SH, an Indian migrant worker, recalled his ordeal when he went to work for a household in Saudi Arabia September 2019. The recruiting agent told him he would be working as a driver for an Indian household. But upon arrival, he found out that he would in fact be working for a bakery run by an Arab household to do packing and cleaning. He tried to return home but failed, and was not paid months of wages since November 2020. He was forced to sign a paper which accused him of stealing 60,000 Saudi Riyals (US$16,000). “I had no option but to do that and they took away my passport so I will not try to go home. I am very afraid that they might make false complaints against me and put me in jail if I try to run away,” said SH. In an astonishing case recorded by a Nepali civil society organization, LG who worked as a domestic worker at a Saudihousehold for 10 years did not receive any wages and the employer barred her from returning to Nepal. She escaped to the shelter home of the Nepali Embassy, where she has been staying for three months. LG has no passport, no supporting documents, and she has no idea of her sponsor’s name. William Gois, Regional Coordinator of Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), says: “Prevalence of wage theft is endemic to labour migration.” In the previous launch of the first volume of the report, Nenette Motus, Regional Director of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Asia-Pacific underscores: “There is a continued lack of access to justice mechanisms further revealed in this time of crisis. Undeniably, there is a need for increased, proactive, bilateral multi-stakeholder dialogue and collaboration to address such situations [of wage theft] underlined by the data we all collect, which we have the responsibility to collect.” David Schilling, Senior Program Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) stresses the urgency of the situation: “This is urgent, this is not something we can put on an agenda for tomorrow, it is today.” With thousands of migrant workers suffering from wage theft in the Asia region, the gravity of the issue across the globe is expected to be much more devastating in scale. Without proper procedures in place to document and monitor the grievances of migrant workers throughout the repatriation process, millions of cases of wage theft during the pandemic are predicted to go unaddressed. Moreover, migrants themselves are hesitant or refuse to report or file a case in fear of retaliation from employers and in fear of being unable to pursue new employment opportunities. In the absence of an effective mechanism that will aid migrant workers in getting back their wages, they will only remain victims to an exploitative and unjust system that will continue to prevail in labour migration governance. ENDS

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