10 April 2018

Africa: Global 'Tripadvisor' for Migrant Workers Takes Aim At Modern Slavery

Kuala Lumpur — 'Recruitment Advisor' lets migrant workers to review their experiences in a bid to help others to avoid unscrupulous recruiters

Migrant workers can now rate their recruiters and warn others of potential abuses on a global portal aimed at stamping out modern slavery that mirrors reviews on the travel website TripAdvisor.

From domestic workers to construction labourers, about 25 million people were trapped in forced labour in 2016, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the charity Walk Free Foundation.

Desperate to escape poverty at home, many migrant workers pay fees to recruitment agencies to secure a job abroad, but campaigners say they can end up trapped in bonded labour.

Inspired by the travel website, the "Recruitment Advisor" that was launched this month in four languages allows migrant workers to review their experiences in a bid to help others to avoid unscrupulous recruiters.

"One can choose a recruitment agency with good ratings," said Ira Rachmawati from the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which runs the portal.

"We want to promote fair recruitment. If the agency is doing fair recruitments, they could contribute to helping migrant workers making an informed decision," the project officer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday.

Available in English, Indonesian, Tagalog and Nepali in the first phase, the ITUC - which represents 207 million workers globally - said the website empowers workers to learn about their rights through the peer-to-peer reviews.

It has over 10,000 recruitment agencies listed on its website, and workers will be asked to review areas ranging from recruitment fees, to employment contract and working conditions.

The website is one of the latest initiatives seeking to tap technologies from blockchain to mobile apps to combat slavery and human trafficking, which generate profits of $150 billion per year globally according to U.N. figures.

A website similar to Recruitment Advisor was started in 2014 for Mexican migrants working in the United States, but the ITUC said its initiative has a global target.

Alex Ong from advocacy group Migrant Care, however, warned that the industry needs an overhaul and recruiters should be cut out from the system entirely to prevent exploitation.

"(Recruiters) have an ultimate motive of making profits from migrant workers," Ong, whose group supports Indonesian migrant workers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Reporting by Beh Lih Yi, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith.

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