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“We wanted workers, but human beings came”: Human Rights Gaps in Temporary Labour Migration Programmes

DAY 322 March
13:30-14:45 GMT+5:45



Every year, millions of people move for work both within and from South Asia to other sub-regions, mainly to countries of Southeast Asia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). These migrations usually take place along Temporary Labour Migration Programmes (TLMPs) which are regulated, time-limited agreements for the provision of labour in identified sectors, on the condition that workers return to their own country at the end of the contract. Many migrant workers undertake repeated migrations via TLMPs in one or more destination country meaning that they work on these programmes for most of their (working) life. Yet, such pathways can offer restricted access to basic services, including overcrowded and unsanitary housing and inadequate healthcare. Migrants are not allowed to sponsor family members and notwithstanding their long-term presence in some countries, they are not entitled to access more durable legal status such as permanent residence or citizenship. TLMPs are also highly gendered. The majority of South Asian migrant workers on TLMPs are men who engage in low-wage work in sectors like construction, agriculture or tourism, while women’s access to TLMPs is often limited to domestic work, hospitality and care work.

Session Description

While TLMPs are often discussed through the lens of labour rights, their impact on a wider range of human rights of migrant workers and of their families as well as their experiences beyond the workplace have received less attention. This session compares TLMPs and international human rights standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and suggest what alternatives are possible and what human rights-based labour migration pathways look like.

Session Objectives

  • Unpack the impact of TLMPs on the human rights of migrant workers and their families beyond the workplace

  • Offer an opportunity for stakeholders including migrant communities to discuss and share their experiences of TLMPs

  • Explore how human rights standards provide guidance for the design and implementation of labour migration pathways.


  • What are human rights challenges in TLMPs?

  • What are the gaps between TLMPs and international human rights standards?

  • What do human rights-based labour migration pathways look like?

  • How can States, businesses and other stakeholders work towards such pathways?


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