Saturday, August 1, 2020

FROM THE DUMPSTER TO THE GRAVE (SUMA 2020): Duterte’s garbage-like treatment of Filipino migrants and families

State of Migrants
Prepared by Migrante International
26 July 2020
 
Not so long ago, many Filipinos were already surviving on a hand-to-mouth existence. In the last four months however, even the most industrious of our kababayans have been reduced into hapless beggars in the streets as the most corrupt of Duterte’s cronies are living their grandest lives in paradise. The Duterte regime’s over reliance on its Labour Export Program is finally taking a toll as more than 551,000 overseas Filipino workers get displaced by the worst global recession ever to hit the world economy since the Great Depression in the 1930s. 
Battered by the world’s longest and harshest lockdown, the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) likely contracted to a whopping 14.3% in the second quarter according to UK-based Oxford economics. 

Exacerbating roots of forced migration and brewing unrest 

Presiding over the death of Philippine agriculture through the Rice Liberalization Law and the absence of a national industry that would withstand external economic turmoils, the Duterte regime is finding itself overwhelmingly polarized further from the masses with 14 Million Filipinos unemployed and 6.4 to 7 Million underemployed as of April. These numbers add up to 20 Million overall. The country’s 22% unemployment rate is the highest in many decades. Even before the COVID-19 global crisis, the Philippines has been consistent as having the highest unemployment rate in the entire Southeast Asian region. 

At least 5.2 million Filipinos experienced hunger in the last three months and the 20.9% hunger incidence rate is the highest since 2014. The increase in the prices of goods have gone unabated after Duterte signed the TRAIN Law in December 2017. Many Filipino households writhe with bill shock over the cost of electricity, water and other services. Meanwhile, Duterte's economic mismanagement team is pushing for a cut on corporate income tax rates from 30% to 25% in July. 

In terms of social services, Duterte’s reallocation and realignment of budget through the BAHO Act (Bayanihan Heal As One) brought about the reduction of the education budget by Php 21.9 Billion. Last year, the Duterte regime halved the budget for the health department’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Program from P262.9 million in 2019 to only P115.5 million in 2020 while allocation for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine was slashed by 57%. Before the COVID-19 lockdown, there have been 19 countries that have standing travel advisories against the Philippines with the reappearance of polio after 19 years, all thanks to a very poor public healthcare system. Healthcare workers in the Philippines are not only being overworked and underpaid but are also being forced to work in overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed hospitals. This is exacerbating brain drain in the Philippines. In a country with a privately-dominated healthcare system, the Duterte regime’s much vaunted ‘Universal Healthcare Law’ which he signed last year is marred by corruption in Philhealth. Moreover, OFWs are strongly against the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate increase. 

At about this period last year, President Duterte had no qualms of vetoing even the sanitized version of the anti-endo bill going with the argument that it ‘destroys balance.’ Hypocritically his minions cited contractualization as one of their reasonings in shutting down ABS-CBN, the Philippine government itself is the chief implementer of contractualization with 600,000 government employees deprived of secure tenureship and access to benefits. 

Out of 195 countries in the world, the Philippines is among the world’s top 10 worst countries for workers according to the 2020 global rights index of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The country’s labour force are oppressed through contractualization, regionalization of minimum wage rates and the violent repression of workers through union-busting, red-tagging and murder. NCR’s minimum wage rate of Php 537 per day, the highest in the country, is way below the Php 1,400 / day or Php 42,000 / month  family living wage revealed by former Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)

In December 2019, self-rated poverty was already at 54% which translates to 13.1 million families. Expect this number to be even higher now. The Duterte regime is using all manner of tricks to manipulate data and deceive the public just as how PSA pegged the poverty threshold to Php 10,727/month which is akin to the government telling us that any Filipino individual who earns 71 pesos a day is no longer considered poor. We find this ridiculous knowing that 71 pesos a day will never be enough to give a commuting worker a decent meal three times a day. How much more if we add the bills he has to pay plus other basic expenses? 

VIP treatment of OFWs? 

President Duterte’s promise to Filipinos that working abroad will soon become an option is a hoax. The passage in the Lower House of the bill creating an OFW department only means that the government’s Labour Export Programme (LEP) is set to last far longer. But the current global crisis has really shown that over-reliance on LEP does not spur tenable development in the Philippines. 

Malacañang’s so called ‘VIP treatment’ of OFWs is decoded as ‘Very Important Palagatasan’ in the manner by which the regime has forcefully extorted OFWs with all sorts of state exactions. The government did not even set a moratorium on monthly collections from OFWs at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. Through the compulsory SSS, OFWs are required to pay for the employer’s share as well. Former SSS Chairman Amado Valdez has revealed SSS’ intention to divert reserve funds as additional investments in Duterte’s Build Build Build projects where profits go directly to big private contractors while OFWs would have to meet life-threatening accidents or even death before they could even get the additional insurance benefits promised to them by the government agency. The most despised Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) remains a money-making scheme that is being used by the government to forcibly collect other state exactions. 

