The Abu Dhabi Dialogue brings together migrant-sending and migrant-receiving nations to discuss labor and migration issues in the Gulf and other migrant hotspots. The 20 nations in attendance adopted the “Framework on Regional Cooperation,” which establishes and reinforces commitments to fair labor laws. Specific resolutions also target the pre-labor and post-arrival process; migrant-sending nations requested clearer employment contracts to prevent the ‘bate and switch’ manipulation of migrant workers, who often face lower wages and more precarious working conditions than originally agreed upon. Representatives also called for a reformed, streamlined repatriation process for migrants. Currently, most employers and receiving governments must be compensated before migrants can return home, which especially causes difficulties in times of personal or national crises. Additionally, general bureaucratic hurdles can slow down the return process and leave migrants in unnecessary distress.
The Filipino government particularly emphasized the need for a more swift, efficient repatriation process for female migrant workers, who can risk abuse if they attempt to return home without the approval of their sponsors. However, the process must be addressed by both governments. A report on the 17,000 Filipino domestic workers currently stranded in Syria reflect the defects in both nations’ policies.
The framework faced the usual obstacles imposed by migrant-receiving nations. The Philippine’s Labor Secretary noted that most Gulf countries pushed to exclude domestic workers from the agenda in order to maintain the regulatory void that currently exists. However, the Dialogue still represents an important venue to share perspectives, and provides an important opportunity for multilateral negotiations that has the potential to benefit migrant laborers across the board.