Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Statement for International Migrants Day - International Migrants' Alliance (IMA)

Migrant workers shall suffer the brunt
of globalization-induced crisis

Grassroots migrants shall be ready
to intensify our struggle for our rights
December 18, 2008

Neo-liberal globalization has forced us to migrate and become commodities for sale by sending countries and cheap laborers for the receiving ones. Now, as neoliberal policies induced another global recession, we are again made to carry the brunt of the crisis.

Slowly but surely, the crisis that started in the United States is spreading throughout the world. Considering the US’ position as the global economic master, it is understandable that many of the countries where migrants are working right now and countries where they come from are starting to feel the impacts of the crisis that are expected to intensify in the coming months.

The current recession is but an explosion of the crisis brewing for years. The crisis of overproduction inherent in the economy of the global centers – US, European Union and Japan – and hastened by neoliberal globalization policies, has become more uncontrollable than before. Concentration of finance capital to a few multinational banks and corporations through massive speculation has become more intense and made the crisis imminent.

Even the wars of aggression and occupation that the US led and joined in by many capitalist countries have failed to salvage the capitalist system from collapsing. In fact, these wars justified in the name of “anti-terror” have further aggravated the condition in the world as profit became more highly-concentrated while more and more people were displaced.

Now, various countries scramble to save their failing economies with whipped up solutions that are evidently targeted to save big businesses at the expense of the people and the workers who have long been victims of the very roots of this crisis.

The oppressed and disadvantaged classes and sectors that include the migrants did not cause the global crunch and yet, will be forced into more hardships. Indeed, what is just and right has no place where imperialists rule.

Global crisis spells crisis for migrants’ rights

Job security and wage of migrants are the most immediate casualties of the economic crunch.

The more recent cases of these are as follows:
  • More than 70 workers from Advanced Semi-Conductor Engineering Co. Ltd (ASE) in Taiwan were laid off. Reportedly, about 1,000 more are set to be sent home very soon.
  • In Macau, 400 Filipinos have already been fired from their jobs in the construction industry while about 12,000 migrants working in casinos have been told that their contracts will not be renewed.
  • In the property sector in the United Arab Emirates, about 500 migrants already lost their jobs while thousands more are set to lose theirs in the construction industry in various countries within the Gulf region.
  • Member organizations of the IMA in Australia have reported that many temporary foreign workers are being made redundant.
  • In Canada, 70 Mexican and Jamaican temporary foreign workers were fired by the Rol-Land Farms – a private industrial-agricultural corporation.
  • In the US, immigrants are losing their jobs and the little properties they own. Who can forget June Reyno, a Filipino immigrant who tied herself to her house after being issued an eviction notice due to the property slump
In addition to this, the wage of migrants shall surely again be attacked. This was exactly what happened during and after the 1997 Asian Financial crisis. Wage of migrants in Korea, for example, dropped from US$750 to US$300 while foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong suffered two wage cuts – US$25 in 1999 and US$52 in 2003.

Undocumented migrants shall also be gravely impacted by the recession. For the past years, many countries have conducted widespread and violent crackdowns such as in Malaysia and South Korea. The European Union is also poised to implement its return directive policy by next year that is expected to target tens of thousands of undocumented migrants in the region.

But the impacts of the global economic problems are not restricted to the host countries. In fact, it may even be more severe in sending countries like Philippines and Indonesia whose economies are very dependent on the advanced capitalist countries like the US.

For sure, the governments of sending countries shall again turn its eye to the very profitable business of labor export.

This is not surprising considering that labor export brings in billions of US dollars worth of remittance to these countries and billions more profit from government charges on top of curbing unemployment inside the country. Both the Philippine and Indonesian governments have already expressed their intention to double their target deployment of their nationals to other countries.

Just recently, the Philippine government has proposed to implement a mandatory psychiatric test. While hypocritically claiming that it’s for protection of Filipino migrants, the truth is that it shall only be an additional financial burden to them and its ultimate goal is to make Filipino migrant workers more attractive to foreign businesses.

Governments of sending countries have tried to placate the restlessness of their people by promising their readiness to face the crisis. This, however, is mere bravado as the economies of these countries are highly-dependent to those of the capitalist centers. Their so-called readiness will soon be revealed as nothing but readiness to impose more severe taxation to the people, drastic cuts in the budget for social services, even more wanton implementation of neo-liberal globalization and more aggressive exportation of labor. In fact, what these countries, like Philippines and Indonesia, are doing now is to forge more bilateral agreements with labor-receiving countries to ensure the continued sale of migrants as cheap labourers.

The way forward for the migrants

These developments and more that will surely come will be faced squarely by the organized grassroots migrants.

The rights of migrants have never been respected. The second Global Forum on Migration and Development held last October in Manila, Philippines showed the hypocrisy of sending and receiving countries as they tackle the so-called rights of migrants but are actually concretizing steps on how more income can be generated from migration and migrant labor.

The International Migrants Day is a most opportune time to expose the condition and concerns of migrant workers. The more than 110 members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) from 25 countries are gearing up for various actions that will highlight issues of migrants of various nationalities as a sector.

In this light, the IMA calls on to its members and supporters to:
1. Launch actions that will highlight the issues of job security and wage of the migrants. Policies that make these rights vulnerable to attacks must be targeted while remaining vigilant over new ones that governments will cook up. Give particular attention also to the plight of undocumented migrants.
2. Conduct a massive education campaign among migrants on the roots and causes of the current global recession. Neoliberal globalization must be further exposed and concretized to the migrants to intensify our opposition against them.
3. Aggressively organize migrants in the grassroots. Only the collective will and actions of the migrants can be our effective weapons against the onslaught of attacks to our rights that are sure to come.
4. Gather the broadest unity with other migrant organizations and advocates for the campaigns that we shall conduct.
5. Unite in solidarity with the local workers and other oppressed classes and sectors in host countries by establishing coalitions with their unions and federations that will serve as shields against neoliberal globalization’s attacks to our rights as workers and oppressed peoples in the host country.
6. Integrate our movement overseas with that in our respective home countries to advance the struggle against imperialism and for genuine democracy, human rights and social justice
In the coming months, migrants are to face hardships never seen before. It will show how right the people are to oppose neoliberal globalization policies. It will show how imperative it is to do actions for social justice and human rights. It will show how migrants are part of the struggle for change.

Through militant struggles, we can overcome and build a world that we and our people deserve.