The Universal Healthcare Law signed by President Duterte himself in February 2019 indicated an annual premium rate increase from the current 3% to 5% in 2025. This year alone, OFWs are expected to pay between Php 10,835 to Php 21,600 which is a one-year worth of Philhealth contribution. On 3 May, about 191 Filipino migrant organizations signed a joint position statement against PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-0014 entitled “Premium Contribution and Collection of Payment of Overseas Filipino Member” which was made public on 22 April. Aside from this, there was an online petition opposing the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike which garnered 463,696 signatories. Scrambling to save face after a massive uproar from OFWs, Malacanang suspended the mandatory Philhealth and premium rate hike. 

Nevertheless, the Duterte regime is pushing hard once more with its implementation despite enormous opposition from more than 80 Filipino migrant organizations from different leanings during an online consultation hosted by Philhealth on 3 July. Filipino migrants have been arguing that they are already covered by existing health insurance in host countries and Philhealth is not valid in overseas hospitals. The government is unmoved by the objection of OFWs. The Makabayan bloc in Congress has filed House Bill No. 6698 to amend the Universal Healthcare Law and remove the mandatory Philhealth, the penalty and the premium rate increase imposed on OFWs. 

The corruption scandal involving Philhealth officials remains unresolved. The agency lost Php 154 Billion to ghost patients, overpayment and fake deliveries. After Duterte asked all Philhealth board members to resign, Philhealth board member Francisco Duque III is exempted from investigations despite his involvement in the Php 500 Million malversation scandal in 2004. Very recently, COA flagged Philhealth’s overpriced IT project worth Php 2.1 Billion. COA auditors found irregularities. The Duterte regime seeks to penalize wretched OFWs if they fail to remit their Philhealth contributions while Philhealth itself reeks of corruption.  

Between the period 2019 to 2020, OWWA’s cash assets totaled Php 19.5 Billion. DFA has Php 1 Billion for its Assistance to Nationals and Php 200 Million as a Legal Assistance Fund. To date, 3,782 overseas Filipinos continue to languish in jail since there has been no adequate legal support for migrants facing legal cases abroad. 1000 of these jailed OFWs are in Saudi Arabia where 15 are currently on death row. In the case of Mary Jane Veloso, it took 10 years before she was given a chance to finally speak against her traffickers but her deposition is yet to become a reality despite the conviction of Mare Jane's recruiters in January. Duterte is not doing anything for Mary Jane's clemency. 

Over 400 OFWs have died in Kuwait alone in the past three years including Constancia Dayag and Jeanelyn Villavende. Duterte’s appointment of Mocha Uson as OWWA Executive director despite her ala rescue mission publicity stunt in Kuwait which endangered OFW lives continues to appall Filipino migrant communities. OFW victims and their families are deprived of welfare justice. During the Taal volcano eruption in January, affected OFW families only received between Php 1,500 and Php 3,000 each from OWWA’s Calamity Assistance Fund even for those OFWs who have been OWWA contributors for more than 20 years.  

We have seen how the government has handled the case of Mary Jean Alberto where it took 11 days before the Philippine embassy provided a lawyer to process the death certificate and reclaim her belongings. By then, the employer's house had been cleared of possible pieces of evidence.

In the US, 70 Filipino teachers were among 300 victims of human trafficking. No concrete action from the Philippine embassy and consulates to address their pleas. In the Philippines, there has also been a proliferation of Japanese language schools victimizing students who pay up to US$5000 for placement, only to end up as manual labourers in Japan.

The Duterte regime pretends to solve the modern-day slavery of Filipino migrants by simply pimping them out from Kafala-imposing countries into what it sees as newer ‘labour markets’ like Russia and China. 

Middle East crisis

Failing to learn from the lessons of Iraq, Syria and Libya, the Duterte regime refused to take heed of repeated warnings and did not even bother to create a comprehensive evacuation plan. As early as the 2nd quarter last year, armed clashes between KSA and Yemeni forces have already reached deeper into Saudi territory especially in the border regions of Asir, Jizan, Najran where more than 40 thousand Filipinos live and work. While in Lebanon, stranded and distressed OFWs flocked to the Philippine Embassy in Beirut in December 2019 for mass repatriation. Many were dejected with the embassy’s instruction for them to submit documents like passport, birth and marriage certificate to avail of the government's 'one-time' repatriation program. OFW victims of maltreatment argued that their documents are being withheld from them by their abusive employers. 


