the two regions’ shared challenge of dealing with immigration and preventing people trafficking.
The meeting, held on September 5-7 as part of ongoing ASEM (the Asia-Europe Meeting) discussions on immigration, will allow for an exchange of information and experience on ways of encouraging skilled migration into both Asia and Europe and on actions and policies needed to combat the trafficking of people. Possibilities for effective ASEM collaboration will be discussed, including on regulating the activities of private recruitment agencies.
Labour migration is not a new regional and global phenomenon. However, recent developments have refocused attention on the role of immigrants in host societies where they can help fill labour shortages and their contribution, through remittances and possible investment initiatives, to the development of their countries of origin.
Coordination between countries of origin and destination of migrants remains patchy, however, with little in-depth discussion of questions such as ethical recruitment codes, the role of diasporas in contributing to skills, knowledge and technological progress and the policing of irregular employment of migrants to prevent their exploitation by unscrupulous employers.
Officials are expected to look at the need for targeted information for potential migrants on questions like legal migration channels, human rights of migrants and consequences of illegal travel. Programmes such as the Pre-Employment Orientation Seminar in the Philippines and the Migrant Resource Centres set up by the International Organisation for Migration offer examples of such pre-departure orientation.
The regulation of private recruitment agencies, often accused of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers, will be scrutinized. With an estimated 800,000 people believed to be trafficked illegally across borders, ASEM officials will focus on the need for robust laws and policies to prevent the crime and also protect victims, especially minors.
Prevention of trafficking through information campaigns aimed to educate people and encourage victims to report suspected cases will be discussed. In addition to initiatives that aim to reduce the supply of potential victims, the meeting will also explore ways of eliminating the demand for trafficked labour.
ASEM has 48 partners, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom, Vietnam, the ASEAN Secretariat and the European Commission.
Shada Islam is a journalist in Brussels with a long experience of EU-Asia relations. This is a part of a series of articles being published by Ecorys Research and Consulting, as member of the COWI Consortium which is under contract to the European Commission, to look at different aspects of the multi-faceted Asia-Europe relationship. This article represents the views of the author and does not commit the European Commission in any way.