-- International Migrants' Alliance

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Court victory for migrant workers in Vancouver, Canada

The British Columbia and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council

MEDIA ADVISORY Wednesday December 3, 2008

Temporary foreign workers on Canada Line construction win precedent-setting BC Human Rights Tribunal discrimination complaint decision worth more than estimated $2.4 million against SELI Canada and SNC Lavalin; Building Trades call for better treatment of all temporary foreign workers across Canada

VANCOUVER – A BC Human Rights Tribunal decision today that temporary foreign workers on the Canada Line rapid transit project were discriminated against will force employers and governments to treat all temporary foreign workers fairly, says the BC and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council (BCYT).

The Tribunal gave the 38 workers from Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador an award estimated at more than $2.4 million for back pay and damages for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect” because Canada Line contractors SELI Canada and SNC Lavalin paid them significantly less than European employees doing the same work on the $2 billion project.

“The BC Human Rights Tribunal made a decision today that will improve the lives of tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers in Canada forever,” said Wayne Peppard, BCYT Executive Director. “All workers in Canada have rights that must be respected, whether they are Canadian citizens or workers who come here from another country – that’s what this decision means.”

The union that the workers’ joined is thrilled and had a warning for employers who exploit temporary foreign workers.

“Employers across Canada in every type of workplace need to make sure they are treating their workers fairly or they will pay a heavy price,” said Mark Olsen, Business Manager, the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union, Local 1611 [known as the Labourers’ Union.] “Non-union foreign workers should now feel free to come forward to be represented and protected by unions.”

The CSWU organized the workers, who were mostly from Costa Rica, after Building Trades officials discovered they were making less than $5 an hour working on Canada Line tunnel construction.

BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said the case will prompt more complaints to the BC Human Rights Tribunal from other BC workers.

“Farmworkers, hotel and hospitality workers and other temporary foreign workers who have been brought to BC and exploited by some unscrupulous employers now have a clear way to improve their lives and win fair wages and working conditions,” Sinclair said. “We will use this decision to help those workers and put an end to employers who want to use them for cheap labour to increase profits.”

Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti also hailed the decision as having national implications.

“There are tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers being brought into every province in Canada without adequate protection,” Georgetti said. “The BC Human Rights Tribunal decision sets a precedent for the whole country and the federal and provincial governments must now act quickly to ensure these workers’ rights are respected by providing full enforcement.”

Enrique Aguilar, a spokesperson for the temporary foreign workers and cousin to one of them, said the workers have returned to their homes in Costa Rica and thanked the Building Trades and CSWU for their strong support.

“The Building Trades and the CSWU have been incredible in their support for a group of workers from another country who were being exploited here in Vancouver,” Aguilar said. “The workers have asked me to convey their enormous thanks for that support – they could not have done this without the help of labour in BC.”

Charles Gordon of FIorillo, Glavin, Gordon, legal counsel for the CSWU on the Human Rights Tribunal case, said he hopes the precedent set by the decision will avoid similar lengthy and expensive hearings for other workers.

“Temporary foreign workers should not have to rely on extensive litigation or suffer lengthy delays to win their basic human rights in Canada,” Gordon said. “I hope this historic decision will make it much easier for other workers to demand fair treatment and encourage governments to adequately protect those rights.”

Wayne Peppard called upon SELI Canada and SNC Lavalin to drop plans to appeal the BC Human Rights Tribunal decision to the courts – a move he says will further injure the temporary foreign workers.

“These workers have suffered enough - SELI Canada and SNC Lavalin should do the right thing, admit their serious mistakes and pay the workers the back pay and damages they are now owed,” Peppard said. “Forcing the workers through another lengthy judicial process to try and deny them the money they are owed would be cruel and vindictive treatment that these hard working men don’t deserve.”

“There is no justice if the cost of justice is beyond the reach of ordinary workers,” Peppard said, adding that the costs of the BC Human Rights Tribunal hearings and other hearings at the BC Labour Relations Board and Employment Standards to the BCYT and the CSWU is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For more information: Wayne Peppard, BCYT, +1604-291-9020 or cell +1778-388-0014. Mark Olsen, Labourers 1611 at +1604-432-9300 or cell +1604-341-1799. Charles Gordon, +1604-734-8001. Jim Sinclair, BC Federation of Labour, +1604-430-1421. Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labour Congress, +1613-526-7431. Or Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, +1604-844-7827 or cell +1778-896-0964.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stop scapegoating immigrants for votes / Arrêtez d’utiliser la question des immigrants pour gagner des votes

[français en-dessous]

Montréal, December 4, 2008 -- Shortly before Québec premier Jean Charest called the provincial election, Yolande James, his Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities, astounded us with the announcement that immigrants to Quebec would have to respect Québec’s “common values”. She said that immigrants to Québec must respect the fact that Québec is a secular society where men and women have equal rights, and would have to sign a declaration to this effect. Not to be sidelined, and in a pathetic attempt to prop up sagging support, ADQ head, Mario Dumont raised the ‘Quebec identity’ bogey, saying the new course in Quebec schools on ethics, religion and culture in Quebec schools was “a negation of Québécois values.” While Dumont has been roundly pilloried for this, James’s announcement has not received the same kind of attention. And if we look back in recent history, we cannot forget former PQ leader Parizeau’s “money and the ethnic vote” comment. (Photo: Yolande James, Quebec Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities)

James and Dumont show that time has changed little. That no matter the political stripe, when it comes to minority rights, politicians play politics, and are ready to sacrifice them. They pander to what they believe are the sentiments of majority voters. They scapegoat immigrants and they are deliberately blind to history. The first inhabitants of Québec (and lest we forget, ‘Québec’ is an indigenous name) are the aboriginal people. Yet there are no sensibilities to their language, culture or values, (which include higher levels of gender equality than that of the settler colonialists).

Last year, in response to Dumont’s challenges, Premier Charest established the Reasonable Accommodation commission. It was heartening to see that the xenophobic elements were in the minority. That the majority of Quebecers were not caught up with narrow definitions of identity. Unfortunately, completely negating the findings of their own commission, the Liberals have, a year later, issued the James ‘requirement’. And Dumont tried to stir up a hornet’s nest again. We said it then and we say it now – playing identity politics is a red herring and a dangerous game. It should be trashed once and for all!

