,  July 19, 2024

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


Regional Consultation on Migration New Delhi July 30-31


Regional Consultation: Context

Although labour migration is a growing trend across the world and in the South Asia region, there is still a relative lack of planning, governance and investment in addressing the challenges and opportunities related to migration. Within the development sector also, migration is yet to attain significant space. This is especially critical now when dialogues around the post-2015 agenda are being formulated.

Given the growing relevance of migration in the development agenda CARE EMPHASIS organized a two days Regional Consultation on Migration on 30-31st of July, 2013 in New Delhi, India. A diverse range of speakers and stakeholders from governments, UN agencies, civil society, universities, research institutions, policy makers, media, I/NGOs and networks participated in the event. The event was observed as an opportunity to bring together diverse perspectives and experiences around migration discourse in South Asia.

The two days event has proven to be instrumental in creating a space for collective dialogues around the issues of innovation, challenges and opportunities around migration. Theoretical perspectives, intellectual ideas, existing policy analysis, experiences from migrants, and experiences from development organizations and governments were instrumental in striking a balance between theory and practice.

Key Messages from the Consultation:


1. Migration of people across international borders affects economic growth and social welfare in both sending and receiving countries. Despite this, migration has been largely absent from the development discourse. There is an urgent need to promote a more informed and committed dialogue about migration and development – and the intersection between HIV vulnerability and migration – within and beyond the Millennium Development Goals.

2. Following on, there is need for robust data to inform targeted programming and advocacy. This includes data not only about which populations are ‘at risk’ or ‘high risk’ but also which provinces and states at source and destination have the highest HIV prevalence (and why). In the South Asia context data is often skewed due to gaps in the methodology by which data are collected. For example, in most cases, paid labour and unpaid labour are clubbed together in the case of women, generating inflated and thus unreliable findings. In addition, little is known about the impacts of migration on caste and other minority populations.

3. In terms of Governance, there was a strong push to focus on the social cost of migration and for states to formulate strong policies and systems of social protection that address migrants and their families. States must deal with internal, external and inward migration (from neighbouring countries). Coordination between separate Government departments is critical to ensure migrants’ rights and protection. With respect to workers rights, the argument was made for Governments to intervene and set the agenda for businesses through collective bargaining.

4. Migration is fraught with risk. Migrants are subject to exploitation (e.g. abuse and fraud in the recruitment-process, poor working conditions and low pay; discrimination; the psychosocial stress that arises from being dislocated from family and familiar rituals; and vulnerability to HIV. Women migrants are particularly vulnerable to these factors and also to the risk of being sold by agencies; of sexual trafficking and associated physical and sexual abuse; and of subversion within highly patriarchal norms of employment.

5. The notion of ‘protecting women’ by restricting their right to mobility and safe work is unhelpful and perpetuates patriarchal norms and attitudes. Instead governments, international agencies and civil society organisations should work hand-in-hand to lobby for the protection of women’s rights. Indeed viewing migration through a ‘rights and justice’ lens and trusting in the agency of migrants opens up new possibilities for programming with men and women migrants alike as well as opportunities to advocate for decent employment and a living wage (rather than a minimum wage); safe passage that is free of harassment and de-linked from HIV status; and for access to basic services.

6. Remittances: There is a need to provide greater access to banks and better financial innovation for migrants. To keep pace with the increase in demand for sending remittances, there is an urgent need to expand formal channels to reduce the risks of illegal money transfer. Finally, while it is true that migrants do send back significant amounts of money as remittances to their home countries, it is essential to examine how productively it is used.

7. EMPHASIS began primarily as an HIV/AIDS project, focusing on migrants who leave their homes to seek work in India. The project design included a learning agenda, and its story is not only about what the project set out to do and how it is doing, but also about how it has catalysed change in ways that were not initially envisaged at the design phase. Since its inception, EMPHASIS has demonstrated that it is possible to establish a responsive chain of partnerships along migration corridors; to provide HIV and other services for cross border migrants throughout the mobility continuum; and to do this in ways that empower women and girls and facilitate cross border referrals. The challenge now for EMPHASIS is (1) to elaborate the model (what works and why); (2) to describe how to scale up (and what that would require); and (3) to describe how to sustain the work through strengthening linkages to national programs and civil society organisations.


Session Highlights:


The opening session saw an overview of the progress that EMPHASIS and CARE have made in addressing issues around migration.Dr. Muhammad Musa, CARE India (CEO and Country Director) began by outlining the contributions of migrants to source and destination countries’ economies and highlighting the challenges faced by them. He highlighted EMPHASIS as good program to address vulnerabilities related to migrants and shared EMPHASIS model on ART linkages and expressed hope for scale-up. Other speakers, in the panel, included Mr. Prabodh Devkota, CARE EMPHASIS, Senior Regional Project Director and Mr. Oussama Tawil, Country Coordinator, UNAIDS, India. Mr Devkota said that as the entire migration structure is controlled by patriarchy; it is extremely important to put systems and structures to ensure that female migrants lead a dignified life within the continuum of mobility. While sharing about EMPHASIS, he said that, “EMPHASIS is one of the few projects globally that has cultivated knowledge, experiences and learning in the continuum of mobility- covering source, transit and destination.” He also stressed on the need for effective governance in ensuring migrants’ rights and for states to formulate effective policies for social protection of migrants and their families. Finally, Mr. Tawil shared about UNAIDS perspectives on migration and he also reinforced that EMPHASIS being a unique initiative, its learning could be useful at national, regional and global levels.

