Thursday, 11 July 2019

The intricacies of the complex world of migration brokerage

by Priya Deshingkar

There is an increasingly broader and deeper realization that there are many players in the migration industry, a loose and changing conglomeration of individuals and institutions that work together to facilitate mobility. The incentives for brokerage are often large, and there are many people in sending and receiving communities who have a stake in ensuring that irregular migration and smuggling succeeds.

A recent webinar from the Migrating out of Poverty consortium presented cutting-edge analysis on migration brokerage in Africa and Asia. Presenters from the Asia Research Institute in Singapore, the Centre for Migration Studies in Ghana and the University of Sussex in the UK explored how brokers are part of the system of creating and producing precarity through their role in facilitating journeys and connecting workers with employment. Migrant workers live and work in precarious conditions, not just because of the way they’ve been employed, but because of the restrictions placed on them by the immigration and government systems that control their rights from the country of destination.
In policy terms, the migration industry is usually framed as an evil and highly exploitative system that perpetuates forced and unfree labour. However, case studies from the webinar demonstrated that migrants can, and do, exercise agency even in highly constrained and unfree situations.

Traditionally scholars have considered worker agency in relation to collective forms of protest mainly in industrial work settings. However, more academic attention is now being given to individual forms of agency. There is now greater recognition of migrants’ strategies of accepting precarious work in the short term in order to build a better future in the longer term. But the role of brokers in achieving long term aspirations, and how they are integral to migrant agency, is an under-researched area. This framing better reflects migrant’s own views and experiences of brokerage, which can often be at odds with the way that brokerage is viewed in migration policy and international development more broadly.

The research presented in the webinar provides insights into the internal workings of brokerage networks and their role in recruiting, training, obtaining official documents and visas, organising journeys and ensuring placements at destination. It explores the profit-making impetus of brokerage but also pays attention to the overlapping moral motives of brokers and relations of reciprocity between migrants and brokers.

In Ghana, for example, internal migration (mainly rural to urban) is very common, with girls and women migrating to urban areas to find employment in low-paid and insecure places particularly in domestic work. Here brokers are embedded in the system of exploitation by moulding the migrants’ behavior and appearance to be “good” and fit the expectations of their employers who are looking for docile and subservient women and girls.

However, the studies from the webinar also conceptualized brokers as an important part of migrant risk management strategies in enabling them to fulfil their own migration agendas. While brokerage is often viewed in a “here and now” way, the studies show how brokers work with migrants to realise their future goals. For example, when migrants want to switch jobs or bargain to improve their working conditions, brokers can play a critical role.

A study of how employment agents in Singapore and Indonesia recruit and place migrant workers introduces the concept of conditionality. That is, the proposition that a migrant worker’s experience of precarity is contingent on a set of formal and informal conditions, the actions of institutional actors, and migrants’ own resources and strategies. Viewing conditionality as not merely additive, but as compounding, sharpens our understanding of precarious work. For example, remember the childhood game ‘Snakes and Ladders’? (NB: Snakes and Ladders, originating from India and commercialised as a family board game in the UK, and again commercially reincarnated as ‘Chutes and Ladders’ in the USA). In this game, ‘Snakes/Chutes’ or vices (poor decisions) set one back and ‘Ladders’ or virtues (good decisions) pushes one forward.

The researchers in Singapore use this model of ‘Chutes and Ladders’ to help demonstrate how migrant domestic workers move in and out of varying degrees of precarity over time. Based on qualitative interviews with migration intermediaries, the study suggested that these ‘chutes’ and ‘ladders’ are not static, pre-existing, or inherent; instead, they are dynamically produced by migration brokers, who actively produce, shore up, or mitigate situations of precarity for workers by ‘patching’ chutes, leaving them, or opening up new ones. Conversely, brokers and employers redraw the boundaries of conditionality through the creation of ladders. Workers’ access to security is hence not merely conditional, but conditionally compounded, based on the necessity of simultaneously meeting multiple mutually reinforcing and interwoven conditions.

The webinar does not try to downplay the inequality in most migrant–broker relations. However, it provides a multi-layered view whereby brokers and migrants, both, should be understood as co-creators of complex pathways of migrant circulation. Migration brokerage crafts and supports structures that produce ‘good migrants’ and precarities, however, over time, migrants may successfully maneuver and challenge these structures with the potential for social and economic change. Furthermore, the research shows that brokers can also play a role in lessening precarity and increasing protection for migrants from abuse.

