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For a fee: the recruitment of migrant domestic workers

For a fee: the recruitment of migrant domestic workers


Various, including ILO Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (DfID and U.S. Department of Labour), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Open Society Foundations, Humanity United.




ILO, IOM, Fair Hiring Initiative, Equip (Lebanon)


Dr. Katharine Jones, Marie Apostol, Leena Ksaifi, Daryl Delgado, Stephanie Morin, Patrick Dobree, Wangui Irimu.


A number of related projects have sought to document and explain how recruitment firms and brokers profit from organising migration, how and why recruitment firms engage in specific unethical/ abusive business practice, why it predominates as a means of organizing migration in some national contexts and not in others, and how recruitment abuses can be effectively challenged by governments and by migrants themselves. With various collaborators and team members, projects have been conducted in Indonesia, Singapore, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Lebanon, Jordan, Brazil, Paraguay and Kenya. The current project explores how male and female migrant workers are able to most effectively challenge exploitative labour recruiters, with research conducted globally, but especially in Qatar and Nepal.


In 2015, there were an estimated 244 million migrants worldwide, an increase of 41% since the turn of the millennium. Over the past two decades, ‘recruiters’ who organise labour migration across international borders have also dramatically increased in numbers. Recruiters are a well-documented source of exploitation of migrant workers. Their business practices are known to exacerbate the risk of abuse, forced labour and human trafficking. Among the most widely cited abuses perpetrated by recruiters are: deception about the nature and conditions of work, confiscation of passports, illegal wage deductions, debt bondage linked to extortionate recruitment fees, threats if workers want to leave their employers and physical violence.

Four studies (the recruitment of migrant women into domestic from Bangladesh, India, Nepal into Jordan and Lebanon) were conducted for the ILO Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL) between 2014 and 2015 as part of the Work in Freedom Initiative funded by UK DfID. This programme aimed to preventing the trafficking of women and girls in South Asia and the Middle East through promoting education, fair recruitment, safe migration and decent work. The study contributed to amendments to regulation in these countries, advocacy and campaigning, and the development of ethical recruitment principles with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and employers’ bodies.

Two further studies were funded by the US Department of Labour under the auspieces of the ILO Fair Recruitment Initiative, launched in 2014. These contributed to the development of ILO and US Government programmes of work in these countries (Brazil, Paraguay and Kenya) to tackle exploitation of migrants, as well to advocacy on the ground.

A further study conducted for Open Society Foundations (Asia and Middle East Programme) explored the use of a “TripAdvisor” style project for migrant women to report back on and improve the practices of exploitative recruiters in Indonesia. This study influenced the further development of the project, and has fed into the development of a global “TripAdvisor for Migrants” soon to be launched by the ITUC/ ILO with funding from the US Government.

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