“You Are Not Alone” project meets communication, information needs of migrants in Asia Pacific

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“You Are Not Alone” project meets communication, information needs of migrants in Asia Pacific

WACC has launched the “You Are Not Alone” project in partnership with the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) and co-funder the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to empower migrants in the region at risk of human trafficking and exploitation to advance their communication and other human rights.

Economic and social crises in many low-income countries in the Asia Pacific region drive people to find work abroad. Various factors, including lax policies and a lack of access to information, render people on the move vulnerable to exploitation, especially human trafficking. Migrant women are particularly at risk.

Of the 21 million people subjected to forced labor worldwide, a staggering 11 million can be found in the Asia Pacific region. The Covid-19 pandemic exposed cracks in a system that thrives on the vulnerability of migrants, further exacerbating issues of abuse, violence, overwork, non-payment of wages, and discrimination. Many of the estimated 40 million individuals trafficked globally in 2020 came from Asia-Pacific countries.

Barriers to communication

Past projects carried out by WACC and its partners in the region have shown that migrants face significant information and communication challenges. They often have limited access to accurate information about basic services or their legal status and rights, and find it difficult to access affordable mobile communication.

Public narratives are increasingly xenophobic, reinforcing stereotypes and a perception of migrants as second-class citizens. Despite being at the center of such discourse, migrants have little chance to shape the conversation and share their experiences, concerns, and hopes.

In addition, people on the move often feel isolated in their new countries, especially when they are not able to access communication networks to connect with family and friends.

Migrant-led community of care and protection

“You are not Alone” aims to respond to these barriers to communication and information by establishing a multi-media network of migrant citizen journalists in sending and receiving countries across Asia Pacific, says Lorenzo Vargas, WACC Communication for Social Change program manager.

“This network hopes to serve as an online community of community of care and protection, for migrants and by migrants,” he says.

Long-time WACC partner APMM, a regional leader in promoting migrants’ rights for four decades, is engaging its network of grassroots migrant organizations, migrant rights’ advocates, service providers, and faith-based organizations in the three-year project, which is focusing on Cambodian, Filipino, Indonesian, and Nepalese migrants in countries of origin and destination.

Vargas notes that the project builds on recommendations generated from the International Conference on “Migration and Human Trafficking Crisis in Asia” co-organized by the ELCA in Cambodia in 2019.

Migrant voices at the center

At the core of the “You Are Now Alone” project is the development of digital tools and platforms to raise awareness of migrants’ rights, inform about migration and trafficking, and highlight experiences and best practices.

By strengthening cooperation among migrant organizations, faith-based groups, and advocates, the project seeks to create safe space for empowerment and capacity development, according to Vargas.

“’You Are Not Alone’ is placing migrants’ voices and leadership at the center.”

Ultimately, the “You Are Not Alone” project wants to ensure that people and communities at risk of human trafficking and exploitation in the Asia Pacific region have access to accurate, culturally relevant, and time-sensitive information about their rights and access to services.

And it aims to provide people on the move with a true community online that they can turn to for guidance and support.

“WACC and the ELCA are committed to enabling migrants to have a public voice and contribute to decision-making at all levels that shapes a more just and equitable society,” Vargas says.

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with APMM to meet the communication and information needs of communities at risk of human trafficking and exploitation in Asia Pacific.”

Arni (left), helps Siyamisuraman fill out administrative papers. The Indonesian women are migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong. Photo: Paul Jeffrey/Life on Earth