Listen to the recorded webinar here: Connection Men, Dalals, Maid Agents - traffickers or not?

See the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies special issue articles here:

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Senegalese migrant women in Spain: between the weight of tradition and empowerment strategies

By Benoît Tine and Dorte Thorsen

Through their status as heads of households, men take the lead in the Kolda region of southern Senegal. They are the ones taking care of everything in the public sphere. The weight of culture is so heavy and so deeply rooted in everyday habits that women have difficulty making their voices heard. Often they are relegated to the private sphere, occupied with reproductive work, child rearing and household chores. Empowerment in such a context is difficult for most women, even for the few who take up transnational migrant work.

It is in this socio-cultural context, contrary to the norm, that Mr. Baldé, a married man with three children, arranged for his wife to migrate to Spain to work in 2008. She was one of 700 Senegalese women who migrated under a bilateral framework agreement between Senegal and Spain that, according to Tandian and Bergh, aimed to fill a gap in the Spanish labour market and to foster development in the country of origin. 

From a policy perspective, the recruitment of Senegalese women into the global labour force of temporary farm workers seemed well within this aim. However, the recruitment was underpinned by assumptions about women’s automatic empowerment through waged work, the benefit of women’s nimble fingers, and female migrants being more compliant with the rules of temporary contracts. It was assumed that women would be more likely than male migrants to return home once the contract ended.

Mr. Baldé was oblivious to those aims. The registration of his wife for migration was not about her individual empowerment but about the betterment of their nuclear household. Just how rare this step was, was reflected in the resentment that his parents, relatives and neighbours harboured for a long time. They were irked by the fact that he had not followed the usual pattern of favouring his lineage by registering his sisters or cousins, and they told him that he would lose his wife. 

In the face of their critique, he was relieved that his wife sent most of her earnings to him - of the 600,000 CFA francs (approx. £800) she earned, she sent 500,000 CFA francs (approx. £675), which amounted to ten times his salary. At the end of her first contract, he persuaded her to stay in Spain even though her life became much harder, as she no longer had papers. Eventually, she obtained residence papers in Spain and Mr. Baldé was pleased that his wife returned for a three-month holiday in 2016. She did him proud. He described how she behaved as if she had never travelled, surprising people by taking a motorcycle taxi to the market like everyone else and informing him about her activities. “As before her migration”, Mr. Baldé said, “it was my orders that were followed at home. My wife returned to being the submissive wife, the mother who educates and takes care of her household as if nothing had happened”.

The question of women’s empowerment remains. It is indeed debatable whether migrant work empowers women when, as soon as they are home, they are required to abide by restrictive patriarchal norms. Considering the affective sentiments that migrants may harbour for particular relatives and more generally for their home community, they may choose to emphasise one side of themselves during a visit and conceal other identities they have appropriated as migrants. In the realm of empowerment, it raises the question of whether women’s public behaviour reflect what actually goes on behind closed doors in the home. Moreover, the conditions under which temporary farm labour and irregular migrants work and live do not necessarily nurture a sense of empowerment. Thus, it is important to explore how, and under what circumstances, temporary migration can lead to women’s empowerment.

Read about Migrating out of Poverty's work on Gender and Generation here.

Dr. Benoît Tine, Department of Sociology, Université Assane Seck de Ziguinchor, BP 523, Ziguinchor. Email
Dr. Dorte Thorsen, Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QN. Email:

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Webinar: Connection Men, Dalals, Maid Agents – traffickers or not?

10.00-11.00 GMT, 29 March 2019

In this webinar, researchers from the University of Ghana, the University of Sussex and the National University of Singapore will present findings from their research on migration brokerage.

The research focuses on migration for domestic work and construction which are usually carried out by migrants from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Learn more about:
  • Northern Ghana and the capital city of Accra which are important origin and destination points for women and girls recruited for domestic work;
  • The Chapainawabganj area of Bangladesh where men are routed to Qatar for construction work; and
  • Singapore, which has a highly developed network of brokers and agents for selecting, hiring and placing female domestic workers from Indonesia and other poorer countries in the region.

The speakers will provide an overview of the structure of brokerage networks and how they work with other individuals and organisations in government and civil society to facilitate migration. While brokers are clearly exploitative and involved in perpetuating forced labour they also create avenues for employment and provide opportunities for change that would otherwise not be available.

These studies have much to offer to ongoing debates about trafficking.

