HONORABLE MENTION: Advocacy on Rights of Migrant Workers During COVID-19

Ask questions for the Advocacy on Rights of Migrant Workers During COVID-19 project here!

Advocacy on Rights of Migrant Workers During COVID-19
People Forum for Human Rights, Nepal

ABOUT: As Covid-19 cases hiked in major destination countries, the uncertainty loomed over migrant workers. They were languishing in foreign land losing their jobs, were under forced labor and residing at unhealthy and crowded area with no means to survive and return home. On this scenario, People Forum filed PIL in response to support migrant workers in destination countries and to make the Government of Nepal fulfill Fundamental rights enshrined in Constitution. Responding to the heightened vulnerabilities, the People forum advocated for migrants rights providing free legal aid to victims; preparing policy paper and recommending the government for repatriation and reintegration of migrant workers.

Learn more about this project on the World Justice Challenge website.

Absolutely love this work, congratulations on the great progress and sorry to see this one was not a finalist. Curious on the scalability of the work - how do you plan to grow the project, given that legal aid is tough to bring to a very wide audience at an efficient cost?

Thank you Andy for your kind support! Indeed, the scalability of legal aid is a key priority for us, and free legal aid has been a crucial component of many other projects that we have been currently implementing, thereby creating a flow of resources towards this purpose. We have also been partnering with Nepal’s Ministry of Labour, Employment, and Social Security in acquiring support to run our free legal aid clinic. To date, we have decentralized our legal aid services to 49 districts (out of 77) in Nepal, collaborating with the government’s district-level Migrant Resource Centers in receiving case referrals on behalf of victimized migrant workers. Reaching the grassroots through Public Service Announcements played on community radio and Facebook has also complemented these efforts. We hope to expand our reach in major destination countries in the future.

Wow, by “partnering” do you mean they’re paying for it? That’s quite a historic step as well if government institutions are paying for the legal aid. Congratulations! How do you manage all of the incoming requests for legal aid, do you use a case management system or similar? Because at this scale, I imagine you’re working with thousands of cases at a time? I have some connections to “Baobab Connect / Baobab Law” (links aren’t allowed, you’ll have to Google it) if it might be helpful for you or your work I can put you in touch with the founder.

Hello! Congrats on being a WJC Honorable Mention. I would love to know more about your advocacy efforts with governments and if any of your recommendations were adopted or implemented?

Our legal aid clinic is run with the financial support of Nepal’s Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security; and the Swiss Interco-operation Nepal (HELVETAS). Indeed, we take it as a positive development. Currently, we support the registration of approximately 1000-1500 migration related cases annually. In terms of case-management, currently we record summary of case progress digitally (on spreadsheet) and set up detailed individual case-files, from the initial intake form to the final verdict. We have dedicated staff to support complaint registration at the department of foreign employment, and conducting necessary follow-up and legal aid support at the tribunal level. Certainly, there is always room to grow in terms of strengthening our case follow-up and management system; and we would appreciate you connecting us to the team at Baobab Connect/Baobab Law for any support/guidance they may provide us in this regard.

Thank you Jaya! Most recently, we organized multiple virtual consultation programs during the lockdown period; engaging key stakeholders like relevant line ministries, human rights commission, local government, labour experts, lawyers, labour counsellors at Nepali embassies, CSOs, journalists, trade unions, development partners, Migrant Resource Centers (MRCs), migrant workers and survivors. The consultation inputs were utilized in drafting a civil society policy paper (May 2020), to accelerate governmental action towards ‘Repatriation and Reintegration of Migrant Workers in the Context of COVID 19.’ Said policy paper and People Forum’s consequent participation in the Ministry led guideline drafting committee - supported the formulation and implementation of Nepal government’s current Guideline on ‘Repatriation of Stranded Nepali Workers in the Course of Foreign Employment Due to COVID-19 2020’ , resulting in successful repatriation of 156,000 migrant workers as of November 2020.

In the past, our advocacy efforts have contributed in Foreign Employment Act’s amendment and introducing labor migration as a constitutional issue through Art. 51 in Nepal’s Constitution (2015 A.D.) Do write to us in case of further queries and curiosities.

Wow, that’s amazing! Thank you for all your great work!