Mining outside Johannesburg, South Africa ©IOM

Over half of all international migrants are migrant workers.

Despite the wealth of potential benefits safe and regular labour migration offers both migrants and employers, workers continue to face vulnerabilities in the workplace. Many migrant mineworkers for example face both a  challenging working environment and wider systemic issues. They often live apart from their families for months or years in cramped ‘hostels’ with their co-workers, with limited airflow. They are vulnerable to diseases like tuberculosis, silicosis, and HIV. Compounding this, many are unable to access earned social benefits and programmes, including pensions, compensation and essential reintegration support.

Moises is a former Mozambican migrant mineworker who, once he had returned to Mozambique, decided to do something to change this decades-old system. After working for many years in mines in South Africa, he struggled to access pension funds that he had contributed to while abroad. Moises decided to work towards helping migrant mineworkers claim their employment rights. He and some colleagues then decided to set up the Association of Mozambican Mineworkers (AMIMO) to inform others of their rights and the services available to them. The also began advocating with different stakeholders to change the mechanisms which were preventing individuals and communities in countries of origin from benefitting from the work being done abroad.

Moises (centre) and other members of AMIMO ©IOM

Demonstrating how employment interventions can take migration considerations into account to enhance development outcomes, the EU-funded project 'Mainstreaming Migration into International Cooperation and Development' (MMICD project) developed a video that serves as both a training and outreach tool to showcase this #MigrationConnection. To show what this means in practice for people and communities, the video highlights the work of AMIMO, under the project, “Voices from the Underground.”

“The Voices from the Underground Project has helped a lot the Association, the mining communities, and the region.”

Moises, President of the Mozambican Mineworkers Association

The “Voices from the Underground” project focused on protecting the rights of migrant mineworkers by strengthening the knowledge, organizational and technical capacities of human rights defenders, including AMIMO. The project had three components: (1) institutional capacity-building for AMIMO; (2) facilitating legal services and counselling for mine workers and their families with Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and, (3) advocacy and communications at the national and regional levels to spur dialogue with stakeholders and inform beneficiaries of their rights.

Moises in discussion with a local mineworker. ©IOM

“The mineworkers manage to educate their children through their migration results. The remittances that are sent by the migrants are very significant in the GDP of the country.”

Moises, President of the Mozambican Mineworkers Association

Migrant workers can make an important contribution to sustainable development and to economic growth if their human rights and their rights as workers are protected and if they can access decent employment and work under safe conditions.

Target 8.8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls on governments and employers to protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers and those in precarious employment. As we enter the “Decade of Action”, it is essential that the rights of migrant workers are upheld in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

Former mine in South Africa. ©IOM