Instead of having new immigrants to Quebec sign a declaration, the Quebec government should issue a promise to all in Quebec -- new arrivals, as well as those who have been here longer, and the indigenous people -- that all rights will be protected, there will be no racial profiling, that equivalences for education and professional experience will be processed without delay, that housing is available to all irrespective of race and income, that minority youth will not be discriminated in employment in public and private sectors, that there will be no distinctions based on race, gender, ethnicity and religion, and government will work affirmatively in this direction. In essence, that Quebec will be a society based on justice and equity. Some examples of these affirmations would be the provision of more free French classes, reduced waiting periods for newcomers to access healthcare in the same way as other Quebecers.

We at the South Asian Women’s Community Centre, providing support, services and advocacy for South Asian women and their families in the Greater Montreal area for the past 27 years, would like to warn all parties about the irresponsible and dangerous game they play when one group in a population is targeted. History is full of examples of the consequences. Once the monster it out of the bottle it’s hard to push it back in.

Info:; 514-528-8812 x 103

Sommaire du Communiqué de presse

Arrêtez d’utiliser la question des immigrants pour gagner des votes

Les partis politiques continuent d’utiliser la question des immigrants pour influencer les votes. Les libéraux du premier ministre Charest ont annoncé, peu avant le déclenchement de la campagne électorale, que les immigrants au Québec auront à signer une déclaration reconnaissant les valeurs du peuple Québécois. Mario Dumont, le chef de l’opposition l’ADQ, dénonce le nouveau cour dans les écoles traitant de l’éthique, la religion et de la culture québécoise comme une négation des valeurs québécoises. Et, il est impossible d’oublier la fameuse phrase de Jacques Parizeau ‘ nous avons été battus par l’argent et les votes ethniques’.

N’importe le parti politique, ils sont prêts à sacrifier les droits des minorités pour céder aux sentiments de la majorité des électeurs. Pourtant, la contribution à la destruction de la richesse des langues, des cultures et valeurs des autochtones restent toujours un oubli.

L’établissement de la Commission de consultation sur les pratiques d’accommodement reliées aux différences culturelle, le 8 février 2007, a démontré que la majorité de la population ne percevait pas l’identité québécoise d’une manière étroite et rigide. Malheureusement, les recommandations de la commission n’ont pas figuré dans les initiatives du gouvernement Charest.

En lieu de faire signer une déclaration par les immigrants, le gouvernement du Québec a besoin de promettre aux nouveaux immigrants, aux immigrants qui sont établis depuis longtemps et aux premières nations de protéger leurs droits humains, de ne pas faire du profilage ethnique, d’améliorer le processus pour obtenir des équivalences pour les études et l’expérience professionnelle, l’accès aux logements, que les jeunes des communautés culturelles puissent accéder à l’emploi dans le secteur privé et public sans discrimination et d’offrir plus de cours de français et de réduire le temps d’attente pour l’accès aux services de santé.

Le centre communautaire des femmes sud-asiatiques qui existe depuis plus de 27 ans offre des services d’aide et de soutien aux nouveaux immigrants et réfugiées. Nous soulignons que c’est irresponsable et dangereux à tous les partis politiques d’utiliser la question des immigrants pour gagner des votes. Les conséquences sont désastreuses.

Centre South Asian
communautaire des Women’s
femmes Community
sud-asiatiques Centre

Info:; 514-528-8812 x 103

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Vancouver: Canada Line’s foreign workers faced discrimination, says tribunal

By Carlito Pablo (Georgia Straight)

Publish Date: December 3, 2008

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that temporary foreign workers who helped build the underground tunnel in Vancouver for the Canada Line were discriminated against by their employers. (Illustration by Claudio Munoz)

In a 218-page ruling issued today (December 3), a tribunal panel states that the complaint filed on behalf of the mostly Latin American workers by Local 1611 of the Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union was “justified”.

“We conclude that CSWU has established that members of the Complainant Group were discriminated against by the Respondents on the grounds of race, colour, ancestry and place of origin”, the ruling states.

Named respondents in the case were SELI Canada Inc., a subsidiary of the Rome, Italy-based SELI SPA; SNC Lavalin Constructors (Pacific) Inc., a subsidiary of SNC Lavalin Canada Inc.; and SNCP-SELI Joint Venture, which is the tie-up company responsible for the tunnel part of the Canada Line project.

As the panel summarized, there were four aspects of the complaint.

First, the Latin Americans were paid less than Europeans employed to do the same work.

Second, the workers were housed in inferior accommodations compared to most of the Europeans.

Third, the Latin Americans were a given different meal arrangement.

Lastly, the Latin Americans were given expense arrangements less favourable than those for the European workers.

The panel ordered the respondents to pay the complainants the differences between the salaries and expenses paid to them and those that were paid to their European counterparts.

The panel also ordered the respondents to pay the Latin American workers $10,000 each as “compensation for injury to dignity”.

Source URL:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Irene Fernandez's court victory is victory for all migrants

November 24, 2008
Press Statement

Justice has been finally served for migrant activist Irene Fernandez.

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) celebrates with Irene Fernandez as the Kuala Lumpur High Court has acquitted her today from all charges filed by the Malaysian government in 1996.

Today, the presiding judge Mohamad Apandi Ali reversed the 2003 conviction on Fernandez after the prosecution did not oppose the appeal of Fernandez "in the interest of justice."

Irene Fernandez is the director of Malaysia-based migrant institution Tenaganita and a member of the IMA International Coordinating Body.

It can be remembered that in 1996, the Malaysian government charged Fernandez of violating the Printing Presses and Publication Act of 1984 after she and Tenaganita exposed in a publication the inhumane conditions of captured undocumented workers in immigration detention cells.

Fernandez's acquittal is definitely an addition to the concrete gains of our movement. Truly, her victory is the victory for all migrant workers around the world.

It only proves the righteousness and strong foundation of Tenaganita's campaign to protect the rights of undocumented migrants in Malaysia and the need for the Malaysian government to address such urgent concern.

It is in then but proper for the Malaysian government to heed the ongoing campaign to recognize, respect and protect the rights and welfare of migrant workers in Malaysia, be they documented or not.

With her acquittal, we continue the campaign. With her victory, we continue the struggle.

For reference:
Eni Lestari, Chairperson, International Migrants' Alliance

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Massive crackdown against migrant workers in Masok, South Korea

A massive and unlawful crackdown by the Ministry of Justice and police force took place in the Seong-Sang Furniture Factory Complex in Masok (Namyangju City, Gyounggi-Do, Korea) on November 12th, beginning roughly at 9:30am. The crackdown was carried out using over 100 police officers and immigration offices of Seoul, Eujeongbu, and Incheon Airport, large riot police buses and several 35-seat Ministry of Justice vehicles.

