,  December 6, 2023

Enhancing Migrant Populations' Access to HIV and AIDS Services, Information and Support (EMPHASIS) is Committed to: Universal Access - Continuum of Prevention to Care                                                                                                                                         Promoting Women's Empowerment                                                                                                                                         Dignity and Safety of the Mobile Populations

National level Advocacy Workshop on Cross Border Migrants in India
Venue: India International Centre
25 June 2013


Placing women at the forefront of migration discourse, EMPHASIS calls for local, national, regional and global action on prioritizing migration, especially cross-border migration, as a development issue and for ensuring program and funding opportunities by Governments and donors. The purpose of the workshop is to create a platform to discuss various perspectives and experiences relating to specific points relating to; safety and dignity of migrants, harassment of migrants during travel, at the work place, health centers and in public spaces, HIV vulnerability of migrants, ensuring access to ART for all migrants in the continuum of mobility, and ensuring migrant friendly money transfer and banking mechanisms at source and destination.


Key Message from the Workshop:

Transnational migration of job-seeking labourers continues to bear a correlation with their risk of HIV infection but civil society organisations should work beyond healthcare to better the overall living conditions of the community which faces several kinds of vulnerability.


Immigrants from neighbouring Nepal are subject to discrimination and violence at workplace and public spaces apart from clinics and hospitals, besides being incapacitated without banking and money transfer mechanisms, pointed out speakers here at National Level Advocacy Workshop on Cross-Border Migrants in India. Just because they are cross-border migrants does not make them ineligible to basic human rights.


Individual Speakers:


“Our campaign is to ensure the security and dignity of the migrants,” said Rashmi Singh, Executive Director of National Mission for Empowerment of Women. “We cannot work on healthcare in isolation. For the benefit of the immigrants, non-governmental agencies must enable them to open bank accounts, facilitate micro-credit support, form self-help groups and provide education for the children of the families, among others,” she told delegates at the inaugural session on Access to Health and Other Services at Destination.


It is against this backdrop and primarily with a view to reduce the incidence of AIDS and HIV among immigrants from Nepal and Bangladesh that CARE launched Emphasis, pointed out Nabesh Bohidar, Team Leader (India) of the five-year project, which is South Asia’s only project for migrants at source, transit and destination. The pioneering initiative, launched in September 2009, is being implemented through 100-plus community-based partners and stakeholders, besides 700 peer educators.


“We have reached out to 300,000 Nepali and Bangla-speaking migrants so far,” he said, while listing out the challenges the community faces at the source, transit and destination.

Substantiating, Tahseen Alam, Regional Advocacy Manager at CARE, said societal stigma and lack of systemic support are what basically prompt many to move out of their countries.


“But at the transit point, they suffer harassment of officials, robbery and fraud. Worse, at the workplace subsequently, they undergo physical and sexual abuse, non-access to banking facilities in the resident city and inability to enjoy medical treatment and education on part with the natives of the country,” she added.

Journalist Shwetha Kannan noted that metropolises like Mumbai and Delhi are nearing saturation on the non-skilled labour front, which should prompt potential immigrants to look for fresh pastures in other cities and towns of the country.


“Most immigrant labourers work in big cities in inhuman conditions, but they cover up the reality when they visit their native village annually by showing off with gifts which are only bought from borrowed money. This spreads a false notion of their life, and triggers another round of immigrants,” she added.


Mamta Behera, Partnership Coordinator (Emphasis), noted that of the 671 Bangladeshis screened in Bangladesh under the project, 17 proved HIV positive — and all of them had a history of migration.


Subhash Chandra Ghosh, Programme Officer, Department of AIDS Control, said that it is important to build upon the SOPs developed by EMPHASIS for cross-border referral and linkage for accessing ART services. He suggested institutionalizing this mechanism through the SAARC.


Neetu Lamba, Programme Officer with International Labour Organisation, said the issues of migrant labourers should be seen holistically. “One shouldn’t just put all the blame on government,” she added at the session on Indo-Nepal Treaty and Rights of Migrants.


Ranabir Samaddar, director of Calcutta Research Group, noted that it would be untrue to believe that providing immigrants with identity proofs would solve much of their problems.

A third session on Financial Inclusion and Remittances saw Munal Jung Karki of Prabhu Money Transfer and Gaurav Yadava of  Western Union speaking on ways towards smooth remittances.


The other speakers included Jayakumar Kadimalla of Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust, Amit Arora and Saibal Baroi of CARE India.


The final session chalked out ways to take forward Emphasis — the acronym for Enhancing Mobile Populations’ Access to Information, Services and Support.


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