The UK Department of International Development (DFID) plans to invest GBP9.75m (US$14.7m) in an initiative that will work to tackle labour trafficking routes between South Asia and the Middle East, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO). 

The programme will work to help those working in factories and in the domestic labour market.

It aims to provide 50,000 women with skills and pre-departure training and other support to help them avoid being trafficked and secure a decent wage.

It will help 30,000 women achieve greater economic empowerment so they are better able to support themselves and their families. This will be done through helping women understand their rights, enable them to organise collectively, and vocational training to help ensure access to decent work opportunities in destination countries.

The programme will help thousands more migrant women to avoid paying extortionate, illegal recruitment fees by cracking down on unscrupulous recruitment practices and encouraging agencies to sign up to ethical principles and practices.

The scheme will also prevent child labour by helping thousands of girls under 16 years to stay in school so they are not compelled to migrate for work.

Beate Andrees, head of the ILO Special Action Plan to Combat Forced Labour, told just-style that since the ILO launched its Better Work campaign in Jordan, it has seen a drop in forced labour practices.

"There has been a clear drop in forced labour and forced labour related practices, such as confiscation of passports, forced overtime, violence and so on. There are still some issues we need to resolve to enforce the freedom of workers, but we can already see an impact. The question is now, how can we use the lessons learned in Jordan and apply those to other garment industries."

She said there are 21m people in forced labour with 55% of them women and girls. 

Andrees estimated that over $12bn worth of income a year is withheld from those in forced labour in Asia and the Middle East. 

Meanwhile, international development minister Lynne Featherstone said: "Income earned from migrant workers abroad and sent back home provides a vital source of support to families in developing countries worth billions of pounds and many times more than the global aid budget. But it is appalling that hundreds of years since the abolition of the slave trade, girls and women living in poverty are still trafficked into abusive jobs or forced to work in unacceptably poor conditions.

"Women who want to migrate for work to lift themselves and their families out of poverty should be able to do so in safe and secure environments with proper terms and conditions. Work in Freedom will help more than 100,000 women and girls in South Asia, a trafficking hotspot, with practical support and advice so that they can earn a living and avoid the dangers of trafficking."