During the US-conflict with Iran, President Duterte did not take a strong stance against US military aggression in the Middle East. The US threat of war against Iran endangered the Middle East where about 2.4 Million Filipino migrants reside and work and the risks they faced were furthered by Duterte’s pro-US default position. Instead of sending a humanitarian mission composed of healthcare professionals, translators and social workers, Duterte tapped 800 soldiers for deployment. The militarization of the evacuation efforts from the Middle East jeopardized OFW safety. Duterte’s enemy tag on Iran only made AFP a hostile force in the Middle East which was detrimental to its supposed task of evacuating Filipinos to safety. It showed how the Duterte regime was more than willing to turn FIlipinos in Iraq and Iran into collateral pawns in favour of US aggression against the Iranian people.

The appointment of DENR Secretary Cimatu in January 2020 as Middle East envoy was likewise reprehensible. Lest we forget that in 2003, it was none other than OWWA which confirmed that no evacuation took place at all during the US-Iraq War despite the release of US$293,500 to Pabaon General Cimatu. Instead, the budget allocation was used to purchase military assets and the troops sent were actually ordered to aid the US military in its terrorist war of aggression in Iraq. 

Economies of countries in the Gulf region are in the process of meltdown even before the global pandemic. 270 Filipinos were retrenched by Structurel and Qatar Airways in March. Over 23,000 Filipinos have lost jobs in Kuwait while 81,000 across the UAE were either terminated or under No-Work No-Pay status. Numbers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are believed to be even higher. Those who have retained employment are hit with 20% to 70% reductions in their salaries according to Migrante chapters in the Middle East. Contract substitution remains rampant. Many are being forced to work with unpaid salaries for months and subjected to physical and emotional abuse. 


COVID-19 crisis 

With 420,000 OFWs expected to be repatriated due to the crisis, remittances plunged to a 4-yr low  in April at $2.276 Billion, down 16.1% from $2.715 billion year on year. For the first four months of 2020, cumulative remittances was down to $10.494 Billion, a 2.9% decrease from $10.811 billion of the same period last year. In 2019, OFW remittances totaled $33.5 Billion, 10% of the Philippines’ GDP. Analysts expect remittances to plummet between $6.7 Billion to $10 Billion this year due to overseas mass retrenchments and displacements. 

As of 25 July 2020, there are 9,239 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 653 deaths among Filipinos abroad. 381 or 58% of recorded COVID-19 deaths are in the Middle East. The first reported case was in February when a seafarer was infected. Meanwhile, OFW families back in the Philippines are getting impoverished further by the world’s longest and harshest lockdown. Just as how the Duterte regime is mishandling the impacts of the Middle East crisis on OFWs, it does not have a comprehensive plan for Filipino migrants affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Migrante International and other sectoral groups even filed a Mandamus petition before the supreme court on 3 July to demand mass testing and release of accurate data. 

Over 550,000 Filipino migrants are surfacing as either displaced, terminated or under no-work no pay status. Day by day, OFWs are running out of cash to pay for their house rent, food, and other basic necessities.

President Duterte created a COVID-19 interagency task force without a single epidemiologist as member. After overborrowing hundreds of billions in loans and exacting higher state exactions, the government posted a budget surplus of Php 1.8 Billion in June and at the beginning of the lockdown, Duterte still asked for emergency powers despite having Php13 Billion as Contingency Fund and Php 16 Billion Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund. Migrant workers are always the government’s preferred extortion victims but they are never compensated with adequate welfare assistance. OFW families were also barred from availing DSWD’s Social Amelioration Package. 

Many of those who were repatriated found themselves stuck for a month-long incarceration period instead of the promised 14-days because of delays in the release of test results. Contrary to government propaganda of promised hotel accommodations, OFWs were seen in a viral video clip in April languishing in an overcrowded OWWA shelter in Pasay City. They already underwent proper isolation in Kuwait but were packed like sardines at the OWWA shelter, sleeping on floors, and subjected to food and water scarcity. 

Distressed OFWs fleeing detention-like quarantine facilities were treated like fugitive criminals while NCRPO Chief Debold Sinas, Mocha Uson, Koko Pimentel and Bong Go are enjoying full impunity. To date, nobody in the Philippine Coast Guard has been sanctioned for publishing on social media in May the google drive link containing a masterlist of OFW names who tested negative. The Google link was without online security to safeguard sensitive data and protect OFWs from identity theft.

The Duterte regime’s imposed entry quota in the early months of the lock down, from less than 1,000 then to 1,500 was only meant to buy time as the government scrambles to absorb the almost half a million Filipino migrants demanding repatriation and other assistance. DFA says that it will take until August before it is able to repatriate all 117,000 OFWs requesting for repatriation. The number should still be higher as there are still tens of thousands unable to leave the premises of their abusive employers who refuse to provide them with exit visas. DFA’s complacency with its figures show its lack of foresight which is disastrous for affected OFWs. 

