The experts and policymakers, who are drawn from major countries of origin of migrant workers in the Middle East and the Gulf Cooperating Countries (GCC), made the urgent call during an ongoing meeting at the African Union (AU) headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The meeting organized under the auspices of the Joint Labour Migration Governance Program for Regional Development and Integration in Africa (JLMP) envisaged to promote a multilateral process towards enhanced protection of the teeming number of migrant workers of African descent in the Middle East.
Mariama Cisse, Director of Social Affairs Department at the AU, stressed during the high-level gathering the need for African countries to learn from existing multilateral processes, including the Colombo Process and the Abu Dhabi Dialogue which has helped in improving the situation of Asian migrant workers in the Gulf countries.
Figures from the AU show that the Middle East region is the second largest region of destination for African migrant workers due to cultural, religious and historic factors, as an increasing number of AU member countries have negotiated bilateral labor agreements with Middle East countries, including Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, mainly for the supply of domestic workers.
Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Africa and Uganda account for top African migrant workers in the Middle East, according to the 55-member pan African bloc.
The AU, however, stressed that “labor migration governance in the Middle East and GCC region is in dire need for policy and structural reforms in various areas including training and ethical recruitment, decent jobs, skills recognition, legal and consular services as well as protection of human rights in line with international standards.”
Ethiopia’s Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ergogie Tesfaye also stated that “as primary duty bearers to ensure the protection of the rights of migrant workers, the onus is on us, governments, to take the leadership and ownership of the processes of engagement with key receiving countries for our labor migrants.”
“We have a critical role to ensure that we are well informed of the pre-existing information-sharing and policy dialogue forums at the regional, inter-regional or global level,” Tesfaye added.
According to Silvia Cormaci, JLMP Priority Actions Manager at the International Labour Organization (ILO), close to three million African migrants are currently in the Middle East and the GCC countries.
“Joint voices by many countries have a greater impact than the lone voice of a single country,” Cormaci said.
Recent reports from the World Bank also show that remittances from the Middle East continue to increase, with United Arab Emirates (UAE) accounting for the second highest remittance sending country in 2017, followed by Saudi Arabia. In 2018, Egypt and Nigeria were the top remittance recipient Africa countries, with a total of $28.9 million and $24.3 million respectively, according to the World Bank.