The crackdown began with the blocking off of the front and the back gate of the Masok industrial complex with police buses. Immigration officers caught and arrested migrant workers on the street, in the factories, in dormitories and homes, such that more than 100 migrant workers were taken into custody. During the raid, the human rights of migrant workers were severely violated as the officers failed to present proper identification, inflicted verbal and physical abuse and used excessive force including handcuffs, unlawful breaking and entering into homes and factories, and racially-based targeting of migrant workers without checking their passports or visas.

Many migrant workers were injured while trying to flee from the crackdown officers. Among those who were arrested were a young Bangladeshi mother of a four-year-old and a Nepalese male worker, father of an 11-month-old son. In addition, according to a press release from the Ministry of Justice, another raid also took place in a similar manner in the Cheong-San Farm in Yeon-Chon, Gyounggi-Do.

This massive crackdown is putting migrant workers, documented and undocumented, in the state of terror and fear, depriving them of their labor and human rights. The fact that police force was active and present during the immigration crackdown makes us question the willingness from the government to protect the basic human rights of migrant workers. In this state of terror that the crackdown created, many migrant workers are afraid of stepping out of their homes, to the extent that a pregnant Filipina woman with a valid working visa was afraid of going to the hospital.

However, the fact that is that after Lee Myeongbak called for stricter treatment of migrant workers the Ministry of Justice has set quotas for how many people to catch in each region and has carried out a relentless crackdown continuously, even targeted areas where there has been resistance such as Masok. While the crackdown is clearly a violation of human rights it is very unclear how it is in anyway upholding social order or how it is in anyway useful to local residents who live, work and make the economy run together with migrant workers. And it is of course entirely absurd that it brutally arresting 100 migrant works in one swoop is inevitable or has anything to do with their protection.

In the face of this unlawful and violent crackdown, we demand that the government apologize and release all those arrested in the Masok raid. It must be clearly stated that social order is not upheld by trampling on the rights of migrant workers and hunting them like animals.

-- We strongly condemn the barbaric, human-hunting crackdown!
-- Stop the joint crackdown by the Ministry of Justice and police immediately!
-- Make a formal apology and punish those responsible for this unprecedented raid!
-- Release those migrant workers arrested in the raid immediately!

The Migrant Workers Trade Union (MTU)
The MTU is an affiliate of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

IMA - Canada demands release of Nepali migrant leader Ramesh Tufan

Montreal, November 11, 2008 -- The International Migrants’ Alliance - Canada (IMA - Canada) expresses our strongest condemnation of the arbitrary arrest of Ramesh Tufan, International Coordinating Body (ICB) member of the IMA and chief of the department of foreign affairs of the Nepal Labour Organization, an active affiliate of the IMA. We demand his immediate and unconditional release.

IMA – Canada is the Canadian section of a global alliance of 118 grassroots associations, organizations, unions, networks and alliances of migrant workers, immigrants, refugees and displaced peoples from 25 countries.

According to reports, Mr. Tufan was arrested by the Malaysian police upon his arrival at the Malaysian airport after attending the International Assembly for Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) in Manila, Philippines on October 28-29, 2008. The IAMR was a counter conference to the second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), which was also held in Manila.

The arrest of Mr. Tufan, a leader of migrant workers and advocate of the rights of migrants around the world, is highly questionable and is a clear and concrete violation of his rights.

IMA – Canada represents the interests of migrant and immigrant workers across Canada. We understand the crucial role that migrant workers play here in Canada and in countries like Malaysia, which has a huge migrant population. Both countries cannot survive without the skills and hard work of migrants like Mr. Tufan. We are very concerned about his arrest and ask the Malaysian government to reverse what we see as a wrong and misguided decision. We believe this arbitrary arrest casts a very negative light on Malaysia's treatment of its migrant workers.

We firmly request that you correct this error immediately and release Mr. Tufan with an apology and just compensation.

In a democracy it is imperative that errors be corrected and that wrong decisions be reversed immediately. Mr. Tufan has committed no crimes. He has only stood up strongly to protect the rights and welfare of the millions of migrant workers around the globe. He deserves a medal, not imprisonment.

We, as members if the International Migrants' Alliance – Canada, demand his immediate and unconditional release.

Tess Tesalona
for IMA - Canada

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Warning! Domestic work can be dangerous to your immigration status, health, safety and wallet!

Montreal - Come to a community event to LAUNCH the results of a survey on the work conditions of domestic workers

Free entry

Cultural presentation on the concrete experiences of caregivers

When: Sunday, November 9, 2008, 15h00 to 18h00
Where: 6767 Cote-des-Neiges, Montreal

Supper will be served, plus entertainment


Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec
Organisation des femmes Philippines du Québec
7595 Central Ave. Lasalle, Quebec H8P 1K8
+1514 364-9833
email: pinaycan[at]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees unites migrant workers in Manila

Migrants all over the World Unite against ‘Modern Day Slavery’


Close to 200 migrants from 35 countries gathered in Manila Oct. 28 to 30 and stood up against what they call as ‘modern day slavery.’

Under the banner of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), the migrants held the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) at the Bay View Park Hotel in Manila as a counter assembly to the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) hosted by the Philippine government.

The participants to the IAMR held 11 simultaneous workshops on issues confronting the migrants, immigrants and refugees all over the world.

More at: Migrants all over the World Unite against ‘Modern Day Slavery’ - Bulatlat

Indian visitors to Canada now questioned about family's criminal background

Dear friends:

The Canadian government is implementing a new visa questionnaire for all Indian nationals. This questionnaire is unprecedented in that it only applies to Indian nationals and is also unprecedented given the highly intrusive nature of the questionnaire. There is absolutely no clarity as to how and for what purpose the answers will be used or shared and Canadian government officers themselves have recognized that the questionnaire will force many people to unknowingly misrepresent themselves, creating a recipe for disaster. More fundamentally, this questionnaire reveals how Immigration Canada and the Canadian Consulate in Chandigarh continue to unjustly racially stereotype and probe all people from Punjab as "potential threats". Therefore, this new visa questionnaire must rigorously be condemned.

Harsha Walia
for SANSAD (South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy)


Indian visitors to Canada now questioned about family's criminal background
Kim Bolan, Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, November 04, 2008

VANCOUVER - Every Indian national who wants to visit Canada must now answer a sweeping questionnaire that asks if they or any of their relatives around the world have ever had links to militant groups such as the Babbar Khalsa or the International Sikh Youth Federation.

