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27 Nov 2023

Methodology: Migrant Worker Allegations Database

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The Migrant Worker Allegations Database records details of publicly reported allegations of human rights abuse committed by, or otherwise linked to, businesses around the world, including against migrant workers. We highlight trends in abuses, impacted demographics, locations of abuse and implicated companies and industries across the globe.

This supplements the Resource Centre’s Company Response Mechanism, through which companies alleged to be abusing migrant workers are invited to respond to concerns publicly. Cases of alleged abuse are also included recorded when the company is not publicly named, strengthening accountability in geographies or sectors where business relationships are opaque and companies uncontactable/ untraceable.

The Database includes allegations dating back to January 2022. It is updated monthly.


The Allegations Database relies on allegations of abuses documented by credible English-language media outlets, international and local human rights NGOs, national and regional governments, and intergovernmental organisations. Our regional researchers also monitor news articles appearing in migrants’ countries-of-origin in eleven languages. However, due to organisational resource capacity, the Database is predominantly based on English-language sources.

Seeking company responses

All sources included in the Allegations Database are publicly available and are published on the Resource Centre’s website. Prior to publication on the website, every effort is made to reach out to companies accused of abuses and ask them to respond to the allegations using the Resource Centre’s Company Response Mechanism, unless the company has already been offered the opportunity to respond to the allegations, or the company is the object of a lawsuit or other judicial decision.


How do we define an allegation?

One entry in the database refers to a single and discrete case of human rights abuse committed by a company(ies) against one or more migrant workers. Sources containing general information on business and human rights, or general trends for migrant workers within geographies or sectors, are not included if the allegations contained within them cannot be linked to a single named or unnamed company.

One entry may be linked to one company or/and sector, or it may be linked to many companies or/and sectors. For example, an allegation of abuse against a manufacturing supplier could also be linked to recruiters used by the supplier, and buyers of goods and services, if referenced in the source.

What are the criteria for inclusion in the database?

‘Migrant worker’ is defined as one of the following:

  • A person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national;
  • A person who is to be engaged, is engaged, or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a state which was originally not their country of nationality or usual residence, but now is;
  • A person who is to be engaged, is engaged, or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in an area of a country that is not their place of usual residence, including if they are a national of that country;
  • A refugee or asylum seeker who is to be engaged, is engaged, or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which they are not a national; or,
  • A person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law (a ‘stateless person’), who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State that is not their country of usual residence.

These definitions are adapted from the International Organization for Migration's 2019 Glossary on Migration.

The affected worker(s) must also be:

  • Receiving remuneration by a for-profit entity or company (either publicly, privately, or state-owned); or,
  • Their work placement must have been facilitated by a for-profit entity or company; or,
  • Their work placement must benefit the activities of a for-profit entity or company.

What information can be collected on each case?

The following data is included when the information is explicitly stated in the source:

  • The country where the abuse took place;
  • The nationality or nationalities of the affected migrant workers;
  • The number of affected migrant workers;
  • The sectors and companies linked to the abuse, including the sector of the employing/buying entity and its business relationship to the worker or goods/services offered (e.g., employer, recruiter, supplier, buyer, etc.); as well as the job function undertaken by the worker;
  • The types of human rights violations that are alleged to have occurred, (see below);
  • Responses to the allegation from companies or governments, including the outcomes of lawsuits and investigations where known.

Rights violations and indicators of abuse

Each allegation is linked to at least one category of rights violation, including exclusively labour-specific violations, such as wage theft, and broader rights violations, such as freedom of expression. Broader rights violations are included only if they are linked to migrant worker (formal or informal) employment.

Aligned with our website taxonomy, we analyse each case against a set of over 100 indicators for rights abuse, which are grouped into a series of categories including, but not limited to, the below:

  1. Violations related to employment standards: wage violations, concerns over working hours and leave or performance targets, arbitrary dismissal, forced labour and modern slavery, and human trafficking.
  2. Unfair recruitment practices: contract substitution, including promising conditions of employment that do not materialise upon arrival, the failure to renew visas, the charging of recruitment fees and debt bondage.
  3. Arbitrary denial of fundamental freedoms: the denial of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, restrictions on freedom of movement, including through document confiscation, the and arbitrary arrest, detention and exile, the denial of freedom of expression, and restricting access to information, such as not informing workers of their rights.
  4. Occupational health and safety breaches: failing to protect workers against work-related sickness, disease, or injury at the worksite, while on transport from accommodation to the worksite, or in company-provided accommodation, failing to provide access to medicines, and failing to mitigate against heat exposure risk.
  5. Adequate living standards: precarious or unsuitable living conditions, such as overcrowding, a lack of hygiene, a lack of access to food, water, or electricity; and violations of workers’ property or possessions, such as the confiscation of workers’ mobile phones.
  6. Verbal or physical abuse: physical violence and intimidating behaviour, including threats and employer reprisals; harassment; and rape and sexual abuse.
  7. Right to life: including killings and deaths.
  8. Discrimination: discrimination due to a worker’s age, gender, medical status, pregnancy, race, ethnicity, caste, origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity; and a lack of access to fair and equal wages.
  9. Barriers regarding access to remedy: a lack of access to non-judicial remedy; and lack of access to justice and legal protection, including through unfair trials and strategic lawsuits against public participation.

Other impacts documented in the database include violations of the right to migrant workers’ personal and mental health, and the right to a private and family life, the right to privacy, and the rights to economic, social and cultural rights as well as to civil and political rights.

Scope and limitations

The Allegations Database relies on publicly reported information on abuses allegedly committed by corporate entities; the Resource Centre does not independently verify the accuracy of the allegations.

The database therefore underrepresents abuses in locations where rights activism, civil society space, and media freedoms are restricted. Underreporting in these locations is catalysed by workers’ heightened fears of employer reprisals. Similarly, certain countries or regions may be over-represented, such as through single reports referring to high numbers of allegations, or a high level of transparency on government registries.

Undocumented workers are also underrepresented in the data due to their criminalised migration status, meaning such workers rarely report abuses and are often invisible. Researchers may also refrain from highlighting cases impacting undocumented workers owing to the risk of reprisal from employers. We acknowledge the vulnerabilities of undocumented workers, regardless of their prevalence in the dataset.

How is the data used?

The data has been used by the Resource Centre in our own analysis, by partners working on migrants rights in particular geographies, and by media looking for cases and information on emerging trends impacting migrant workers.

If you know of a case not currently covered in the database, or you would like information or data, please contact us.