DFA Usec. Sarah Arriola even went to the point of hurling cyberlibel and jail threats against starving OFWs in Saudi Arabia who posted online videos while they were scavenging for food from dumpsters after their pleas for urgent amelioration and repatriation remained unheard for months. DFA even lied claiming that an OFW has already been arrested for posting ‘staged’ videos on social media. The OFWs have denied this and none of them have been arrested. Jeffrey Yape, one of the fellow workers of scavenging OFWs died without receiving substantial help from the government. DFA Usec. Arriola would rather serve as damage controllers for abusive employers of exploited OFWs. Philippine Ambassador to KSA Adnan Alonto on the other hand insulted starving OFWs and tagged the viral video as mere theatrics

The string of suicide cases among stranded OFWs do not seem to alarm the Duterte regime. Without psychosocial support and substantial relief from the government, the militarized lockdown will surely take the hardest toll on the mental health of many OFWs displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Experts say that its impact on mental health could outlast the virus itself. Prior to getting repatriated, these OFWs have already endured traumatic experiences while working overseas. 

Believed to be caused by severe stress, anxiety and depression, an OFW in Pasay City committed suicide on 26 April. According to her fellow repatriates, she has already attempted suicide twice and they have been stuck at the quarantine facility since 3rd of April but were neither provided with substantial aid nor psychosocial support. Two seafarers also died of suicide in May and June aboard their cruise ships. On June 4, Melvin Cacho ended his life in Thailand after a prolonged period of depression. He recounted in the last words he penned that he was without work, without pay and has been unable to eat anything. Thailand is one of the many countries excluded from the Duterte regime’s DOLE AKAP cash aid program. In Alberta, Canada, workers complain that they only received $100 instead of $200. Located in Alberta, Cargill meat processing plant already has 1,000 cases of COVID-19 among its workers, majority of whom are Filipinos under the Temporary Workers Program. 

The DOLE AKAP’s $200 cash aid program excluded so many groups of Filipino migrants like OFWs in jail, trafficking victims, undocumented Halaw’s in Sabah, Au Pairs in Europe and J1 visa holders in the US. In Australia alone, there are 8,000 Filipino international students who have not received assistance from the Philippine government. They are prohibited from applying for work even as they continue to pay for housing rent and other expenses. As of July 4, there have already been 551,000 applications for assistance from land-based and sea-based workers according to DOLE. This reflects the total number of OFWs displaced by the COVID-19 crisis but only 188,000 who have received cash aid so far. Cash aid distribution is very poor considering that in Europe, there are 130,000 undocumented Filipinos and there are 100,000 seafarers worldwide waiting to receive cash aid. Labour secretary Bello fears that as many as 1 Million Filipino migrants will lose their jobs. The $200 cash aid won’t even suffice for one month to sustain the needs of their families. 

On March 29 and 30, there were 1,300 OFWs who trooped to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh to process the DOLE AKAP cash aid and the food assistance promised by Labor Attache Nasser S. Mustafa.  It turned out that 5 to 9 OFWs were asked to divide among themselves the promised food assistance. The entire process was full of panic and stress. Philippine embassy officials harassed the OFWs and called the police to drive them out. Many OFWs were outraged since they feared being caught by the 3pm curfew and many of them travelled all the way from distant cities and locations in Saudi. 

As for Filipino migrants repatriated back to the Philippines, the world’s longest lockdown has left thousands of OFWs stranded in NCR. Many of these repatriates are now penniless after a month-long wait for medical services and financial aid that never came. OFWs complain that they are being dumped like garbage in Metro Manila’s airport terminals. Starved and made to sit close to heaps of junk airport equipment. Hundreds were likewise seen sleeping along roads, pathways and under bridges leading to NAIA. 

It can be also remembered that in April, OFWs en route to their quarantine facility in Lian, Batangas were stranded for almost 24 hours after the LGUs opposed the arrival of busloads of repatriates. LGUs blasted OWWA for failing to coordinate with local officials. The OFWs arrived at their quarantine facility famished and worn out. 

With the cessation of ship operations, 20,000 seafarers are already out of work. Tens of thousands of others remain stranded aboard their ships and are demanding repatriation. Seafarers Raul Calopez and Stanley Jungco died without receiving medical attention. Their cries for help directed to the Duterte government fell on deaf ears. House Bill 6588 or the Magna Carta of Seafarers filed by the Makabayan bloc which could have served better protection for Filipino seafarers remains out of the Duterte regime’s priorities. 

The militarized approach to address a public health emergency situation has made AFP very active in crafting Fascist methods to contain the movements of repatriates. In March, AFP Westmincom proposed to isolate 131 stranded ship passengers from Sabah in Sibakil Island where they will be confined in scorching tents. These Filipinos have already experienced all sorts of sufferings in Sabah including abuse, caning and imprisonment. Instead of prioritizing their welfare, AFP Westmincom was very keen on setting up a concentration camp for them in an uninhabited island far from healthcare and social welfare facilities. 