Speakers and presentations

Please, thank you and sorry – brokering migration and constructing identities for domestic work in Ghana - Mariama Awumbila

A game of chutes-and-ladders: How maid agents and domestic workers navigate the migration industry in Singapore - Kellynn Wee

The recruitment of Bangladeshi migrants for construction work in Qatar -
Priya Deshingkar

To register for the webinar please click on this link and follow the instructions: 

You can read more about our work on migration brokers in our recent Special Issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Libya - haven for smugglers and hell for migrants?

By Priya Deshingkar

Mention “Libya” and “migration” and this immediately conjures up terrible images of hazardous journeys across the desert, the trading of human beings by unscrupulous smugglers, lawlessness and detention centres.

It was surprising therefore to hear contrasting accounts of migrant journeys during our fieldwork in Ghana where the team has been speaking to men in the Brong Ahafo region who have returned from Libya. This region in middle Ghana has a long history of international migration and is known for its network of “connection men” or brokers who specialise in getting people across the desert into Libya – a process called “pushing”. It also receives the largest number of returnees from Libya even though they may have originated from other parts of Ghana – according to the Ghana Immigration Services roughly 4000 migrants returned to Brong Ahafo from Libya in 2017.  

As media reports suggest, overland journeys to Libya, the preferred mode of travel for irregular migrants and the smugglers who are getting them across, are extremely hazardous – long drives through the desert without food and water and traversing multiple checkpoints across borders where the language and currency are different. The last leg of the journey is extremely dangerous with armed gangs in search of migrants as they are easy prey in a situation with no protection and often because they are on foot, having been left by cars to find their way to the border. We heard stories of “connection houses” where migrants are detained if they are unable to pay brokers enough to begin the next part of the journey. They may be stranded for weeks in limbo without knowing when they will travel again and have to work for a pittance in these transit points.

For those who make it to Libya, other kinds of risks and vulnerabilities await – many of the migrants that we spoke to said that black people are still treated like slaves in Libya and being beaten and racially abused by employers was a common experience. Not only that, with rival armed militias roaming the streets unchecked and robbing and shooting people randomly, they are too afraid to step out of their homes as they are easy targets. In some cases relatives or friends (so-called sponsors) in Libya may also finance brokers to bring them over by offering to pay for the migrant’s passage on the promise that s/he works to pay off the debt. Ghanaians in Libya are therefore hyper precarious  – trapped in low paid work or in a few instances debt-bondage and also precarized by their irregular status.

To then hear that migrants who have been arrested and deported back to Ghana from such horrible conditions have plans to migrate again is counter-intuitive. There are two reasons for this – the first is the opportunities that Libya offers – for remunerative work and the possibilities of onward journeys. Despite the lawlessness, dangers and precarity, Libya is an important labour market for those who want to save and attempt a crossing to Europe or invest back at home. Most irregular migrants quickly find work in the construction industry through other Ghanaians and they may also be employed in small eateries and businesses. The employment is completely informal without contracts and carries risks - there were cases of non-payment leaving migrants with no legal recourse because of their irregular status. Although most migrants are men, there are a few female migrants and they too are employed as hairdressers or food sellers by Ghanaians who came before them. These diaspora networks make it possible for new migrants to survive and integrate in Libya.

According to one returnee, even on a short stint in Libya before he was deported, he managed to save enough money to buy a plot of land at home. Another reason given by the respondents for preferring work in Libya is that they do not have to give expensive gifts to senior masons to learn work skills the way they need to in Ghana and they can move up the skills ladder more easily. Libya is regarded as a place with multiple opportunities for well-paid work with the added bonus of getting a chance to migrate to Italy if they are lucky. One man had been through hellish journeys to Libya nine times and was still planning to re-migrate.

The second reason for re-migrating is to save face in the community and fulfil family expectations. Deportation abruptly disrupts the migration project and when migrants come back as failures there are consequences within the family and the wider community. Re-migration can maintain the identity of man as a good and courageous family man.  For both these reasons deportation and information campaigns to discourage migrants appear not to be making a dent in either people’s desire to migrate or the migration industry enabling them.

