Hesperian Health Guides

Learn about migrating before you leave

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HealthWiki > Workers' Guide to Health and Safety > Chapter 23: Workers who migrate > Learn about migrating before you leave

To better prepare for the challenges ahead, find out ahead of time what to expect while traveling and then arriving in your new city or country. If your arrangements are being made by another person, find out as much as you can about what is being planned. If possible, ask for a written agreement and leave a copy with your family or friends at home. Learn about migration and work laws, culture and behaviors, and how they might affect you. Ask about what is important to bring with you and what should be left behind for safe-keeping.

Recruiters and smugglers

Recruiters work for the large export factories that need workers. They charge the worker to get her a job, and charge the owner to find workers. Recruiters sometimes work with smugglers, who move people from one country to another, usually without legal permission. Dishonest recruiters and smugglers often lie about the conditions of work or travel, saying it is much better than it really is. They might change their fees as soon as you leave home, and they might put you in dangerous situations.

Getting into debt to get a job

I was so excited to have a chance to work in a factory in Taiwan. The recruiter promised more than I could earn at home in the Philippines.

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I borrowed money from my family to pay the labor broker to take me to Taiwan. There, I was met by another recruiter who wanted even more money to get me work at a factory. I did not have much choice, so I agreed to pay him a little each week. Then I found out the factory also charges expensive room and board for the dormitory, deducts taxes, and withholds "savings" for when I finish my contract.

Each week after I pay the bills, I am left with little money to live on. I have to stay here and work until I can pay all that I owe. But it will take years to pay off this debt! I tell my sisters, brothers, cousins, and everyone back home to stay away from the labor recruiters. They promise a wonderful life but it is a lie.

ActivityGather information about recruiters

Sharing information helps protect people from dishonest recruiters.

  1. Ask other workers and their families about the recruiters and smugglers who work in your community:
    • Are they local or from other communities? Are they easy to find?
    • Who do they work for?
    • How are they paid?
    • How much do they charge the worker? The company?
    • What do they promise and what do they deliver?
    • Have they hurt or lost anybody?
    • Can they be trusted?
  2. Share information with others so that everyone in your community can make better decisions when choosing a recruiter.
  3. Make and post a list of recruiters who hurt or cheat workers.
3 people speaking in a group while a woman writes on a large sheet of paper.
Mr. Perez speaks like us, but he does not care about us. He promised a good paying job in the capital. But when my cousin got there, he took her to a crowded factory and said that she had to work there because she had signed a contract already.
My son went to the USA with Mrs. Fernandez. He says she got him a good job and didn’t charge more than we had agreed before he left.
Put a minus sign next to Mr. Perez, and a plus by Mrs. Fernandez. Does anyone else know more about them?

Collect information about migrating

If you or someone you know is planning on migrating, gather as much information as you can about your destination from people who have migrated or their families, community centers, churches, health centers, NGOs, and the Internet. This can help you anticipate and avoid problems.

1 man speaking to another in a studio where a sign reads, "Radio Realidad."
Tell us about your experience migrating north to find work.

Try to find out about:

  • jobs available in other parts of your country. Begin by asking in government offices, looking at newspapers, and talking to people. Maybe you do not have to migrate so far.
  • the real benefits and challenges of migrating, including working conditions, costs, income, dangers, and how long you might have to stay.
  • recruiters, traffickers, and employers, their honesty and helpfulness. Knowing what might be causes for concern can help you make better decisions. For instance, if the recruiter offers you a job that seems too good to be true, you should be cautious about accepting the job.
  • the destination city or country, including type of jobs available, working and living conditions for migrant workers, local customs, and language.
  • the process for travel to the destination country, fees to be paid, permits to be obtained, and waiting periods required.
  • how to get medical attention. Make a list of low-cost or free services that are available to migrant workers on the way and at your destination.
  • how to manage money, from opening a bank account and understanding basic banking processes, to learning how to save for the future, how to send money home, and how to help family members understand how you want them to use the money.
  • contact information for resources in the new country such as embassies, migrant groups, unions, and human rights groups. Memorize some phone numbers of family members or friends in case of emergency.