The form demands details of any arrests or criminal charges laid against the applicant or any family members, and whether they have ever served in the police or any paramilitary force.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who obtained the questionnaire through the Access to Information act, said he has never seen anything as wide-reaching as the document, which appears to have been implemented recently and only for India.

Not even the Americans, who are post-9/11 paranoid, engage this intrusive a questionnaire," Kurland said.

He said the tens of thousands of Indian visa applicants may not even know how to answer some of the questions.

"This thing loops globally and includes your entire family, which is not defined. It exposes you to misrepresentation in the event that any family member in the world, unbeknownst to you, has had a criminal incident because you didn't declare it," Kurland said.

The three-page document requests information about any association with a political, religious or social organization and whether or not the applicant has done any fundraising. It demands details of all trips abroad.

Eight groups are specifically referenced: the Babbar Khalsa, ISYF, Khalistan Commando Force, Khalistan Zindabad Force, Khalistan Liberation Front, All India Sikh Student Federation, Lashkar e Tayyiba/Jamaat al-Dawat and Markaze-Dawat-War-Irshad. Some but not all of the listed groups are banned in Canada as terrorist organizations.

Kurland said he has seen special documents prepared for other parts of the world where some applicants might have been involved in a conflict. But the questionnaires in those cases are given only to people whose cases have raised other red flags.

He said the Indian document is so sweeping it is almost useless and encourages people to lie.

Kurland also obtained e-mails from Canadian visa officers in which they expressed concerns about a draft of the questionnaire.

"Frankly, I find the questionnaire very intrusive and not something one would expect to see used often in the largest democracy on the planet," Trudy Kernighan wrote in one e-mail, dated Oct. 9, 2007, from the Canadian High Commission in Delhi. "Who in their right mind in the Punjab could be expected to answer truthfully? Lying to us has its own implications, but why beg for more dishonesty that we already get?"

The questionnaire was implemented by the Canada Border Services Agency, the documents say.

Kurland thinks the CBSA may be concerned about bad press about two controversial militants who managed to get visas to come to Canada.

In October 2006, the mother of a convicted assassin was granted a visa to travel to Ontario to accept an honour for her son at the Rexdale temple. The visa was revoked after a report in the Vancouver Sun about the event.

Six weeks before that, Ranjit Singh, a controversial former Sikh high priest convicted in India for killing a rival religious leader, arrived at Vancouver International Airport with a visa before being sent back to India by the CBSA.

Singh came as a guest of Abbotsford's Kalgidhar Darbar Sikh Temple.

Temple president Swarn Singh Gill said there has been a crackdown on visas coming out of Punjab for some time.

"We have trouble getting visas for all the jathas (preachers) coming here," he said. "They have been refusing visas to a lot of people. It is
not good."

He said some of those being refused had previously visited several times without a problem. He has raised the issue with his local MP.

"We need people coming here for preaching," Gill said.

But Kashmir Singh Dhaliwal, president of Vancouver's Ross Street Temple, says he agrees with the tougher regulations.

He said Canada has seen violence related to extremists and should make sure anyone with those associations does not come to visit.

"I think it is a good thing," Dhaliwal said. "We don't want those problems to come here again."

Dhaliwal said the temple invites five or six jathas a year and has not had problems getting visas.

"At least 90 per cent of them get visas," Dhaliwal said.

Canadian Immigration officials refused to comment, referring calls to the border agency.

CBSA official Tracie LeBlanc did not comment specifically on the questionnaire, but said in an e-mail: "Please note that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act clearly outlines that people who have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, or who are members of a terrorist organization are inadmissible to Canada."

"Immigration applications of concern are vetted on a case-by-case basis by the CBSA to prevent inadmissible people from reaching Canada," LeBlanc said.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Migrant workers Speak Out in Montreal

Montreal, Sunday, October 26, 2008 -- As part of International Migrants' Alliance (IMA) - Canada's nation-wide activities to mark their opposition to the UN-sponsored Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Manila, more than fifty migrant workers, refugees, immigrant textile workers and their supporters came together in Montreal in a Speak-Out which exposed the "true cost of migration".

The Tamil Assembly of Montreal, PINAY – Filipino Women's Organization of Quebec, the Immigrant Workers Centre, the South Asian Women's Community Centre and several other groups participated in the event. The speakers and and audience members systematically debunked the claim promoted by the GFMD that "forced migration can be a model for development". Local journalists were also present. Rita Costa, of the Movement Against Rape and Incest, was the bilingual MC.

The Montreal event coincided with other IMA-Canada events in Vancouver, British Columbia and Toronto, Ontario to support the International Assembly on Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), a migrant-led counter conference organized at the same time as the GFMD in the Philippine capital by the International Migrants' Alliance (IMA).

The afternoon session began with a presentation by Joey Calugay on the United Nations-sponsored (and imperialist-backed!) GFMD and the reasons why the migrants themselves decided to organize the IAMR and call for solidarity actions around the globe.

Joey is a member of the Filipino Workers Support Group of Montreal and a staff organizer for the Immigrant Workers Centre. He also sits on the national organizing committee of BAYAN-Canada, an Alliance of progressive and anti-imperialist Filipino organizations across Canada.

Tamil refugees Speak Out!

Three members of The Tamil Assembly then exposed the wave of deportations that is hitting their community, many members of which are accused unjustly of being "terrorists". They presented an emotional appeal for an immediate moratorum on the deportations of their community members back to Sri Lanka. They explained that many Tamil refugee claimants are beginning to see their claims denied and are facing deportation to a country where conflict still exists and where Tamil's are being targeted. Gross human rights violations are being perpetrated against Tamils under the US-ideology of the "war on terror", which is used by the Sri-Lankan government to try to quell resistance.

Canada, which has major investments in Sri Lanka and in south Asia, has been backing the Sri Lankan government and the speakers explained that there is even talk of allowing Canada's warships to dock in Sri-Lankan ports. As a partner on the war on terror, Canada apparently views the enemies of the Sri Lankan government as their own and as result appears to be "discriminating against Tamils seeking refugee status in Canada". Apparently bending to pressure from the Sri Lankan government, Canada has now said that, "it is safe for Tamils to go back".

The participants at the Speak Out offered their full support to the Tamil refugees. (For more information on the situation of Tamils the speakers suggested the web site:

Live-in caregivers Speak Out!