There are no easy “solutions” here but just recognising that scaremongering tactics are unlikely to succeed would be a first important step. Rather than viewing Libya as a place where migrants to Europe should be interrupted, detained and deported, the EU, IOM and Government of Ghana need to recognise its importance as a work destination in its own right. The EU and IOM could try to facilitate discussions between Libya and the Government of Ghana to develop systems of labour circulation that allow migrants to work in Libya for a period of time. At the same time, any such measures should try to minimise bureaucratic procedures as this is often a prime reason for opting for irregular migration and brokers in the first place.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Remittances and unchanging livelihoods in Zimbabwe

A migrant sending household

By Vupenyu Dzingirai, Kefasi Nyikahadzoi, Byron Zamasiya, Providence Warinda and Julie Litchifield

Especially after the collapse of the economy in the early 2000s, migration has become big in Zimbabwe. The cash strapped government continues to craft policies - the Zimbabwe Diaspora Policy comes to mind - that facilitate migration which it views as a source of national development. For their part, non-migrant households in rural areas do all they can – from kukwereta (borrowing) to selling goats and chickens – to get at least one young person out of the country. There is a silent hope that migration is a route to yekusasarira – ensuring one is not left behind in poverty.

But there is a different sentiment, at least among those rural households that send children.“Migration is all useless,” remarked Mildred, a poor widow in Chivi District during an Income and Remittances’ Survey in Masvingo Province in the first half of 2018. She added that she, “Had nothing to show for children in the diaspora.”

Mildred’s pessimistic sentiments are supported by Mereki Chisauka in Hurungwe District, 600 km away in northern Zimbabwe. He too complained that migration inguva yekurasha (wasted time). Both parents have at least one son or daughter in South Africa, the most popular destination for Zimbabwean migrants. Among this group, there is undoubted pessimism around migration.

Preliminary evidence from the University of Zimbabwe researchers seems to lend credence to this growing pessimism. Migrant-sending households - whether their member is overseas, local or in the region - have roughly the same number of assets and the same consumption score as non-migrant sending households.

Migrant-sending households have no better access to health and education than their non migrant-sending counterparts. When the puzzled team asked for a general comment about migration and household improvement, survey results were also shocking: Only 39% of the households reported an improvement (kushanduka koupenyu) now, compared to before their household member migrated. 47% of the respondents denied any sort of improvement in their daily life; and, the remaining 16% of the respondents even said migration had worsened their lives.

If these findings are true, and complementary work by the Gender and Generation study also suggests this could be so, then questions present themselves. For example, is it the scale of remittances or their management by migrants and sending household that might explain continuing poverty among those left behind? With an eye to advise government and households who are interested in migration, we will hold several research indaba (community learning workshops), to figure out why migration is not moving, at least some people, out of poverty. 

Monday, 4 February 2019

Reducing the potential of migrant women: Abuses of male privilege

By Adamnesh Atnafu Bogale

Migration is an alternate strategy for diversifying income for poor families in the Kombolcha area of South Wollo, Amhara. In Kombolcha, anecdotes about men seeking financial security through marrying women who plan to migrate to Middle Eastern countries or through sending their wives to these places are increasingly common.

At the age of 22, Zebiba hatched an escape plan from the lifelong poverty in her household. She decided to go to Saudi Arabia to take a job as a domestic worker to support herself and her family. First, she went to Addis Ababa to work as a domestic worker to save money for the journey. She got her passport for 300 ETB ($15). However, because the cost of her migration was much higher than expected, she was obliged to work in Addis Ababa for longer than she had planned initially.

When she went back to Kombolcha to visit her family she unexpectedly met her future husband. He soon proposed for marriage and tied Nikah with her with the permission of her uncle. Shortly afterwards he offered his assistance in facilitating her travel to Saudi Arabia by paying the 4000 ETB ($200) for brokers, which she could not afford at the time. What she did not know was that this was a clever plan for securing a constant income through the remittances that she would eventually send from Saudi Arabia.

In a desire to be the right type of wife, Zebiba accepted that her full salary in Saudi Arabia was paid into her husband’s bank account. Like many other women who abide by the norms outlining how married women should ideally behave, she gave up her financial power with the assumption that her husband would spend her hard-earned money to their mutual benefit in the future.

However, upon her return, when she wanted a say in the spending, he prevented her from acquiring the money and controlled what she could and could not buy. In spite of living off her migrant earnings and never contributing to household expenses, he filed for a divorce when she was nine months pregnant with his baby. As we never had the opportunity to interview Zebiba’s former husband, we can only speculate about his justification of this move but we know that she felt misused. She believed that in her husband’s eyes the pregnancy had rendered her useless because she would not be able to return to Saudi Arabia to earn money for their household. Zebiba was bitter. In accordance with the local norms, she had supported her husband and not her natal family as initially planned before marrying, and now her natal relatives were angry with her. She felt alone.