Dr. Aradhana Johri, Additional Secretary, Department of AIDS Control, India in her opening address gave an overview of the linkages between HIV and migration. She went on to explain NACO’s role and activities and urged on the need for a global dialogue about migrants and HIV; she reiterated that migration is missing from the MDG and post-MDG conversation and stressed that it is our responsibility to generate evidence that this should be a priority item on the agenda. She also provided suggestions to the EMPHASIS team and cautioned on ‘not chasing treatment but urging prevention’.


The next session focused on issues and challenges related to migration. The session focused on providing an understanding of the policy environment in countries in the region and identifying existing schemes for support to migrants and opportunities for regional collaboration. The session was chaired by Dr. Bal Krishna Subedi, Director, National Center for AIDS and STD Control, Nepal; and the panelists included Mr. Krishna Hari Puskar, Director General, Department of Labour, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Govt. of Nepal; Dr. Tina Kuriakose, Head Research Division, India Centre for Migration, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Dr. Rebecca Tavares, UN Women Representative for Indian, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka; and Dr. Irudaya Rajan from the Centre for Development Studies in Kerala, India.


Session two also focused also focused on highlighting and addressing issues and challenges faced by migrant groups and provided a space to migrant networks and grassroots organizations from across the region to share their views. The session also saw representation by Ms. Maya Gurung, a migrant from Nepal and a counsellor at EMPHASIS Drop-in-Centre. The session was chaired by Ms. Marta Vallejo-Mestres, UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Centre.


Session three on Migration, Health and HIV Response, was focused on developing an understanding of both national and regional strategies to address HIV/AIDS among marginalized communities especially migrants; identifying good practices for promoting access to HIV/AIDS and health services for migrant communities (through the continuum of mobility); and understanding the role of UN agencies to strengthen national responses to HIV/AIDS and promote regional collaboration. Panelists included Dr. Bal Krishna Subedi, Director, National Center for AIDS and STD Control, Nepal; Mr. Subash Chandra Ghosh, NACO, India; Dr. Tasnim Azim, Director, Centre for HIV and AIDS and the Head of the Virology Laboratory at ICDDR, B, Bangladesh and Mr. Oussama Tawil, UNAIDS. The session was chaired by Shri Lov Verma, Director General, NACO, India.


Session Four looked at opportunities for scaling up innovative good practices emerging from EMPHASIS and other migration projects in the region. Speakers included Mr. Nabesh Bohidar, CARE EMPHASIS, India Team Leader, Mr. Ashok Bharti, Chairperson, National Confederation of Dalit Organizations and Ms. Nishat Chowdhury, IOM, Bangladesh. The session was chaired by Mr. Lex Kassenberg, CARE Nepal, Country Director.


The session on Migration and Gender aimed to identify specific challenges that render women migrants vulnerable along the continuum of mobility; and to identify national level and regional practices / initiatives to protect the rights and entitlements of women migrant workers. Speakers included Ms. Indrani Majumdar, Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), India who shared findings from the Centre’s research study on internal women migrants in India and their role in the labour market. Other speakers included Ms. Manju Gurung from Pourakhi, Nepal, Ms. Seeta Sharma from ILO, India, Ms. Sumaiya Islam, Executive Director of Ovibashi Mohila Sramik Association, Bangladesh and Ms. Smita Mitra, UN Women, South Asia. The session was chaired by Dr. Tasnim Azim, ICCDR,B.


 The session on Migration and Regional Collaboration focused on providing an overview of the current global debate on migration and development; regional initiatives on migration and learning from good practices on regional collaboration and advocacy in the region. The session was chaired by Professor Binod Khadria from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India and speakers included Ms. Nishat Chowdhry who (on behalf of Mr. Jaime Calderon, Regional Migration Health Advisor for IOM) provided an overview of the support provided by IOM to Governments to develop national migration frameworks and strengthen migration management systems. Ms. Marta Mestres,UNDP, Mr. Christian Wolff from the South Asia Regional Office of Dan Church Aid, and Professor Ranabir Samaddar from the Calcutta Research Group, India were the other panelists in the session.


The last session of the consultation focused on financial inclusion and development and focused on understanding how migrants contribute to economic development of destination countries and identifying the challenges migrants face in accessing financial services at destination. Also in identifying the role of source countries in facilitating remittances and exploring the rights of migrants as workers and the role of employers in ensuring decent work conditions for workers. Speakers included Ms. Poorna Bhattacharjee from the International Finance Corporation (IFC); Mr. Kiran Shetty, Regional Vice-President and Managing Director, Western Union and Mr. Pooran Pandey from the UN Global Compact Network, India. The session was chaired by Mr. Satish Raj Pandey, Country Director, FHI 360, Nepal.

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