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The International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS)

Laura Thompson, Deputy Director General, International Organization for Migration
Ideas Fair


Laura Thompson

With rapid globalization, an unprecedented number of workers at all skill levels are seeking work in countries other than their own. In this context, the role of international labor recruiters in facilitating migration has increased. Sometimes the practices of recruiters are unregulated, leading to widespread abuses ranging from misleading terms and conditions of employment, false promises of jobs and exorbitant recruitment fees to debt bondage and labor trafficking in the most extreme cases.

If fair, transparent and cost-effective labor recruitment is not ensured, the benefits of migration for workers, their employers, governments and society at large are at risk. What can ensue is a series of problems that threaten labor migration management for all stakeholders. These include:
  • increased workplace and human rights abuses;
  • problems in the labor supply chain that compromise business integrity and productivity;
  • disincentives for ethical recruitment due to unfair competition by unscrupulous recruiters;
  • increased costs of migration—both social and economic;
  • visa overstaying and other violations of immigration laws;
  • reduced remittance flows to countries and communities of origin; and
  • the erosion of labor rights and wages in countries of destination.

The goal of the International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) proposed by IOM is to increase the integrity and transparency of the international recruitment industry. This will be done through an accreditation and monitoring process of international labor recruiters that will allow accredited counterparts in countries of origin and destination to interact with each other in the recruitment of workers. The system will ensure that throughout the process, selection and recruitment is carried out according to the principles of IRIS by:

  • establishing a code of ethical conduct for labor recruitment to which IRIS members agree to abide by, a complaints mechanism and sanctions against noncompliant members;
  • creating an internet information portal to educate migrants, employers and recruitment practitioners and promote ethical international recruitment;
  • working with governments to strengthen the regulation of recruitment activities; and
  • address jurisdictional gaps by bridging information and compliance frameworks.

These efforts will establish a community of like-minded, socially responsible stakeholders involved in the international recruitment of workers. The end goals are reduced vulnerability of migrant workers to exploitation and labor trafficking, and higher financial gains for migrants and their employers.

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