Family legislation only helps women like Zebiba partially. Although the divorce settlement in court ruled that she should get half of the money she had remitted, the court ruling supported patriarchal privilege, in that it allowed for a deduction in the sum of remittance. Her husband had spent part of her earnings building a house and the court ruled that the property would be considered that of the husband, because it was built on his family’s land.

The state needs to do more for women to ensure that social change is to their benefit. It has been the norm in the Kombolcha area that men controlled resources because they were bringing money and other resources into the household, but with the increase in women’s international migration, many women have become breadwinners in their household. However, this change has not resulted in a shift locally in the control over household resources. If normative ideas and values about male privileges are left unchallenged, the likelihood of economic abuse of women is immense. Zebiba’s story shows that as it is currently, the legal system in Ethiopia does not support women’s quest for parity in resource control within marriage sufficiently. Changes in legislation and legal practices are necessary to protect women from being caught in similar situations as Zebiba.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Critical issues for the new Refugee Compact in Ethiopia

By Fekadu Adugna and Priya Deshingkar

“Imagine more than ten years without a job, moving nowhere. When we first arrived, we were young and energetic. Look at me now (displaying his arms and looking at his body in dismay). There (in Eritrea) the government took more than ten years off my life for military service. If I am given the opportunity to resettle they would take five more years for education and the like. When I am supposed to work, I am wasting my time. Does not it mean wasting my life? It is a taboo in our culture for a man to sit idle and eat. One has to work even if it is small. What you work and earn gives mental satisfaction…” An Eritrean refugee, interviewed by Mulu Getachew at Mai Aini refugee camp, September 2018.

On 17 January 2019 Ethiopia’s House of People’s Representatives approved a Revised Refugee Proclamation, which is believed to pave the road for the implementation of the “Ethiopia Compact”, part of the Global Compact for Refugees. Ethiopia has shown its readiness to respond to the UN Declaration on Refugees, which is regarded as a milestone for global solidarity on the protection of refugees. Indeed, the country’s investment commissioner announced that the new legislation was part of the Ethiopia’s “Jobs Compact”, which “allows refugees to work legally” - a $500 million programme which aims to create 100,000 jobs – 30% of which will be allocated to refugees. 

The proclamation provides refugees the right to engage in wage-earning employment, in the areas of agriculture, industrial parks (special economic zones), small and micro enterprises, handicrafts and commerce. It is a timely response to the global crisis of refugees, and is correctly welcomed by development partners as a paradigm shift in refugee policy. This is a welcome development given the fact that Ethiopia is the second most important refugee hosting country in Africa, after Uganda, with close to one million refugees accommodated in its 26 refugee camps.

However, policy makers and development partners need to consider critical socio-economic and political ramifications of the compact first.

Land scarcity and the politics of land

One of the Ethiopia’s nine pledges for refugees in the Job Compact, also included in the just enacted refugee proclamation, is access to land. This is expected to allow refugees to participate in agriculture which will give them a source of livelihood and add to the country’s GDP. Ethiopia is a country where the livelihoods of 85% of the more than one hundred million people depend on land. There is already irrefutable evidence that population growth coupled with sluggish rural economic transformation and climate change have resulted in unviable farm holdings and functional landlessness. Currently, more than one third of rural households dependent on agriculture are landless and the average landholding is around 0.5 hectares.
Simultaneously there are emergent multiple interests in land that exacerbate the pressure on farm land but also politicize issues related to land. These include large-scale agro-investments, intensive agri-businesses such as flori-cultures, aggressively expanding cities and towns and land grabbing. Thus, unless carefully managed and clearly communicated, giving land to refugees can easily become a political issue and endanger the initiative.

One way of diffusing these tensions is by using local socio-cultural networks and being sensitive to local inter-ethnic competition over land. Most of the refugees in Ethiopia are from neighboring countries with cross-border kinship (ethnic, clan) relations. While this could help local integration it could also easily be politicized unless the implementing bodies are sensitive to inter-group relations. This is particularly important in Gambella, where South Sudanese refugees are hosted and the Somali Region, where we find protracted refugee situations. 