Duterte’s far-reaching Fascist tyranny

Filipino migrant communities overseas have not been spared by the Duterte regime’s Fascist assaults. The creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) also brought about the fielding of military attaches in Philippine embassies who conduct redtagging seminars to discredit right-based advocacies of migrants' groups. 

At a time when the pandemic and humanitarian crisis was raging, NTF ELCAC funded military junkets like that of Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.’s  'peace briefing' at the Philippine consulate in Melbourne, Australia where he red-tagged Migrante Australia and other progressive groups. NTF ELCAC likewise sponsored a redtagging fora conducted at the University of Negros Occidental - Recoletos and University of St. La Salle on 24 August by 303rd IBPA in Bacolod City where Migrante International along with other rights-based groups were tagged as “NPA recruiters.”

For expressing her criticisms against the Duterte regime’s inutility, Elanel Ordidor was harassed by POLO officials in Taiwan which included Labor Attaché Fidel V. Macauyag. DOLE even raised a deportation order against Ordidor but their attempts were thwarted following denunciations from different rights groups in Taiwan and from Filipino organizations in other countries. 

Even worse, the Duterte regime is systematically persecuting and having a killing rampage against migrants rights advocates and ordinary members of OFW families. Bryan Conje, the son of a Saudi-based OFW was a victim of extrajudicial killing after he was reportedly abducted by elements of PNP in Navotas in July 2019. Anne Kreuger who worked closely with Migrante during the justice campaign for slain OFW Henry Acorda was among the Bacolod57 illegally arrested in November based on trumped-up charges and fabricated evidence planted by Bacolod PNP. On April 30, Jory Porquia was assassinated right inside his place of residence in Iloilo City. Porquia was a founding organizer of Migrante Iloilo and whose profession as an architect brought him to Saudi Arabia, Singapore and China as an OFW and migrant rights’ activist. 

The recent passage of the Terror Law is the Duterte regime’s nullification of democratic rights. Human rights groups know for certain that this will be used by the Duterte regime to persecute his critics and keep himself immune from liability for all atrocious crimes committed by state forces under his watch. 184 Filipino migrant organizations sent an open letter to the 18th Congress urging house representatives to prevent its enactment. Ignoring widespread opposition, President Duterte signed the Terror Bill. 

For freedom-loving Filipino migrants and their families, they will no longer be deceived by flowery and colourful words from President Duterte when he delivers his 2020 State of the Nation Address. Even outside of the Phlippines, Filipino migrants themselves are experiencing extortion, criminal negligence, harassment and terrorism from the Duterte regime. Filipino migrants and their families are more determined than ever to unite with the Filipino masses, to stand up and speak in the struggle to terminate the Duterte regime’s puppetry, corruption and tyranny. 

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Reference:

Joanna Concepcion, Chairperson, Migrante International,
PH contact number: 0908-129-28-51

Friday, March 22, 2019

On The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination -2019

IMA Canada Statement
March 21, 2019

As we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) Canada Chapter condemns the massacre of 50 innocent Muslims in their house of prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination proclaimed by the United Nations in 1960 was to remind the international community that what happened at Sharpeville, South Africa where the police fired at and killed 69 people in a demonstration against the apartheid laws should not happen again. It was also a call to increase all efforts to eliminate racism and all forms of discrimination.

Unfortunately, racism and discrimination are well alive and strong. The massacre at Christchurch, New Zealand is only one of the many attacks against the Muslim communities. In Canada, we remember the attack at the Quebec City Mosque that left six worshippers dead and several others injured. A similar incident happened on January 29, 2017 in a Quebec City Mosque.

The anti-Muslim sentiments, incidents of Islamophobia globally have been going on for decades. Since the late 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya were forced to flee their homes, with rape, murder, and arson committed against them. In 2017, renewed violence triggered an exodus of hundreds more. Since US President Donald Trump took office, violence committed by white supremacists and white nationalist organizations in the US have increased and become more visible, as witnessed in the Charleston church massacre and the deadly alt-right terror attack in Charlottesville.

To fight against racism and discrimination is to fight capitalism and imperialism. The migration from the global South to the Global North for work, escape persecution and wars of occupation and even destruction of their communities destroyed by mining and other forms of environmental destruction is the migration of the poor and the dispossessed. Capitalism and imperialism have profited from migrant-bashing, from the unfounded fear that migrants are stealing jobs and driving down wages and the local economies. Pitting workers against workers – we have seen this in New Zealand and here in Canada, and elsewhere. The crisis of capitalism creates state fascism and terrorism to ensure that the people remain in constant fear and divided.

We are saddened with the deaths of our Muslim sisters and brothers and our condolences go out to their families and communities. We work with more urgency to build, nurture and strengthen our international solidarity with the masses of the people to fight and defeat white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism towards a vision of a just and dignified society for all. ###

Monday, December 18, 2017

Grassroots migrants will determine their own future!

