Report boosts migrant workers’ rights fight

The constant call by advocates for migrant workers to be granted access to permanent residence and settlement services has been given a boost in a new report, the first of its kind, Migrant Workers: Precarious and Unsupported.

The report was released by Canada’s nine national, regional and provincial umbrella of organizations serving newcomers and compiles responses from 167 organizations on needs and realities of migrant workers, by province and region.

Chris Ramsaroop of Justica For Migrant Workers in a comment on the report told The Camera that “Canada has reaped uncalculated benefits as a result of our migrant workers schemes.

“It is only fair that we shift away from our exclusive racist legislative regimes so that migrant workers are accorded the rights they rightly deserve. For 50 years, migrant workers have lived and worked under an apartheid system that has denied them their basic rights and freedoms. It’s time that the government listen to the voices of workers and their allies so that all communities are treated equally.”

The Canada-wide study on access to services for migrant workers confirms that lack of access to information, language barriers, isolation and precarious status make these workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by those who seek to take advantage of their vulnerability, including some employers and recruiters.

“Access to services is fundamental to ensuring that people in Canada are safe from abuse – yet most migrant workers don’t have this access,” said Loly Rico, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

“Access to permanent status is also key to protecting basic rights.”

The study findings are based on input and feedback from frontline workers in community organizations and from groups that work directly with migrant workers in communities across the country.

“The fact that ‘abuse and violation of rights’ continues to come up as a major concern with respect to migrant workers is deeply troubling” said Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“It is past time that migrant workers are allowed access to newcomer settlement as well as other services, but that they are also given the opportunity to access permanent residence if they choose.”

Stephan Reichhold, Table de Concertation des organismes au service des personnes Réfugiées et Immigrantes executive director, added that “year after year in settlement organizations we are seeing a growing demand for support and assistance to migrant workers and we again implore the Quebec government to make all migrant workers eligible for settlement support and language training.”

The study found that in many regions, community organizations that serve newcomers can only offer very limited services to migrant workers. While important information, much-needed support and resources are present in the community, they are not available to migrant workers, because of limitations on access placed by funders.

Immigrant workers targeted in the study are Temporary Foreign Worker Program (including caregivers) and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, which has been in existence for 50 years this year.Chris Ramsaroop