Challenges of poverty and unemployment

Ethiopia is the hub of international migration in the Horn of Africa. Besides hosting refugees, Ethiopia is also a very important source and transit zone for international migrants. Annual emigration from Ethiopia is estimated to be around half a million, and two-thirds of these are irregular migrants who use different land and sea routes and networks. Much of this migration is driven by the lack of resources and employment opportunities at home.

Due to the dangerous journeys that poorer Ethiopian migrants undertake, it is common to hear worrisome news about their abuse and mistreatment en route to South Africa, Yemen and Libya. In the face of challenging socioeconomic factors such as rampant youth unemployment and poverty driven youth emigration, the new Job Compact has to be properly and clearly communicated to the citizens of Ethiopia. The fact that it is designed to benefit the citizens much more than refugees should be emphasized as its success depends on a positive reception by the Ethiopian people. Refugees should not be perceived as “grabbers” of opportunities when citizens are suffering from unemployment and landlessness. In other words, the balance between addressing the refugee problem and the problems that Ethiopia is already struggling with should be given due consideration.

Protracted IDP situation

Furthermore, there are more than two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ethiopia, which ranks among the countries with the largest IDP populations in the world. Nearly 1.4 million of these are classed as “new” displacements caused by conflict and drought by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Regions such as Oromia have built temporary camps in peri-urban areas, some of them in the vicinity of the industrial parks.  There is widespread unemployment among IDPs and lasting solutions to their situation have not been found. It would be important that both these issues i.e., refugees and IDPs are considered together otherwise there is a danger of conflict over resources and employment.  

Viability of industrial parks

Industrial Parks in Ethiopia have failed to thrive. A study of Hawassa Industrial Park shows that the turnover of workers is high because of low wages, poor transport networks and insecure living and working conditions for women who form the bulk of the workforce. The obvious question is how these parks, which have failed to attract local workers, would attract refugees? Allocating 30,000 refugees to industrial parks should not be only a matter of quotas. The parks need to be attractive for foreign investors, local workers and refugees and be profitable and sustainable.   

Prescribed employment options

Finally, as the experience in other countries has shown, tying refugees to jobs that have been pre-specified runs the risk of defection. Refugees may reject such jobs in favour of more flexible options in the informal labour market. They may also reject them and opt for jobs that are better suited to their personal goals and qualifications.

All these potential difficulties suggest that it may make sense for the government of Ethiopia to undertake rapid pilots of the initiative, gather lessons on performance and adapt for a more effective programme.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Migrating out of Poverty at the 11th Global Forum on Migration and Development – the discourse and the way forward

By Emmanuel Quarshie,

Amidst the tremendous globalization, cultural harmonization and modernization the world is experiencing, human mobility is one of the main issues under discussion within policy and research circles. Migration is not a new phenomenon, but migration is now marked by different trends and patterns.

The world tends to be more globalized through technology, ideas, skills, knowledge and information sharing. As a result, the number of global migrants has increased. It is therefore imperative for nations to ensure that the human rights of every migrant are safeguarded and protected. Migrants contribute significantly to the development of both their host and home countries through skills transfer, and remittances among other key benefits.

Despite their significant contribution to development, circulating narratives portray migrants as threats to security and they experience high rates of xenophobia.

In order to touch base with these issues, several dialogues and conferences at national and international levels have been held to ensure proper, holistic and sustainable migration governance and management to reduce the cost of migration and maximize the benefits. Notable among them is the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) which has been ongoing for the past decade.

The recent GFMD took place in Morocco which brought together civil society groups, government delegates, academics and researchers. The core aim was to develop positions on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10.7 which seeks to achieve a safe, orderly and regular migration by 2030 and to reduce the cost of remittance transfer to 3% by 2030.

The Forum also aimed to reach agreement on the Global Compact on Migration which serves as the most recognized, but nonetheless non-binding, document that will (re)direct migration narratives in achieving these targets.

Questions raised by the Forum included: How do we fuse sustainable migration management and the developmental impact of migration together in order to achieve a win-win strategic policy for all? Is the call to global dialogue on migration a mere rhetoric or an action-based move? What next after signing the Global Compact? How does the compact resolve the issue of climate-change induced migrants? How comprehensive will this be to cover all categories of migrants? How do we ensure migrant rights?

