“The challenges in the 21st century of overcoming vulnerabilities like irregular migration, trafficking and exploitation of migrant workers can be addressed through the effective use of technology and information sharing.”
“The digital transformation that Myanmar has achieved in terms of high levels of smartphone usage and social media tools are to be taken as an advantage to disseminate the right information on safe, secure and orderly migration”
These were the central messages at the colorful launch ceremony of the IOM-X campaign on safe migration in Yangon on 3rd July 2018, in the presence of senior functionaries from the Department Of Labour, Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population (MOLIP), IOM, USAID and other donor agencies and CSOs working on issues of migration.
The emphasis of the campaign has been on harnessing the technological leapfrog that Myanmar has achieved to enhance awareness and understanding among migrants and potential migrants on how to ensure safe, secure and orderly migration to the neighboring countries so that poor people would not become victims of irregular migration, exploitation and human trafficking. With over 4.25 million population accounted as international labour migrants as per 2014 census, migration is critical for Myanmar’s economy and society . Increasing trends of internal migration to cities also points out that Myanmar society is highly mobile and it is important that people have right information so that they do not become victims of exploitative processes.
As part of the South-East Asia regional campaign, IOM-X has released series of eight public interest informational videos that provide positive messages on the migration as a process to be undertaken with appropriate and right information. The overarching objective of the public campaign is to ensure that migration can be seen as a positive experience for those who undertake and for those families who are left behind, and for the country as a whole. These short human interest video stories, interwoven with an explanation on the steps, processes and benefits of migration brings out vividly how significant it is the right and relevant information on the process so that the potential migrants do not face adverse circumstances. IOM-X digital campaign has also introduced MissMigration facebook page and chatbot application which directs visitors to reliable information on migration online.
Inaugurating the event, the Director-General of the Department of Labour, Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, U win Shein pointed out that “efforts of the governments to ensure safe migration need to be complemented by information dissemination by CSOs and others working in this sector. The role played by agencies like IOM is significant in this, as they are supporting the government in information dissemination and setting up migration resource centres across the country. The right information would enable migrants to avoid exploitation and they would be able to approach relevant authorities in case they face any problems in the destination country. Pointing out that the labour exchange offices are providing identity cards for the migrants, he emphasized the need to give information to potential migrants so that they follow right kind of procedures and legal means and are not tempted to take up irregular migration. The focus of information campaign has to be on the consequences of irregular migration so that migrants would be able to identify right kind of channels for migration. Migrant resource centres established in collaboration with IOM are important in terms of providing off-line information for potential migrants.
Emphasizing the fact that digital transformation that Myanmar has undergone in the past five years as dramatic, IOM Chief of Mission in Myanmar, Akio Nakayama pointed out that harnessing technology for the betterment of migrant workers is important as it would ensure minimizing negative consequences of migration, particularly of irregular migration, trafficking and exploitation of workers. Smartphones and social media applications like Facebook are found to be most popular among citizens of Myanmar, including migrants and information relevant and appropriate can be reached to them in real time through such technology. This is important to ensure that right process is followed by potential migrants and also grievance redressal mechanisms can be taken up in case migrants face any problems in the destination country. IOMs mandate of protection of migrants and preparation of potential migrants can be achieved through digital platforms and campaigns like IOMX which would amplify and widely disseminate such information. It is important to acknowledge the potential of the use of big data analytics, payment apps for remittances and such technology as the future trends in the digital ecosystem and these need to be used for public policies and for a ensuring positive experiences of migration for the citizens. Support for ICT4D as a concept is growing and Myanmar is on the threshold of adopting these measures.
Elaborating on the IOM-X regional campaign, Tara Dermott, Program leader of IOM-X Myanmar campaign pointed out the need for public action to stop exploitation and human trafficking. Working closely with the communities and ensuring that they receive appropriate information on migration becomes important for government, CSOs and other donors so that it becomes a safe experience for all. For this, digital technology can be of great help as it can be tailor-made to the needs of the potential migrants and it can ensure the right information at right time for the right purpose. In Myanmar, current levels of understanding and awareness on process of migration is very low among the potential migrants and this creates a situation of risky irregular migration, exploitation and trafficking. The video campaign of IOM-X intends to behavior change so that potential migrants would be able to understand the value of safe and secure migration process. The combination of “Media + technology would ensure positive impact on migration”.
Aspects like debt-bondage relationships, cheating by agents, denial of basic rights of workers, need for safe and secure remittance services are important messages that these public interest videos convey in order to educate and inform potential migrants so that they can take right decisions. Use of technology-based applications to ensure the rights of workers and their entitlements is emphasized by Ohnmar Ei Ei Shaw, country director of Issra Institute, which is working with the Myanmar migrant communities at the Myanmar –Thailand border.
Emphasising the role of communication and information, Michiko Ito, Program Manager of Labour Mobility and Human Development, IOM pointed out that “ in the migration process, it is the people who are important and their welfare and the wellbeing of their families become critical” and hence safe and secure migration is of paramount concern for the country as a whole. All efforts need to be made by the government, CSOs and donors to ensure that migration process is devoid of exploitation and create vulnerable situations to workers and families. In this process, technology can make a significant difference in the way information is shared, received and processed. Real-time, reliable and concrete information can be accessed. At the same time, it is important to retain community engagement and contact with the migrants and their families so that confidence and trust in the online information can be further enhanced. IOM supported migration resource centres play that role of providing off-line counselling and information sharing with the potential migrants in various labour exchange offices.
IOM-X needs wider support from all stakeholders including government, CSOs, media and donor community so that it becomes a popular campaign that would change public attitude towards migration. Use of television, social media for wider dissemination of information on safe migration is critical as it would ensure the aspiring youth to make informed decisions and legal steps in relation to migration. The era of irregular migration hopefully would become a thing of the past in Myanmar.