US – Trump Rejects UN Global Compact on Migrants and Refugees,
Grassroots Migrants Will Determine Their Own Future!
International Migrants Day 2017

Two weeks before International Migrants Day, December 18th, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it will no longer participate in the UN Global Compact on Migrants (GCM) and refugees (GCR) declaring that the UN’s “approach is simply not compatible with US sovereignty” and that “decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone.” Hypocritically, the US has never respected the sovereignty and self-determination of other nations, including displaced indigenous peoples within its own borders, causing many of the economic, political, and environmental disasters driving the global crisis of forced migration.

The Global Compact on Migration is the UN’s latest response to the current migration and refugee crisis. The GCM acknowledges the “mass movement of peoples” worldwide, around 300 million displaced peoples, the highest since the last World War. While the global compact falls short of addressing the root causes of the forced migration of millions of refugees due to war, political violence, militarization, state repression, and economic crises, the United States’ most recent position on the matter demonstrates its complete disregard for accountability or compliance with international processes. At the same time, it is the driving force behind many of the crises in the world today.

The Trump administration has expanded and intensified fascist and racist repression against peoples and movements across the U.S., along its own borders, and extended these attacks to home countries as well. While recklessly war-mongering against China, North Korea, and the Middle East, Trump continues the U.S.’s neoliberal policies of privatization, deregulation, and liberalization. He and other competing imperialist countries are impoverishing, forcibly displacing, and devastating peoples and their homelands.

With slow growth and declining world trade, US imperialist policies under Trump are squeezing workers for lower wages, through flexible work and contractualization, relying more and more on informal, irregular workers. These economic attacks on working people and the exploitation of migrants require the political repression of workers, communities of color, and migrants who are left to fend for themselves, and we have seen Trump openly attack any resistance or advocacy for migrants’ rights. In his withdrawal from the UN GCM process, we note his particular arrogance, insisting on all the rights of an imperialist America first, while avoiding any and all accountability to international norms or laws on the rights of migrants and refugees.

Domestically, in less than a year in office, Trump intensified the exploitation of migrant guest workers by expanding the H2B guest worker visa programs for the benefit of US corporations. He has opened the door for his administration to become the “trafficker in chief,” since recruiters, placement agencies, and employers exploit the desperation of economically forced migrants. At the same time he has excluded other migrant and refugee populations, whom he has alternately labeled as terrorists, animals, drug smugglers, and rapists. His policies represent some of the most inhumane anti-migrant policies recently, none of which resolve the U.S’s underlying and worsening economic crisis since 2008. The number of deportations has ballooned under the Trump administration, and he has shifted from the “deporter-in-chief” Obama’s strategy to now indiscriminately target and collaterally sweep all undocumented immigrants into his deportation net (not just those with violent records as priority).

Even more openly, Trump’s xenophobia and repressive policies signal the desperate reaction of the 1% to cling to power. Trump has also promised or attempted to:

-Build a wall on the Mexican border and multiply the number of deportations, militarizing the border, terrorizing families and communities, and enhancing the powers of the security state.-Implement 3 versions of a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and temporary suspension of the entry of refugees, discriminatorily shutting the country’s doors to the world, and

-Repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and eliminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaragua ending in January 2018 and Haiti in July 22, 2019 with decisions pending on El Salvador and Honduras, instantly adding tens of thousands of forced migrants and refugees in the U.S. to the community of millions undocumented.

With the rise of right wing, racist and fascist governments and movements in the US and Western Europe, people everywhere including migrants and refugees are building resistance and struggle against these reactionary forces. IMA-USA calls on all of its members and grassroots migrants groups to join us, as we build a more powerful migrant and refugee movement across the United States and join oppressed people throughout the world to stand up against this declining US imperialist system and to build a better world for all.

The ultimate solution for the welfare and well being of the hundreds of millions of forced migrants and refugees will not come from UN heads of state or policy makers and big NGO’s, but from the migrants and refugees themselves. Contrary to the GCM framework that promotes “safe, orderly, and regular” migration for the interests of businesses and corporations, this International Migrants Day, migrants and refugees around the world will continue to rise up to demand justice, to fight for their homelands, and to stand against the rising fascism, xenophobia, and repression they face both at home and abroad.