Josephine Calugay, a former live-in caregiver, explained how her group PINAY was organized in 1991 to address the issues of Filipino women and live-in domestic workers in Quebec. Since its inception, PINAY has been leading in the struggle to ensure that the rights and welfare of Filipina migrant workers under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) is upheld, she said.

Josephine explained that Canada today continues to widen its temporary workers program at the same time it makes its laws stricter to prevent most migrants from ever getting permanent status in Canada. Workers under the Federal government's LCP are also impacted by these policies. She said that the government of the Philippines boasts about its own Labour Export Policy, which was organized to systematically export Filipino workers to other countries. "The Philippine government claims that this will solve the problem of unemployment in our homeland and will enable families receiving the remittance money to live better. But we migrants know the devastating long-term impact that these policies have on our lives and that of our families, and how it has not led to true development for the people of the Philippines," Josephine concluded.

Migrant factory workers Speak Out!

Gurvinder Kaur, a former worker at the textile factory, L'Amour Inc, talked about the campaign of laid-off workers from that company to get just compensation.

Gurvinder is originally from India and worked for the Montreal-based company for several years before being laid off with hundreds of her co-workers in 2007. The majority of the workers came from countries like Haiti, the Philippines, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. She explained that just like thousands before them, they and their families were forced to leave their countries in search of a better life abroad. For many of them, the temporary or seasonal work that was available in their home countries was not enough to survive on.

Gurvinder said that after having settled as immigrants to Canada, they worked loyally for this sock-making company, helping to make L'Amour one of the most competitive in the world. But after years of labouring and creating profit for this company, she said, they were unceremoniously laid-off. Also the company did not even bother to help the workers apply for retraining and reintegration programs which would have helped them find other jobs or helped them survive during this difficult period.

Companies like L'Amour have found it more profitable to move their operations into the Third World, benefiting and making super profits from the exploitation of cheap labour, Joey Calugay said. "The story of the immigrant workers of L'Amour is a story of displaced peoples. Development does not exist for them and their example shatters the myth that forced migration can lead to development both for their countries of origin and for themselves as workers", Joey concluded.

For photos of the event, please follow the following links : and

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

UN envoy to attend counter assembly to GMFD

ANGIE DE LARA, Migrant Watch - Bulatlat

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants will attend the International Assembly of Migrants and Refuges (IAMR), a counterpart assembly to the Global Forum and Development (GMFD).

Launched by Migrante International and the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), the IAMR will formally convene on October 28 to 30 at the Bayview Park Hotel along Roxas Boulevard in Manila.

Formed in June this year, the IMA is a global alliance of 112 migrants' organizations from 25 countries. Its members come from grassroots migrants like domestic workers, factory workers, agricultural workers, undocumented migrants, workers in the service sectors, and even political refugees.

Jorge Bustamante, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants will deliver a message at the opening of the IAMR.

Bustamante will also attend the Joint Regional Consultation with the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD). The IMA will take the opportunity to bring to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants cases of migrants including 29 overseas Filipino workers in death row, stranded OFWs and massive crackdown of undocumented Filipino workers in Sabah, Malaysia.

Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante chairperson and IMA secretary general said, "We from IAMR believe that the real agenda of the 2nd GFMD assembly sponsored by the Arroyo government is only to strengthen the labor export program. This is one of the biggest challenges and the reason why the migrant workers all over the world are resisting the GFMD.

Regalado said the IAMR assembly will give voice and space for migrants who have been isolated from the GFMD.

The IAMR assembly delegates and speakers will come from different countries such as South Africa, Germany, Mexico, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Canada, Argentina, USA, India, Malaysia, Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.

"In this assembly, we will be exposing the real face of migration," Regalado said.

Representatives from each organization will talk about their experiences and struggles as migrants. The delegates will also tackle how they will cope up with the global crisis, said Regalado.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Villanueva, vice chairperson of Filipino Migrant Workers Union-Hong Kong and secretary general of the United Filipinos in Hong-Kong (UNIFIL-HK) said they will also discuss the situation of domestic helpers, their campaign for higher wages and migrant workers' rights. Villanueva has been working as a domestic helper for more than 17 years now.

Villanueva said,"While Foreign Affairs Undersecretary and Co-Chairperson of GFMD Esteban Conejos is broadcasting that the protection and welfare of migrants is the main concern of the GMFD, they have isolated us from the assembly."

Villanueva questioned the GFMD's concept of "migration for development". "Bakit kailangang paghiwa-hiwalayin ang pamilya upang paunlarin ang isang bansa? Bakit kailangang magkaroon ng migrasyon para sa kaunlaran ng mga bansa? Bakit kailangang iwanan ng mga magulang ang kanilang mga anak at bakit kailangang iwanan ng mga anak ang kanilang mga magulang para magkaroon ng kaunlaran?" (Why do families have to break up just so the country will develop? Why does there have to migration for the development of countries? Why do parents have to leave their children and why do sons and daughters have to leave their parents to attain development?) asked Villanueva.

He opposed the idea that the GFMD is making the Philippines as the role model for migration. "Our experience of more than three decades of exporting labor was their basis for an efficient labor export program. But until now there is no development for us migrants and for our families."

Violators of migrant rights

Villanueva criticized the composition of GFMD. He said that delegates will come from countries that are rabid violators of migrant rights.

He said that the US has implemented a massive crackdown on undocumented migrants. In Europe, Villanueva said that the new rules will affect undocumented migrants.

He also hit Malaysia's inhumane treatment of deportees from the Philippines and Indonesia. (Deportees from Sabah Endure Inhumane Treatment) "Let us not forget the South Korea, and the treatment they did to the leaders of Migrant Trade Union (MTU) who are citizens of Nepal and Bangladesh.

"If the GFMD is for us migrants why is it that no migrant worker will represent us in that assembly?" Villanueva said the GMFD is only after their remittances.

The World Bank record shows that world remittances reach more than US$337 billion excluding remittances sent through non-formal channels.

Global crisis

Dr. Carol Araullo, chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-New Patriotic Alliance) said that the ongoing financial crisis has exposed that the Arroyo government's labor export policy is of no good.

She said that migration will never be the answer to the development of our country, and remittances cannot sustain all the needs of our country. "With the financial crisis now, more and more Filipinos will seek work outside the Philippines but will only find it difficult, and more migrants will be forced to go back home," said Araullo.

