Skip to main content
International Partnerships

Migrant mineworkers advocating for decent work

Over half of international migrants are migrant workers. Despite the wealth of potential benefits of safe and regular labour migration for migrants and employers, migrant workers continue to face vulnerabilities in the workplace. For many migrant mineworkers, the vulnerabilities faced are not only associated with the challenging working environment; they also face wider systemic challenges. Mineworkers often live in cramped ‘hostels’ with their co-workers, with limited airflow. They live apart from their families for months or years. Living and working conditions leave mineworkers vulnerable to diseases like tuberculosis, silicosis, and HIV. Compounding this, many are unable to access earned social benefits and programmes, including pensions, access to compensation and essential reintegration support.

Mining outside Johannesburg
Mining outside Johannesburg, South Africa © IOM

Moises is a former Mozambican migrant mineworker who, once he had returned to Mozambique, decided to do something to change this decades-old system. After working for many years in mines in South Africa, he had also struggled to access pension funds that he had contributed to while working abroad. Moises decided to work towards helping migrant mineworkers’ claim their employment rights. He and some colleagues then decided to set up the Association of Mozambican Mineworkers (AMIMO) to inform others of their rights and the services available to them. The also began advocating with different stakeholders to change the mechanisms which were individuals and communities in countries of origin from benefitting from the work that mineworkers were doing abroad.

Moises (centre) and other members of AMIMO
Moises (centre) and other members of AMIMO © IOM


Demonstrating how employment interventions can take migration considerations into account to enhance development outcomes, the EU-funded project 'Mainstreaming Migration into International Cooperation and Development' - MMICD project developed a video that serves as both a training and outreach tool to showcase this #MigrationConnection. To show what this means in practice for people and communities, the video highlights the work of AMIMO, under the project, 'Voices from the Underground.'

The Voices from the Underground Project has helped a lot the Association, the mining communities, and the region.

Moises, President of the Mozambican Mineworkers Association

The 'Voices from the Underground' project focused on protecting migrant mineworkers’ rights by strengthening the knowledge, organisational and technical capacities of human rights defenders, including AMIMO.

The project had three components:

  1. institutional capacity-building of the Mozambican Mine Workers Association (AMIMO);
  2. facilitating legal services and counselling for mine workers and their families with Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), and;
  3. advocacy and communications at the national and regional levels to spur dialogue with stakeholders and inform beneficiaries of their rights.
Moises in discussion with a local mineworker.


Migrant workers can make an important contribution to sustainable development and to economic growth if their human rights and their rights as workers are protected and if they can access decent work and work under safe working conditions. Target 8.8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls on governments and employers to protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers and those in precarious employment. As we enter the “Decade of Action”, it is essential that the rights of migrant workers are upheld in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The mineworkers manage to educate their children through their migration results. The remittances that are sent by the migrants are very significant in the GDP of the country.

Moises, President of the Mozambican Mineworkers Association

The Mainstreaming Migration into International Cooperation and Development (MMICD) project aims to strengthen the process of integrating migration into international cooperation and development policy. The project is funded by the European Union and is running from 2017 to 2021.

Former mine in South Africa