Romain Gustot, Project Officer and Regional Coordinator for the EU Neighbourhood, reflects on his recent mission to Minsk and the MIEUX Action supporting the government of Belarus on labour migration.
MIEUX: Could you tell us what is the relation between EU and Belarus in term of migration management and what is the significance of this Action in improving it?
Because of its economic and political nature, labour migration can bring countries and communities closer together if it is well defined and regulated. Belarus lies between two regional integration blocks, the European Union (EU) in the West and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the East. However, Belarus is party to CIS conventions for cooperation in the field of labour migration but not to any European or international conventions on the protection of the rights of migrant workers.
In order to improve cooperation on all areas related to mobility, Belarus and the EU signed a Joint Declaration on a Mobility Partnership in October 2016 (see below about MPF's event). Under this broader umbrella, Belarus requested MIEUX’s assistance to study the experience of the EU member states in determining the role of international conventions on migrant workers and the feasibility of joining them. Several ILO Conventions on migrant workers were studied in great details by an ad-hoc working group, headed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) as main partner authority, which conducted a comparative analysis with the existing Belarus legislation.
They found and agreed on several areas of potential improvements for the Belarussian legislation and for the relation with the EU Member States, such as: extending the coverage and rights to family members of migrants workers; signing bilateral agreements with countries popular with Belarusian citizens (Poland, Germany, US, Canada); and appointing labour attaches at consulates or embassies.
We presented these recommendations for improvements of labour migration management in Belarus in June to a wider audience, composed of high-level representatives from various Ministries. During this closing activity, the Head of the EU Delegation to Belarus, Andrea Wiktorin, mentioned that labour migration is the most important issue related to mobility both for Belarus and the EU countries and that the ILO’s conventions are the framework necessary to address issues in this area.
MIEUX: As this is the closing event, could you tell us what are the next steps for the cooperation between Belarus and the EU?
This MIEUX Action allowed us to build bridges between the EU and most stakeholders involved in labour migration management, including key Ministries, employment agencies and actors of the civil society working directly with migrants on a daily basis. This working relationship will last and exchanges of good practices will continue in order to continue adapting the legislation, policies and strategies to changing needs and the evolving political context on both sides.
The support provided during these two years was also crucial in connecting these national and local entities together by establishing a multi-stakeholder working group who has worked very closely to develop the main deliverable "Analytical Report: Legislation on External Labour Migration". Being involved in this Action, I am glad to notice an evolution in the way that individuals share information. Compared to how it was when we started, now we see a team working together towards the same goal: to improve labour migration management for the country and for migrants.
One of the successes of this Action is that several members of this informal working group will now be part of the official High-Level Working Group in charge of developing a comprehensive National Migration Strategy, of which labour migration will be an integral part.
MIEUX: Many stakeholders are involved but could you tell us specifically how this Action is beneficial for the population and for migrants themselves?
Economic migration flows are important between the EU and CIS countries, including through Belarus as a country of origin, transit and destination. The labour market in Belarus is in demand
If the recommendations and guidelines included in the Analytical Report by the working group, are followed and implemented, it will mean that Belarus provides international standards regulation to migrant workers from the EU and that Belarussians coming to work in the EU or elsewhere will be granted stronger rights and more sustainable assistance. This will help guarantee that human rights international standards are written into law and respected both for foreigners in Belarus and Belarussians abroad
MIEUX Reflections is an ongoing series that provides a space where our Project Staff can share their insights on their recent missions.
On any given week, a member of the MIEUX team, together with a group of experts, can be deployed around the world to support EU partner countries in reviewing, transforming and reinforcing their migration policies. These missions provide opportunities to interact with the full range of local, regional and/or national actors that are involved in MIEUX’s activities.
Once on the ground, the many months of preparation come alive, inspiring the Project Staff to go forward and apply Lessons Learnt into new activities.