IMA-USA will mobilize on International Migrants Day and invites all who struggle for justice for migrants and refugees to join IMA on December 18th, 2017 and internationally in September 2018 at the 8th International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees – IAMR8 in NYC to determine the people’s demands in the UN’s Global Compacts on Migrants and Refugees. Migrants are organizing, and the mass movement is strengthening itself around the world. Join us in our calls:

End forced migration!
End the Criminalization of Im/migrants! Genuine Immigration Reform Now
Legalization for All! No to US and other imperialist wars!
###

Reference: Antonio Arizaga, International Migrants Alliance (IMA), Vice Chairperson
Terrence Valen, IMA International Coordinating Body U.S. Representative
Contact Info: (415) 333-6267, ima.usa2011@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Migrants, refugees to hold Berlin Speak Out Street Event vs. GFMD

PRESS RELEASE
International Assembly of Migrants & Refugees
26 June 2017

[BERLIN, 26 June 2017] Nothing About Us, Without Us! Migrants and refugees from Europe and around the world will hold the SPEAK OUT STREET EVENT on Wednesday, 28 June, in Berlin, Germany, as a counter-action to the UN Global Forum on Migration and Development and as an activity of the 7th International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR7).

The 28th of June 2017 is the official opening of the 10th Summit Meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). It will be attended by high­level and senior government policy makers, and will talk about issues and policies on migration and social development. Those who are directly affected by these policies -- the migrants and refugees – are not part of the GFMD. They and their allies are organizing a counter-event and will gather at the Brandenburg Gate at 9:00am for the SPEAK OUT STREET EVENT. At around noontime, they will march to the venue of the GFMD Summit at the German Federal Foreign Office.

The migrant and refugee communities will claim their space and assert their right to be seen and heard. It is important to give space to the voices that challenge the legitimacy and capacity of the GFMD to effectively address the problems and respond adequately to the challenges of migration and development. These grassroots and frontline communities will share their perspectives and solutions to the problems confronting them and engage with policy­makers in the parliament of the streets, bearing witness to their effective exclusion from decision­making processes that affect them principally but which take place behind closed doors.

The 10th GFMD Summit is taking place amidst a global migration and refugee crisis that has witnessed the flight of millions of people fleeing extreme poverty, from countries destroyed by resource wars and wars of aggression, and devastated by the impacts of climate change.

Under the guise of creating “legal, orderly and safe migration pathways and channels”, discriminatory and racist policies of pre­selection allow only ‘highly­skilled and knowledge migrants’ to access and enter the territories of European Union member states. This right is denied to majority of those who are the most impoverished and who seek a better life, or those who are victims of various forms of persecution.

This policy also effectively discriminates and criminalizes the majority of migrants and refugees who have already entered and established their right of abode in the European Union. Taking place in Germany where its schizophrenic policy has received close to a million migrants and asylum-seekers in 2015, at the same time as it prepares to deport over 200,000 migrants, among them, the undocumented, the ‘economic migrants’ and rejected asylum‐seekers. Those profiled as ‘irregulars’ face arrest, detention and massive deportation.

The SPEAK OUT STREET EVENT will send a strong message to the high-level and senior government policy makers as well as the general public regarding the continued marginalization of refugees, migrants and immigrants affected by forced migration and human trafficking. Spearheading the event is the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), in cooperation with the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), GABRIELA Germany, IBON International, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, the International Women’s Alliance, MIGRANTE Europe, and supported by Churches Witnessing With Migrants (CWWM), COURAGE, Coalition Against Trump, Democracy in Europe Movement 25 – Berlin, Die Linke International, and Solidarity International. The SPEAK OUT STREET EVENT is an activity of the 7th International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR7).

REFERENCE:
MAITET LEDESMA
Vice Chairperson for External Affairs
Migrante Europe
maitet.ledesma@gmail.com
+31 6 14659558

CATHY ABON
GABRIELA Germany
catherineabon@gmail.com
+49 176 60494488

For more information, please visit: https://iamr7berlin.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Struggle for genuine development and justice for migrants and the people! Struggle and win!

Statement of the IMA on December 18 2014 International Migrants Day

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) commemorates this year’s International Migrants Day with greater resolve to advance the struggle for the protection of our rights and dignity, the end to modern-day slavery and the resolution of the root causes of forced migration.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih is the image of this struggle that we are pursuing steadfastly.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih
Erwiana is the young Indonesian domestic worker who was subject to physical abuse and torture from her employer in Hong Kong last year. Her sufferings depict the countless number of physical abuse, harassment and intimidation, exploitation and oppression that many migrant workers experience. Her strength and will to fight for justice in her ongoing case against her employer also symbolizes the willingness of migrants – migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, immigrants – to collectively fight.

It is her sufferings that belie the pronouncements of development in the world today. She and the 232 million international migrants paint the real picture of forced migration – both a symptom and the result of the intensifying, protracted and prolonged crisis of imperialism.

Neoliberal globalization has caused this phenomenon and continues to aggravate it. The implementation of neoliberal policies has only led to massive landlessness, deindustriualization, environmental degradation and wave upon wave of global economic crisis that caused the dissolution of public services and utilities, skyrocketing of prices of goods, displacement of peoples, unemployment and abject poverty. Without work or salaries to live their families by, many are forced to find work abroad – a phenomenon that many governments have developed into labor export policy.

