When I recently traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I spoke with several government officials in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs who told me about the many problems encountered by their migrant workers in the Middle East. As more Ethiopians, especially women, have been migrating to the Middle East as domestic workers, the embassies and consulates have received many complaints about false contracts being issued, passports of their nationals being taken away by their employers, and abuses in the work place. In order to tackle these problems, the government created the Overseas Employment Service, which is modeled after the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration.
Similar to the Philippines, the office regulates the private recruitment agencies to ensure that the migrants are not signing false contracts. All private recruitment agencies are required to obtain a 300 Birr (USD$30) license from the Ministry to recruit workers for one year (renewable), report the status of their workers, and are subject to auditing by the office to ensure that the workers are not being cheated by the agencies or their employers abroad. The office also provides pre-departure orientation seminars to educate Ethiopians about the rules of their employment contracts, how to send remittances, and the culture and work conditions in the destination country. This three hour orientation is conducted in the Ministry offices in Addis Ababa and the government has started 3 years ago to make it mandatory for those departing the country on overseas contracts.
The management of migration is an issue that cannot be ignored--by both the migrant destination and sending countries. I think that the Ethiopian government's decision to tackle this problem by regulating the recruitment industry and providing services to their migrants is something that all migrant sending governments should consider doing. Of course, every country will vary on the type of services they will need provide depending on the destination countries and demographics of their migrants, but they should do something so that migrants won't feel stranded and helpless when they are abroad.