Increasing role for business in shaping human mobility agenda

Since the onset of the war in Ukraine, Palanca in Moldova, located 60 km from the Port of Odessa, has been the first stop and resting point for tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Ukraine. Photo: UNDP Moldova

As refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine started to arrive in Moldova, the Orange telecommunications company set up Wi-Fi spots at borders and reception centres to provide free connectivity. Ukrainians and third-country nationals were able to access government information, find accommodation and reach family members.

The private sector in Moldova has had a successful past record in engaging with the government on migration and being open to hiring migrants to fill gaps in staffing. Businesses were able to quickly adapt as the Ukrainian crisis unfolded, identifying employment opportunities and matching them with refugees based on their skills.

“We customized our recruitment to be able to hire the Ukrainians and provide them with an income,” said Ms. Surugiu, CEO of the Orange in Moldova. “The next step is organizing a summer camp for the Ukrainian children. It all contributes to their inclusion.”

The UNDP Resident Representative to Moldova, Ms. Dima Al-Khatib said, “Businesses have made over 1,000 jobs available for Ukrainians of which 400 vacancies have been filled to date. The private sector has contributed to an unprecedented mobilization of support.” UNDP and partners can play a role in fostering these efforts further.

More than 460,000 refugees from Ukraine crossed into Moldova between the start of the conflict and the end of May. Photos: UNDP Moldova

Private companies augmenting State efforts

The role of the private sector in harnessing the potential of migrants to contribute to more prosperous, more resilient societies was highlighted in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the 2018 intergovernmental agreement on a common approach towards international migration.

Among its wide-ranging recommendations, the Compact calls for broad partnerships to work together on migration, including the private sector, governments, parliamentarians, trade unions, local communities, migrants and diasporas.

To review the impact of turning the Compact’s rhetoric into meaningful action, the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) took place in New York in May. On the side-lines of the Forum, UNDP held an event on the role of the private sector in the integration of immigrants and the reintegration of returnees.

Companies can offer more than jobs

Gary Slaiman is an advisor to Talent Beyond Boundaries in the United States, which connects forcibly displaced people with companies. “Business is critical in integrating migrants. Coming to a new place and already being part of a work family allows you the chance to grow into the wider community,” he said. The private sector, he says, can also help find visas, accommodation and language classes.

In the towns of Puebla and Mexicali, in Mexico, an online platform supported by UNDP matches migrants looking for work with employers looking to recruit. The government can also develop targeted help with data from the platform for the most vulnerable and promote social cohesion.

The towns of Puebla (left) and Mexicali (right). In 2021 Mexico recorded the third highest number of asylum claims globally. Photos: Shutterstock

“This digital platform has opened our eyes to the importance of the private sector,” said Rodrigo Terán, President of the Mexicali Chapter of CANIRAC, a chamber of commerce for the catering industry. As well as offering job opportunities to migrants, business can facilitate the processing of work permits so migrants can access jobs as soon as possible. “The private sector has the power to make this happen,” he said.

In Tunisia, the insurance company Maghrebia faced a high turnover of staff. It looked to immigrants as the best solution to fill the gaps, but the new employees faced challenges.

It is estimated that Tunisia has more than 60 thousand international migrants. Photo: Shutterstock

“We found that many of the migrants face language barriers, so we are working with partners to teach the Tunisian dialect,” said Ms. Jihen Zgouli, a marketing director at the company. “We also learnt that migrants don’t have access to health insurance so we are developing special health insurance for them,” she said.

Most migrants from the Philippines are women. The number of female migrants returning to the Philippines reached nearly 800,000 by the end of December 2020 due to to COVID-19 pandemic, according to the government’s statistics. Those returning faced challenges when they arrived in the Philippines, with their length of unemployment averaging three months.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced almost 800,000 mostly female migrants to return to the Philippines by the end of 2020. Photos: UNDP Philippines (left), Shutterstock (right)

“Reintegration needs engagement from national and local governments, NGOs and the private sector,” said Ms. Estrella Mai Dizon-Anonuevo, Chairperson of Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiatives Inc. Atikha worked with the private sector to provide training and mentoring to returnees to help them develop entrepreneurial skills and start their own businesses.

“Migrants are looking at employment and business opportunities that will enable them to come back home for good. They need partnership from the private sector because they don’t know what it takes to be an entrepreneur,” said Ms. Mai.

Businesses, chambers of commerce, employer-employee associations and regional economic commissions can help migrants join the workforce, advance legal policies, leverage supply chains, create training opportunities and advocate for the benefits of integration. Building on this progress, further collaboration can reduce risks and increase payoffs of human mobility.

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