Islamabad-The government should play a proactive role for the protection of health rights of migrant workers especially diagnosed with HIV positive, experts said on Friday.

The consultative session on ‘Protection of HIV Positive Migrants’ Rights in the Pakistan’ was organised by Caram Asia in collaboration with Amal that was attended by representatives from civil society, media, federal and provincial governments, UNAIDS, and the youth.

The participants also stressed the need for integration of HIV and migration-related facilities and services in Pakistan and destination countries.

The panelists viewed that in the wake of globalization and fast economic growth in both developed and developing countries, the demand for affordable labor and migrant workers will continue to grow; countries like Pakistan will continue to supply workers to meet that demand, they said.

Regional cooperation among sending, transit and receiving countries is crucial in providing protection to the workers at various stages of migration such as pre-departure, post-arrival and reintegration.

Since Pakistan is considered one of the largest countries sending migrant workers abroad. For many of the poor in this region, migration for employment is a vital survival mechanism to support their families.

The Pakistan government promotes migration to overcome poverty and unemployment, and migrant workers not only financially support their families but contribute in the development of the country in several ways; most importantly by sending foreign remittances.

The total value of remittances received by Pakistan annually is estimated to be around $20 billion a year. However, their own rights, particularly health rights, are violated largely and they get deported if diagnosed with communicable diseases like hepatitis, HIV etc.

In most of the cases, migrant workers are not provided with health benefits like insurance in destination countries.

The obligation of protection of migrant workers’ rights rests equally on both the country sending them as well as those receiving them.

They urged the countries sending them to evolve protection mechanisms for their human resource and initiate dialogue with receiving countries to protect their citizens.

In a letter of demand to ministries, donor agencies, international organizations, and media, the participants expressed concerns about the plight of migrant workers , especially women, and recommended specific rights based actions that would contribute to the protection of migrant workers and minimize widespread abuse and violations that migrant workers experience with severe impact regularly.

They demanded the health ministry to recognise and implement the recommendations, including proactive role of ministry and relevant departments in protecting the worker’s rights particularly health rights collectively; lobby with Foreign Office and migration-related offices to review existing laws and policies regarding migration and health; develop rights-based regional framework to address the overall protection and well-being of labour migration; take commitments from foreign countries for protection of PLHIV migrant workers in respective countries.