It is with the same neoliberal framework that the leaders within the United Nations are also aiming to optimize migration for development. Instead of addressing the root causes of forced migration, they only mean to maximize the remittances sent by migrants and facilitate migration all in the name of development. As governments beautify slavery by promoting migration for development through the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), the situation of migrants has only worsened over time. Migrants experience oppression in the workplace, visa restrictions, arrest and deportation, social exclusion, among others.

But there can be no genuine development for the people under this current system. A system that prioritizes capitalist profit over the rights, demands and dignity of peoples. A system that lets modern-day slavery and oppression to prevail.

Yet we are strengthened, inspired and with firm resolve to fight this system. We are strengthened by the likes of Erwiana who have decided to stand up against oppression and abuse. We are inspired by the late Irene Fernandez who has committed her life in defending the rights of migrants and challenging a system of oppression. We are filled with resolve as many migrants all over the world decide to be organized and collectively advance the international migrant movement.

Next year 2015 we will bring the battles in all fronts. We will engage governments of both our host and home countries and challenge them to junk anti-migrant laws and create ones that ensure the protection of our rights and stop oppression and discrimination. We will engage in the international debates and platforms and expose and oppose their scheme to make migration as a tool for development. We will enjoin and encourage all migrants, our families and our local brothers and sisters to strengthen solidarity and demand an end to modern-day slavery and forced migration.

Because we are worth more than the remittances and dollars we send. Because we are workers, not slaves.

For reference: Eni Lestari, IMA chairperson (+852-96081475)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Statement of Migrante International on May Day 2012

Migrante International marches today with the working people of the world in the fight against imperialist plunder and war that continue to threaten the lives and welfare of peoples, migrants and migrant workers, particularly overseas Filipinos and their families.

Today, Migrante International unites with other sectors of Philippine society to condemn the Aquino administration’s puppetry and policy of subservience to foreign dictates that perpetuate the present worsening socio-economic crisis in the Philippines.

Under Aquino, OFWs and their families have suffered and continue to suffer. Thousands upon thousands of urban poor families have been displaced through violent demolition of their homes. Farmers and farm workers have been driven off their lands by landlords, hacienderos and corporate land-grabbers. The environment is being plundered by big foreign corporations. Oil prices and costs of other basic commodities continue to surge while wages are fixed at lowest levels and unemployment is record-high – all in the name of neoliberal policies being pushed by Aquino’s imperialist masters.

Aquino’s puppetry goes beyond economic plunder. The Visiting Forces Agreement, the expanded Balikatan exercises and the Aquino government’s all-out support to imperialist war-mongering are testament to Aquino’s adherence to a one-sided foreign policy at the expense of national security and sovereignty.  Furthermore, in accordance with the US Counter-Insurgency Strategy (US COIN), the Aquino administration and the Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) enforce the Oplan Bayanihan which, like Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Banty-Laya, aims to quell dissent and suppress civil liberties.

For the migrant sector, conditions have gone from bad to worse. The Aquino government has failed over and over again to protect and uphold the rights of OFWs, especially those in distress and those displaced by wars and the global economic crisis.

The Aquino administration’s continuous intensification of a labor export policy despite escalating violence and conflicts in the Middle East, North Africa and other regions and the worsening global economic crisis has aggravated forced migration, driving Filipino workers to leave their families and homeland at great risks and difficulties abroad.

Nothing short of the reversal of the present system will put an end to forced migration, poverty and social injustice. Past and present experiences have revealed the bankruptcy of the labor export policy, of the present economic system. For as long as there is landlessness, no domestic jobs are available, and prices continue to soar sky-high, OFWs will be forced to seek employment abroad despite the ongoing global economic crisis that continues to displace thousands of OFWs or place them in imminent danger or war.

On Labor Day 2012, Migrante International salutes all workers and migrant workers alike for continuing to organize and persisting in the struggle for freedom, national democracy and sovereignty. Workers of the world, unite!  ###

Reference: Garry Martinez, Chairperson, +63 939-391-4418

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How US Policies Fueled Mexico's Great Migration

David Bacon

This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and the Puffin Foundation. Some names of the people profiled in this article have been changed.

Roberto Ortega tried to make a living slaughtering pigs in Veracruz, Mexico. “In my town, Las Choapas, after I killed a pig, I would cut it up to sell the meat,” he recalls. But in the late 1990s, after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened up Mexican markets to massive pork imports from US companies like Smithfield Foods, Ortega and other small-scale butchers in Mexico were devastated by the drop in prices. “Whatever I could do to make money, I did,” Ortega explains. “But I could never make enough for us to survive.” In 1999 he came to the United States, where he again slaughtered pigs for a living. This time, though, he did it as a worker in the world’s largest pork slaughterhouse, in Tar Heel, North Carolina.

For complete article : http://www.thenation.com/article/165438/how-us-policies-fueled-mexicos-great-migration