"When they come back, no jobs are waiting for them. The fruits of their hardship have been invested in small business ventures, the daily needs of their family and their children's education," said Araullo.

Araullo said the government should pay attention to the generation and creation of jobs, especially decent and high quality jobs in the country.

She said the financial crisis will generate more conflict. "There will be a clash not just economically but socially and politically throughout the world. Our migrants will find themselves in a more difficult situation."

There will also be international actions against GFMD in South Korea, Middle East, Hong Kong, New York, Canada, the Netherlands and in some parts of Europe.

For Filipino migrants, GFMD stands for 'Gloria Forcing Migrants to Death.' - Bulatlat

Monday, October 20, 2008

IMA calls for "Zero Remittance Day" on October 29

International Migrants Alliance (IMA), an alliance of migrants composed of 112 organizations worldwide will declare October 29, 2008 as a “Zero Remittance Day" to signify its opposition to “forced migration and systematic exploitation of cheap labor."

The symbolic protest action would coincide with the opening of the Global Forum on Migrant Development (GFMD) that would be hosted by the Philippines in Manila.

GFMD being an elitist, anti-migrant forum aimed to perpetuate the greater commodification of migrants worldwide. All over the globe, the growing migrants' movement views the GFMD as a sham assembly with the sole objective to consolidate and legitimize attacks on migrants' rights and welfare.

Through the Zero Remittance Day, the organizations would be sending out united message of protest from millions of migrants worldwide “who are forced to leave their homelands and subject themselves to cheap labor and exploitation out of desperation."

Toronto: Canadian Migrants Challenge to the GFMD

The inter-governmental Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) holds its second session in the Philippines this year. It will be in Manila on October 28-30, 2008. The GMFD will bring together government representatives from close to 200 countries, big business interests and their allied non-government organizations to discuss labor migration and development. But in the midst of global crisis this would likely be a market place to buy and sell migrants and attempt to squeeze more from migrant labor in the guise of promoting development.

At the same time Migrants from all over the world will gather in and will speak in their own behalf at the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) challenging the GFMD.

Toronto will be part of the nationally coordinated educational forum and part of the internationally coordinated action that challenges the GFMD.

The Forum will be on Sunday, October 26, 2008, 12 noon to 4 pm

It will be at the Wellesley Community Center, 495 Sherbourne St (cor Wellesley, 5 min south of Sherbourne Subway)

for more info: 647-205-5908
Migrante Ontario, member International Migrants' Alliance

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Montréal -- Les migrants et les réfugié-e-s lèvent la voix! / Migrants and Refugees Speak-out!

Les migrants et les réfugié-e-s lèvent la voix!

Pour contrer le Forum mondial sur la migration et le développpement
Un évènement de l'Alliance internationale des migrants-Canada

Dimanche le 26 octobre 2008 à Montréal
15h - 18h
6767 Cote-des-Neiges (Cente communautaire Côte-des-neiges)

Prendront la parole: Une réfugiée tamil, un travailleur agricole étranger, une aide familiale résidente étranger, un travailleur du textile immigrant. Avec présentations culturelles, collation et breuvages.

Informations: AIM - Canada (Montréal) +1514-342-2111

Membres de l'AIM Montréal: Centre communautaire des femmes sud-asiatiques, Comité d'appui aux travailleurs et travailleuses agricoles, PINAY, Centre d'appui aux Philippines, Mouvement contre le viol et l'inceste, Femmes de diverses origines pour le 8 mars, Centre des travailleurs/euses immigrants


Migrants and Refugees Speak-out!

This event is part of a world-wide response by migrant workers to counter the UN-sponsored Global Forum on Migration and Development to be held in Manila at the end October.
Organized by the International Migrants Alliance - Canada

Sunday, October 26, 2008 in Montreal
3pm - 6pm
6767 Cote-des-Neiges (Cote-des-Neiges Community Centre)

Speakers: Tamil refugees, migrant farm workers, live-in caregivers and immigrant textile workers. With cultural presentations, food and drink

Info: IMA-Canada (Montreal) +1514 342 2111

IMA members in Montreal: South Asian Women's Community Centre, Comité d'appui aux travailleurs et travailleuses agricoles, PINAY, Centre for Philippine Concerns, Mouvement contre le viol et l'inceste, Women of Diverse Origins for March 8, Immigrant Worker's Centre

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Migrante International plans own assembly in place of 'elitist' migration forums

Connie Bragas-Regalado
10/09/2008 | 08:09 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A militant group on Thursday said the twin gatherings scheduled at the end of the month in Manila to discuss global migration concerns are "elitist."

So in place of these "sham proceedings," Migrante International said it is sponsoring, together with the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), a third gathering on October 28-29 at the Bayview Park Hotel in Manila.

Migrante said the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) will be "a genuine gathering of migrants and migrants organizations from various countries of the world."

"It is in the IAMR where the migrants will gather to discuss our own issues. It is where we will speak of the horrors, the struggles, the tragedies that forced migration has caused us, our families and our societies. It is where we will demonstrate how forced migration cannot lead to genuine development," the group said in a press statement on Thursday.

The IAMR will coincide with the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) being hosted by the Philippine government, with hundreds of participants from various countries, global organizations and migrant groups.

Ten days before that gathering, however, Migrante International will be spearheading protest actions in the Philippines and abroad "to condemn the sham gathering."

The GFMD is an annual international conference on migration and development issues, following the High Level Dialogue on Migration organized by the United Nations (UN) in New York in September 2006.

This second GFMD will be held on October 27 to 30 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila. The so-called "civil society days," will be held on October 27 and 28 while the government meeting on the 29 and 30.

While the GFMD appears to include a wide spectrum of society, Migrante said "a miniscule percent of them (GFMD participants), if at all, can even claim to represent us the migrants who toil abroad everyday and whose fates are being shaped without our consent."

It said even the so-called "civil society days" have excluded migrants and their families, including the thousands represented by Migrante.

"We are direct witnesses to the palpable elitism of the GFMD through its exclusion of the millions of overseas Filipinos, as well as migrants of other nationalities, from this event," Migrante's Connie Bragas-Regalado said.

The group was also not impressed with the "parallel gatherings" like the People's Global Action (PGA) and the Civil Society Dialogue spearheaded by the Ayala Foundation, which claim to complement the GFMD.

The PGA is an alternative movement organized by the civil society coalition Philippine Working Group (PWG) which will be held on the October 22 to 30.

