Migrant Resource Centers in Pakistan

Numan Fayaz applied to work abroad through a friend’s travel agent. Upon meeting with the agent, he demanded Rs. 130,000 from Numan straight up for processing his documents. After he arranged for the money with difficulty, he was told by the same agent to come again at a later date having completed his medical checkup. On the proposed date, there was no sign of the travel agent—he had disappeared with the money.
Luckily, sometime later Numan chanced upon a Migrant Resource Center at an emigration expo where he received information that travel agents have to be licensed and have to have a proper office.
Numan is one of the thousands of Pakistanis that seek employment abroad. With the help of the MRC’s, which are located near public transport stations for ease of access, potential migrants have a higher chance of reaching their desired stations safely. To ensure uninterrupted access, The Ministry of overseas Pakistanis has launched an online complaint center where the MRC staff can promptly address the concerns of potential migrants.
Nearly 8.4 million Pakistani workers went abroad for employment between 1971 and 2015 in hopes of a better standard of living. However, for most of these migrants, life did not necessarily change for the better.
In Pakistan, the desire to settle abroad or to work abroad and send money home is contingent on higher pay scales offered in developed countries. However, most potential migrants have little or no knowledge on the legal process of emigration and/or the value of their skill sets in other countries. Most potential migrants rarely make it to their desired destination because of under the table dealings with swindlers posing as travel agents. Those who do make it abroad usually end up getting exploited because they lack guidance and knowledge of how to earn work through proper channels. According to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, illegal migrations from Pakistan happen mainly towards Europe. There, migrants are hoodwinked into fraudulent deals which results in deportation, living in sub-human standards and detaining of their passports.

To counter these problems, the Government of Pakistan, with the aid of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Union (EU) and the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), has developed Migrant Resource Centers in Islamabad and Lahore. The purpose of these centers is to create awareness for those who want to migrate to other countries in search of jobs and then to look after them in settling into their new lives including checking on their families which are left behind.
The ultimate aim of this EU funded project is to ensure that migrants reach their desired destination safely and legally and are able to then send back home enough money to take care of their families.

Fact Box

- Potential migrants can check whether travel agencies are authentic or not on the Government of Pakistan’s Emigration Bureau website, where there is a list of all licensed travel agents/promoters.
- People in search for advice can walk into the centers, set up an appointment with a counselor or schedule a skype session if they are not in the city.
- MRC conducts sessions in educational centers and vocational training centers
- A pre departure orientation is made mandatory for potential migrants who have found job placements abroad through the MRC’s.
- The two centers launched in Islamabad (under the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human resource development) and Lahore (under the Department of Labor, Punjab) are pilots part of a larger plan to develop MRC’s across Pakistan

“I regret I hadn’t heard of them [MRC’s] before, or I’d have come to them and not gone through a fraudulent agent which caused so much tension”—Numan Fayaz

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