New Delhi, 2 December 2016 – In light of the many challenges faced in the South Asian region in regards to migrant workers, the European Union Delegation to Nepal hosted a regional seminar on "Making Labour Migration Easy and Safe in South Asia" in Kathmandu, on December 2, with the support of DAI Europe and Centre for South Asian Studies (CSAS).

The event brought together participants from government institutions, institutes, think-tanks, civil society, media, migration associations, private sector, international community, SAARC Secretariat and international participants including EU Delegations to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. During the inaugural session, Honourable Dr. Swarnim Wagle, Member of National Planning Commission was present acting as the Chief Guest.

Group photo at the “Making Labour Migration Easy and Safe in South Asia”
Group photo at the “Making Labour Migration Easy and Safe in South Asia”

The European Union not only funds a number of migration related programmes aimed at facilitating and enhancing the management of labour migration between South and Southeast Asia and selected countries in the EU, and supports mechanisms and awareness leading to safe migration, but also ensures continuing policy dialogue in line with the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM).

The seminar brought an experience-sharing event and showcased the EU policies on Migration and the outlines of the EU funded projects and programmes in the South Asian region. Her Excellency, Rensje Teerink, EU Ambassador to Nepal and to the SAARC said "Migrants' necessities go further than the cooperation of all players that are gathering here today; Migration needs to be addressed in a multi-sector approach and focus on the human, social and labour rights of migrants, their psychological and social well-being, and the development efforts migrants workers can contribute to".

In the last decade, the EU has made major steps towards building a truly comprehensive migration policy, based on common political principles and solidarity. The GAMM is, since 2005, the overarching framework of the EU external migration and asylum policy. The framework defines how the EU conducts its policy dialogues and cooperation with non-EU countries, based on clearly defined priorities and embedded in the EU’s overall external action, including development cooperation. In addition, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy launched the "Global Strategy for the European Union's Foreign and Security Policy" in June 2016, which highlights the need for a more effective migration policy and endorses that the EU will keep on working with international partners to ensure shared global responsibilities and solidarity.

Looking at the challenges of Labour Migration in the South Asian region, solutions for protecting migrants were discussed during the seminar. Speakers conversed on how migration flow facilitates extensive benefits to migrants, such as remittances and cross-sharing of skills, while challenges remain as migrants are exposed to many risks such as abuse, poor working conditions or difficulty to access their rights and protection. As per the discussions, information regarding qualifications, skills and wages need to ensure informed decisions by public and private institutions as well as by migrant workers, which will result in better training investment in both source and receiver countries. Member States in South Asia need to set a fair system of mutual recognition of educational attainment and acquired skills based on comparable standards for low and semi-skilled occupations. At policy level, inter-state cooperation is also needed to regulate the labour migrants’ flow, to develop coherent policies and activate mechanisms to facilitate better organization of legal migration, to ensure migrants’ safety and rights, and to maximize the development impacts of migration and mobility.

The Media was also noted to play a role in promoting safer migration by raising the awareness of the public by advocating for better policies and practices, and by facilitating discussions on this arena.

Overall, through this event, participants found new ways of moving forward into a better scenario for current and future migrants' workers in South Asia. The European Union is committed to continued cooperation with the South Asian nations to make the lives of labour migrants easier and safer and for continuing the policy dialogue.

About the European Union (EU) - The European Union is a unique economic and political union between 28 European countries that together cover much of the continent. European integration can be traced back to the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries that trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict. The result was the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1958, and initially increasing economic cooperation between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Since then, a huge single market has been created and continues to develop towards its full potential. It has set up common institutions so that decisions on matters of joint interest can be made democratically at European level. Together, during a period of enlargement of 50 years, they have built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development whilst maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and individual freedoms. The European Union is committed to sharing its achievements and its values with countries and peoples beyond its borders. It is the largest donor of development and humanitarian aid in the world.

EU-SAARC relations - In line with the European Consensus on Development, the Agenda for Change and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) Regulation, EU development assistance in the SAARC region aims at eradicating poverty by supporting broad-based inclusive and sustainable growth, promoting conditions conducive to trade and integration within the region, enhancing governance and increasing political and social stability. The Agenda for Change also promotes a focus on helping reduce developing countries' exposure to global shocks such as climate change, ecosystem and resource degradation and support capacity development and technology transfer, including in climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.