ETI is delighted to have been awarded a grant from the Home Office’s Modern Slavery Innovation Fund.
The Home Office’s anti-slavery award will fund a two-year ETI project helping vulnerable migrant workers in Malaysia access support and advice and seek remedy where they have suffered abuse. It will also seek to establish a set of Access to Remedy principles, to be endorsed by leading businesses and applied globally within their supply chains.
Specifically, ETI will:
- Set up and pilot an online technology platform that allows migrant workers in Malaysia to seek advice and support, report exploitation and access remedy.
- Work with businesses worldwide to improve policies and processes around remedy in their global supply chains – focused on migrant workers who are subject to exploitation.
As we explained in a previous blog, ETI has become increasingly concerned about the abuse of migrant workers in Malaysia. Allegations around violation of rights have been steadily growing. These include unsafe working conditions and low pay as well as charges of debt bondage and modern slavery.
Malaysia, a key sourcing market
Malaysia is a key sourcing market for international companies, including many UK brands. It also manufactures goods such as rubber gloves and condoms that are to be found in UK hospitals and clinics. But Malaysia is heavily reliant on migrant labour from its poorer neighbours, and these workers are often abused and exploited.
Owain Johnstone, ETI’s Modern Slavery Advisor said: “Migrant workers are often subject to modern slavery because those with power – often governments and employers – exploit their vulnerability.”
It is easy for migrant workers to slip into slavery and bondage. Many, if not most, pay recruitment fees to secure their jobs, incurring heavy debts. Few have contracts or know their rights at work. They often live in appalling accommodation, are not paid properly and work extremely long hours. Others have their passports confiscated.
“Migrant workers are far from home, do not speak the local language and do not know who to trust. They are too scared of losing their job to make a complaint,” commented Owain Johnstone.
Cindy Berman is ETI’s Head of Modern Slavery. She said: “There is an urgent need to find ways to give migrant workers more agency to advocate for improved living and working conditions. This funding will help us pilot a new platform to do just that – designed in collaboration with the workers themselves."
Cindy Berman continued: “Unlike other ‘worker voice’ tools that are often funded and designed by companies, this aims to get around the biggest challenge of finding something that workers themselves trust – which is particularly difficult when it comes to supporting hard-to-reach, vulnerable migrant workers.”
Modern Slavery Innovation Fund
The Home Office’s Modern Slavery Innovation Fund supports innovative projects around the world. Its aim is to complement work being done within the UK, helping to stop people falling into slavery in the first place.
Speaking about the awards, the UK Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins confirmed that human trafficking, forced labour and exploitation are not evils of the past but are with us today. She said: “The government is committed to stamping out the horrific crime of modern slavery wherever it exists on the globe. The projects being funded today … will safeguard some of the most vulnerable people on the planet and drive innovation to tackle the scourge of modern slavery.”
ETI is one of six organisations being supported under the current round of aid funding which totals £4 million. As well as ETI’s work in Malaysia, the Home Office is funding, amongst others, projects that protect vulnerable girls from trafficking in Ethiopia, that improve care standards for victims of modern slavery in Nepal and that train South African agricultural businesses to mitigate risks on farms.