The Global Compact cannot function to its maximum if the big issues - internal and intra-regional migration are overlooked. This is because almost every international migration is preceded by internal migration due to the step-wise nature of migration, most especially in developing countries like Ghana. The compact should be able to address issues of internal and intra-regional migration since it serves as the main policy document guiding migration and human mobility at all levels.
Though the Global Compact is a very broad framework which serves as a reference to all state and non-state actors in migration country-specific policies related to internal and regional realities on migration are needed to firm-up plans, address inconsistencies, leverage and produce a very universal and comprehensive strategy to serve as a guide to holistically manage global migration.

Having a Global Compact is very important, but its implementation will be critical. Some countries have witnessed how poorly good policies are being implemented largely due to the lack of political will. The question now is, how do we intermesh the views of civil society organizations, academics, researchers and governments to implement the Global Compact? We don’t want to restate, backslide nor undercut existing policies on migration but instead to expand, ratify and implement them in order to achieve a safe, orderly and regular migration for all.

How does the Global Compact foster the protection of human rights of these individual migrants and their families? This question can serve as a focal point for the Global Compact since this represents the broader picture when issues about human right abuse, violence and xenophobia are discussed.

To conclude, it is noteworthy that in order to achieve a triple win in migration among the host, sending countries, and migrants and their families, there is a need for a comprehensive Global Compact with a coherent and consistent approach which protects the rights of migrants and their family as well as supporting the management of remittances sent back home.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The choices adolescent migrants make about work

By Dorte Thorsen

Exploitation is the central theme in all discussions about child labour and even more so when linked with children’s migration for work outside the family sphere. Often it is assumed that children cannot protect themselves against exploitation in the labour market without a parent or a designated guardian looking out for them. An interview with 15-year-old Fatou in Ziguinchor bus station in the Casamance region of Senegal reveals some of the nuances in this debate. 

Fatou is one of the many students from secondary school who proudly works during the long holidays to keep herself in school. In the middle of the holidays this year, she quit a job in a restaurant where she was earning 1000 Fcfa (£1.34) a day but was required to work very hard, for a less arduous job in another restaurant where she was paid 750 Fcfa (£1.00) a day. Not everyone is able to make the same choice though, and choices cannot be made in all spheres of life.

An important nuance to take into account is age. The debate on child labour with its focus on exploitation and harmful work defines a child as a person under 18 years. Fatou’s account shows that a girl aged 15 is capable of making choices and finding alternatives when the employment falls below her expectations.

Another nuance is how the child or adolescent was recruited to the work. Fatou found the jobs in the bus station by herself. However, during our interview it transpired that she had started working in the bus station in the middle of the holidays, because she had worked in her uncle’s fields until then. She was also tasked with cooking for the household on a daily basis. Even during the school year, she cooked for up to twenty people twice a day without much help. This work was unpaid. Although she was overburdened, Fatou could not quit the work.

Originally from Guinea Bissau, she had been placed with relatives in Ziguinchor at a young age. Children and adolescents who have been placed with an employer or a relative cannot leave without the approval of the person who placed them. The few times Fatou’s mother had visited, she never stayed long enough to note the amount of work her daughter was shouldering or the fact that Fatou spent the money earned at the bus station to pay for her own school fees, uniform, notebooks and even soap, so Fatou was not in a position where she could convince her mother to let her move elsewhere. Her ability to make choices was curbed by social rules and fear of defying parents and guardians, and by her educational aspirations which she could pursue while staying with her relatives, albeit with difficulty.

The point I am making here is not about treating unpaid work at home as a form of child labour - Fatou’s case is not the norm. What is important to consider in the planning of child protection and educational interventions is the arenas in which older children are able to make choices. Interventions that hinder older children in doing paid work may impact negatively on their ability to pursue school education or, if they are out of school, their acquisition of vocational skills. Equally important to take note of is the fuzziness of the category “child labour migrant”. Fatou differed from many other participants in this study because she had lived in Ziguinchor for a long time and yet could be considered a migrant. Common for migrant girls in their teens were that they were more likely to live with relatives than boys and that they were assigned more unpaid domestic work, thus impeding their ability to save up for schooling. Boys, on the other hand, spent some of their earnings on accommodation and food. Interventions to support these young migrants must therefore be tailored to their gender and social age.

This study is a collaboration between Dr. Dorte Thorsen and Dr. Mélanie Jacquemin, which with its focus on adoelscent and youth migrants is associated with the Gender and Generation project. The field research was co-financed by the Migrating Out Of Poverty consortium and Mobilités, voyages, innovations et dynamiques dans les Afriques méditerranéenne et subsaharienne (MOVIDA) research programme.