ISLAMABAD: The momentous occasion of the official opening of the Pakistan’s first ever Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) in Islamabad was recently held in the presence of the government representatives, civil society, INGOs, NGOs and media. Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development has established this centre in collaboration with the ILO, EU and ICMPD.According to ILO press release, one of the most effective ways to combat common abuses of migrants such as underpayment of wages, confiscation of passports, substandard working conditions and confinement in the workplace is to ensure that migrants are equipped with knowledge and strategies to safeguard their labour and human rights throughout the migration cycle.While recognising this, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development established the Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) in Islamabad with the support from the ILO-EU funded “South Asia Labour Migration Governance Project (SALM)”, and the ICMPD-EU funded project “Silk Routes Partnership for Migration”.While MRCs already exists in other labour sending countries in South Asia, the centre in Islamabad is the first ever to be established in Pakistan. The MRC provides a range of support services to potential migrants, migrant workers and their families including information, counseling, referral and pre-departure orientation.The centre was inaugurated by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Secretary Khizer Hayat Khan along with the Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan HE Jean-François Cautain, Ambassador of Hungary to Pakistan HE István Szabó, International Labour Organisation Country Office for Pakistan Director Ingrid Christensen and, International Centre for Migration and Policy Development (ICMPD) Silk Routes Senior Regional Advisor Sedef Dearing.In his presentation on the MRC, Immigration Joint Secretary Manzoor Ahamd Kayani mentioned that “from 1971 till today about nine million Pakistanis have proceeded abroad for employment, mostly went to GCC countries. The majority of workers are low skilled workers and lack of information on safe migration, access to support mechanisms and justice add to their vulnerabilities and they face exploitation and abuse during recruitment and employment process”. He emphasised that “the main purpose of the MRC is to provide accurate and timely information on safe and legal migration, referral and counseling as well as raising awareness on irregular migration and the related serious risks”. International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Office for Pakistan Director Ingrid Christensen congratulated the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development for the successful establishment of the Migrant Resource Centre in Islamabad. In her speech, she stated, “The ILO is the only UN agency with a constitutional mandate to protect migrant workers. The ILO Constitution, which will be one hundred years old in the year 2019, speaks to the needs of protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, they should be treated as human beings not as a commodity”.She also said that the government should consider the ratification of international standards related to labour migration including the two ILO Conventions nos 97 and 143. She emphasised, “Partnership is a key to achieve tangible and sustainable results to promote safe migration and this MRC is a good example of an effective partnership”. ICMPD Silk Routes Senior Regional Advisor Sedef Dearing mentioned in her speech that, “These MRCs are an outcome of partnership of not only EU and ILO but also several other countries as well namely Bulgaria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom”.She recalled the series of events held under Budapest process, which resulted in decision to support the establishment of MRCs and mentioned that, “Providing the correct information to the right people is crucial when smugglers attempt to fill in the deficit of information. It is important that right skills are matched with the right jobs so that migrants and the countries of origin and destination make best use of these skills. Ambassador of Hungary to Pakistan HE István Szabó expressed his great pleasure to officially launch the MRC and congratulated the ministry and stakeholders. While talking at the event, he said, “People migrate in search of employment and study so that can contribute to the welfare of their families unfortunately the well-organised human smugglers and traffickers group take advantage of this and trap them by providing false information to the vulnerable migrants in order to mislead them and gain more profit without bothering about the future of their victims and their families”.In concluding his speech, he said that, “The MRCs in Islamabad will be a good source of information for potential migrants to get information on safe migration and consequences of irregular migration”.While addressing the inaugural event, Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan HE Jean-François Cautain said, “Historically, Europe has been both a source and a destination for migration and labour migration is also very much at the heart of the European Union today and while migration can benefit societies in many ways. It can also pose problems in particular if it takes place illegally, and at the moment Europe is in the middle of an unprecedented crisis of illegal migration, which constitutes a serious test of our cooperation. Illegal migration is not only a problem for the recipient country but also pose a serious threat to migrants themselves. Therefore, we look forward an effective partnership with the government of Pakistan to combat with this menace”.Ambassador Cautain continued by saying, “We are also in favour to promote legal opportunities as our populations are aging and in the future there will be a growing number of jobs that it will be difficult to fill from within Europe. Therefore, it is in our interest to be able to draw on qualified and interested candidates from the rest of the world”. He concluded by emphasising that these MRCs would help the potential migrants to make informed decision about migration and that the wished that this initiative will be a success.In his closing remarks, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Secretary Khizer Hayat Khan stated, “The government of Pakistan has developed a legal and institutional framework aimed to encourage emigration through regular channels under overall supervision of my ministry”.He also mentioned, “Our objective is not only to increase the number of people going abroad for employment but also ensure their welfare and protection” and emphasised that “Strengthening the labour migration governance and policy framework is a priority of the government”. He thanked the EU, ILO and ICMPD for their support to set up this first ever MRC. He together with the speakers of the event unveiled the inaugural plaque of the MRC.