The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has joined forces with blockchain services provider Diginex to use blockchain for safeguarding the rights of immigrants in Hong Kong and prevent them from falling prey to exploitation by recruitment agencies.
Hong Kong is home to as many as three hundred and ninety thousand migrant workers and has always been a favourable destination for overseas workers in and around Asia. In a Twitter post dated 18th December 2019, Diginex revealed some startling facts about this Asian region.
Today, we observe International #MigrantsDay. Hong Kong has almost 390,000 foreign domestic workers.
— Diginex (@DiginexGlobal) December 18, 2019
It mentioned that ninety-eight percent (98%) of this overseas workforce constitutes of women and over fifty-six percent (56%) have been illegally charged by recruitment agencies, causing workers to pay exorbitant fees to get work in Hong Kong or agreeing to unfair terms and conditions in contract with the hopes of earning a livelihood.
UN to use blockchain to prevent exploitation of immigrants
Thus, in an attempt to make their lives slightly easier and take the burden off workers’ shoulders concerning overcharging and unjust contract agreements, the UN-backed entity IOM and Diginex have formally announced the partnership on 16th December 2019 to launch a blockchain-based tool, called IRIS-SAFER, that will combat illicit charges from being levied on temporary workers.
The tool will also tackle a common unwarranted practice of contract swapping, where the migrant is coerced into signing a contract that works more in favor of employer than the migrant once the worker lands up in the country.
According to the announcement, many migrant workers are enticed by higher wages and better working conditions when they are looking for a job in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, though, the scenario is quite the opposite when they arrive at the destination. They are pressurized into signing a contract that doesn’t seem as beneficial as it did before. Moreover, agencies tend to charge them additional fees for their services, leaving migrants with little or absolutely no money. The pitiful condition then forces them to borrow money from loan sharks and agree to unfavorable terms and conditions.
How blockchain will help?
What the tool will do is prevent any manipulation of contract, as soon as they are uploaded on the blockchain database. Giuseppe Crocetti, Chief of Mission of IOM China, said that the system would ensure that workers are no longer subject to such unethical recruitment practices.
The tool will be put into force in over fifteen hundred recruitment agencies in Hong Kong. It will enlighten agencies with global ethical recruitment standards and explain what they need to do to comply with them. IOM is excited to have found an opportunity to bettering the lives of migrants in Hong Kong, and if successful, will roll out similar initiatives in other jurisdictions as well, Crocetti confirmed.
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