The Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment organized a one-day stakeholders meeting on international recruitment in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital with a view to stakeholders partner on improving international recruitment of migrant workers in Nigeria; address identified challenges in the industry and proffer solutions on way forward.
In his address, the President of the association, Dr. Olufemi Ogunlowo, represented by the Executive Secretary, Olajide Afolabi said that in December 2017, the government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment suspended the issuance and renewal of International Recruiters License and Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar for intending migrant workers.
This move effectively led to the suspension of international recruitment in Nigeria as a result of a National Assembly investigation report which revealed that quacks in the industry engaged in forced labour, human trafficking, and abuse of migrant workers.
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The President said that the objective of the meeting was to among other things, highlight, discuss, and proffer solutions to issues affecting effective operations of international recruitment in Nigeria. He added that it was also to ensure full commencement of operations by international recruiters after the meeting and develop strategies for partnership between the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies, and MDAs involved in the labor migration governance framework in Nigeria.
Other objectives of the meeting according to him, are to develop an action plan on the implementation of relevant guidelines “especially, the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for International Recruitment of Migrant Workers and cross-fertilize ideas on strengthening international recruiters’ engagement in labour migration and recruitment practices in Nigeria.
“As a responsible association, we are worried that despite the operational guidelines and frameworks, there has not been expected improvement in international recruitment, and this unfortunate development is allowing quacks in the industry to operate almost unchecked.
“Since immigration is a right and cannot be stopped, if official routes are closed, people will take to illegal routes which are detrimental to national growth and our industry,” he said.
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Ogunlowo said that in the need to ensure smooth operation for international recruitment of Nigerian migrant workers, HuCaPAN partnered with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to bring all stakeholders engagement on effective labour migration governance discourse; improved institutional capacities and mechanisms for promoting effective labour migration as well as promote HuCaPAN contribution towards standardizing recruitment practices in Nigeria.
HuCaPAN has in recent years advocated for the standardization of recruitment practices in Nigeria through the effective implementation of the Code of Conduct for Private Employment Agencies (PEAs).
The Association also called for a guideline for international recruitment in Nigeria which said the meeting was providing the platform to cross-fertilize ideas on strengthening engagement in labour migration and recruitment practices.
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Stakeholders at the meeting identified challenges confronting international recruitment which include delay in the process of application for Recruiters License and Renewal application; centralization of background checks by the Department of State Services (DSS) at the Headquarters, Abuja; lack of synergy between the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) involved in labour migration governance framework in Nigeria and the inability of the Federal Government to send a memo to the embassies on the lifting of suspension on international recruitment among others.
In her goodwill message, International Labour Organisation, ILO Country Director in Nigeria, Ms. Vannessa Phala, said that ensuring that the recruitment of workers, including for international labour markets leads to decent work and the efficient functioning of labour markets remains a key feature in promoting social justice in the world of work.
Speaking through the National Project Coordinator, ILO, Mr. Austin Erameh, “In recognition of the need for adequate frameworks to support stakeholders, the ILO developed General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment and Definition of Recruitment Fees and Related Costs.
“These tools present a comprehensive approach to realizing fair recruitment through development, implementation, monitoring, and enforcement of recruitment laws, policies, and practices which lead to fair and efficient recruitment and protect all workers’ rights”, Phala said.
Earlier in his opening remark, the Director Employment and Wages, Mr. John Nyamali represented by Dr. Sunday Onazi, Assistant Director, International Migration Division in the Ministry, called for synergy among the actors in international labour recruitment to achieve the set goal of safe and regular migration saying that no one agency can do it alone.
He said that “the promotion of safe and regular migration will address the issue of forced labour and human trafficking”.
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He said that the government was doing everything possible to ensure that HuCaPAN gets a fair deal for its members to have a fair deal in their businesses.
In his goodwill message, the Chief of Mission, International Organisation for Migration, IOM, Mr. Laurent De Boeck represented by Ms. Elizabeth Poage says, “Cross-border recruitment is a vital part of facilitating international labour mobility when implemented fairly and transparently, it contributes to safe and orderly labour migration, which benefits, employers, migrants, countries of origin and destination.
He said “When international standards are not adhered to, the risks to migrant workers can be severe as fraudulent and unethical behaviour by unscrupulous labour recruiters can lead to conditions of human trafficking and forced labour.
“IOM is committed to supporting Governments to develop and strengthen effective mechanisms and tools that prevent and address exploitation by unscrupulous labour recruiters.
“This commitment is outlined in Objective six of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration which calls on member states to facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work”.
At the end of the one-day meeting, stakeholders agreed to work together to promote harmonious relationships and improve the international recruitment of migrant workers in Nigeria.
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The meeting produced far-reaching recommendations including the proposed development of a guideline and action plan on international recruitment; the development of advocacy strategies on international recruitment; the creation of Desks (and recruit Desk Officers) on international recruitment at major international airports; Nigeria Immigration Service to pay close attention to prospective migrant workers with work visas traveling to Baghdad, Cairo, Kuwait, Bahrain, etc.; and organization of training on National Policy on Labour Migration, Code of Conduct for Private Employment Agencies in Nigeria, etc. among others.
Other stakeholders at the meeting include the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigeria Immigration Service, the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters NAPTIP, and the State Security Service (DSS). Others are the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), the media, and international recruiters.