According to the IOM World Migration Report 2020, as of June 2019, the number of international migrants was estimated to be almost 272 million globally.
When it comes to migration, Pakistan is an exception as it is one of the largest labour-exporting countries in the region. Pakistan’s labour force ends up in Gulf like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which are the top destinations for Pakistani migrant workers and also a major source of remittance back home.
According to Pakistan’s Bureau of Emigration and overseas employment, 765,000 people left Pakistan for abroad in 2022, while 225,000 departed in 2021 and 288,000 in 2020. The majority of the emigrants who did not find it economically viable to live in the country went to middle eastern countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for exploring economic opportunities. Delving deep into the statistics reveals that those who left the country in 2022 included more than 92,000 graduates, 350,000 trained workers of different skills and the same number of untrained labourers. Every migrant has a good or bad story to tell but unfortunately, the bad ones surpass the pleasant ones.
Mohsin Shabbir Hussain is one of those Pakistanis who ended up in UAE last year to get employment. He was working as a driver in a private organization in Pakistan but limited monthly income was not enough to provide a quality life for his wife and three school-going children. The low income was compounded by miseries like sky-rocketing inflation, continuous decrease in the value of the national currency, and increasing price of electricity and fuel which badly impacted his life. He struggled hard and hard to make progress here but his life opportunities were crippled due to poor education and limited financial resources.
As days passed by, a travel agent met Hussain and offered him a reasonable job in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With no end in sight to his miseries in Pakistan, he resigned from his job and reached his destination only to witness that infinite problems were awaiting him. The 32-year-old had the shock of his life when he found out that his agent was fraudulent and he was deceived. Hobson’s choice available to him was to return to his homeland without earning a single penny and that’s what he did. The story of Shabbir Hussain is one of many ordeals faced by thousands of Pakistanis each year, either at the hands of a travel agent or an overseas employer.
Sabir Farhat, a leading activist for Migrant Rights and Executive Directive of “Pakistan Rural Workers Social Workers Organization” says that potential migrants are at the mercy of so-called agents and employers who deceive and cheat them in broad daylight due to lack of knowledge, and information and support of government organizations. He appealed to the Government to immediately announce National Emigration Policy that is pending for a long on one pretext or the other leaving migrants with no other option than to be fodder for agents.
‘Pakistani media does not highlight the issues of overseas Pakistani workers, as their only priority seems to be politics. Mainstream print and electronic media should play its part to raise issues of overseas Pakistanis so that they get the attention of concerned departments to get relief,’ he further added.
Yasmeen Muslim, a renowned legal expert on migrant issues expressed her views on the legal rights of migrants and said it is no secret that low-wage workers in the Gulf are the most vulnerable amongst Pakistan’s expatriate community. She said that fair and ethical requirement is the basic right of migrants but they face wage theft and poor treatment. Citing Pakistan’s Labour Migration Report 2020, she said Pakistan is the second largest manpower exporting country in South Asia and over 11.33 million Pakistanis were registered through the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BE&OE) from 1971 to 2020.
The legal expert demanded the Punjab Government establish Migrant Resource Centers (MRC) at all Divisional or District levels in the Province to facilitate & support potential & returning migrants.
Globally, people migrate in search of economic opportunities, to uplift the social and financial status of the family, to join the family, or to study. The migration process can be categorized into pre-travel, travel, destination and return phase. Each phase of the migration process has its own unique and specific challenges but the exploitation of migrants is not just an individual issue, rather it affects their families, the community and, most importantly, the economy which sometimes treats them as breadwinners.
Overseas labour migration became part of the Federal legislative list under the 18th Amendment and now the Federal government is responsible for finding overseas employment opportunities for its citizens.
It must be kept in mind that remittances sent by Pakistanis living and working abroad are essential drivers of the economy. Providing safe and stable employment abroad, ensuring social protection benefits for migrant workers, safety and protection from exploitation and safe and hassle-free repatriation back to Pakistan is the responsibility of the government and a constitutional right of the migrants but more needs to be done regarding this issue so that those who toil hard in a foreign land don’t see themselves merely as cash cows with no insurance policy for them.
Pakistani currency remains stable against US dollar in the open market on February 26, 2024 (Monday).
In the open market, the US dollar was being quoted at 279.5 for buying and 282.55 for selling.
Euro currently stands at 302 for buying and 305 for selling while British Pound rate stands at 352.5 for buying, and 356 for selling.
UAE Dirham AED hovers at 76.1 whereas the Saudi Riyal saw slight increase, with new rates at 74.35.
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