"Unlike the organizers of these (parallel) gatherings, (we) condemn its (the GFMD) agenda of forcing migrants to bear the burden of keeping sagging economies like that of the Philippines afloat," Migrante said.

It said it is sure that the GFMD "has no intention whatsoever to speak for (their) interests."

"Instead of strengthening basic local industries to provide work for its citizens, the GFMD aims to pressure governments to encourage their citizens to work abroad," it said.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

MIGRANTE-B.C. Solidarity message for the Launching of IMA-Canada

MIGRANTE-B.C. sends its warm greetings of support and solidarity to all the organizers and attendees of the launching of International Migrants Alliance (IMA)-Canada.

Migrante-B.C. is a mass-based organization of Filipino migrants and their families that asserts that Filipino migrants deserve the greatest promotion and protection of their rights wherever they are.

An estimated number of 10,000 Filipinos come to join the ranks of the 328,000 Filipinos who have settled in Canada. We see this number increasing after the Canadian government signed an agreement with the Philippine Government to open its doors to temporary foreign workers. While these temporary foreign workers fill up the shortage of skilled labour in Canada, they are also vulnerable to exploitation, as is evidenced from their oppressive working conditions, with the present Live-in Caregivers Program as a good example.

It is imperative that all migrants and refugee organizations unite and rely on their own abilities to educate, organize and mobilize the broadest number of migrants and refugees for the advancement of their rights and welfare. Only through a strong alliance under IMA-Canada can this struggle be forged and fought.

MIGRANTE-B.C. stands united with you in ensuring that the human rights and welfare of migrant workers, refugees and their families are protected.

MIGRANTE-B.C. looks forward to strengthening links with the IMA-Canada as we advance the struggle of migrant workers in Canada.


109-4155 Central Boulevard
Burnaby, B.C. V5H 4X2

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Groups seek ‘overdue’ justice for death of OFW in Canada

MANILA, Philippines - Several migrant groups are still seeking justice for an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who was killed in Canada in 2007.

The Filipino Migrant Worker’s Movement, Migrant Ontario and Migrante International on Wednesday said in a statement that two men charged with first degree murder are set to appear again before a court in November for the death of Jocelyn Dulnuan, a 27-year old from Ifugao province.

Dulnuan, a live-in caregiver, was killed in her employer’s mansion in Mississauga, Canada on October 1, 2007.

“We cannot allow the murder of Jocelyn Dulnuan to fade away. We will continue to seek justice for her," said Jonathan Canchela, chairperson of the Filipino Migrant Workers' Movement in the statement.

He said all those responsible for the death of Dulnuan must be prosecuted, including Philippine government officials who are possibly guilty of criminal neglect in addressing the cases of victimized migrant workers.

Marco Luciano of Migrante Ontario said the Philippine government under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo must perform its duty of providing assistance and addressing the plight of thousands of OFWs in foreign countries like Canada.

“All legal and diplomatic avenues should be exerted so that her death does not become another statistic in a list of unsolved murder cases," said Migrante International Chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado in the statement.

According to Migrante Ontario, an estimated 13,000 caregivers were deployed to Canada under the LCP in the past year, 90 percent of which are Filipinos.

Dulnuan. came to Canada under the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP), a federal government program that allows Filipinos to come as caregivers. The program requires workers to live in the homes of their employers for two years to perform domestic and caregiving work.

It also said the Philippines, as the second largest exporter of people in the world, pushes more than 3,000 Filipinos daily to seek employment overseas, eight of which return back to the Philippines dead every day.

Migrante International records said there are least 23 cases of unsolved murders against Filipinos abroad since 2002.- Kimberly Jane Tan, GMANews.TV

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

OFW Remittances: a Tool for Development or a Sign of Underdevelopment?

That so many millions of Filipinos are forced to go abroad and that the country is so dependent on remittances actually underscore the great failure of the government to build a solid domestic economy.


The Arroyo government will host the Second Global Forum on Migration and Development this October. Bulatlat interviewed Jose Enrique Africa, research head of IBON Foundation regarding overseas Filipino workers’ remittances and Philippine Development.

Bulatlat: The BSP said that the Philippines is the 4th biggest remittance receiver in the world. How do the Filipino people benefit from this?

Africa: The Philippines is the largest among the most migrant- and remittance-dependent countries in the world. That so many millions of Filipinos are forced to go abroad and that the country is so dependent on remittances actually underscore the great failure of the government to build a solid domestic economy.

Of course, remittances are a tremendous help for OFWs and their families and remittances are a vital source of stable foreign exchange. But these should not be used to divert from the more important point of why the domestic economy remains so backward and why Filipinos are forced to go abroad in the first place. The reason the economy remains so underdeveloped and jobs so scarce despite the globally unrivalled importance of overseas work and remittances is because these are not part of the solution but rather symptoms of the problem. The problem is that domestic agriculture and industry are not being built, that foreign and domestic elites are the one benefiting from the country’s resources and labor, and that there is such severe economic and political inequality in the country.

Bulatlat: The Arroyo government said that the increase in remittances is due to increasing demand for labor of countries with aging population. Is this true?

It is true that many populations abroad are aging and so there is a relative increase in their need for new entrants into their workforces and even for nurses and caregivers to care for the aged. But the more basic and principal reason that remittances are increasing is that more and more Filipinos are forced to go abroad and are desperate enough to work harder for less pay than others. And this is primarily because there are no decent opportunities in the country. If Filipinos could find decent jobs in our country, they will stay and be near their families no matter how old foreign populations are.

Bulatlat: The Arroyo government noted an increasing number of highly-skilled professionals working abroad. Can you consider this development?

Africa: This is not true. Even if there are more higher-skilled professionals going abroad now, the number of low-skilled workers going abroad has also been increasing.

Total annual deployments of new hires increased from 1992 to 2006. From 1992-2001, the share of professional and technical workers generally rose from 27.7 percent at the start to 37.7 percent at the end of the period; conversely, the share of production workers fell from 36.5 to 22.0 percent. The share of service workers was more or less stable. However, after 2001, the share of professional and technical workers started dropping and fell steeply to 13.4 percent in 2006. On the other hand, the share of production workers rose significantly to 33.6 percent and that of service workers to 46.8 percent – where these two categories together account for over eight of ten deployments of newly-hired OFWs.

In the 1992-2006 period, over two-thirds of newly-hired OFWs were classified as service workers (37.7 percent) or production workers (30.7 percent) while over a quarter were classified as professional and technical workers (26.8 percent). Nearly all of the “service workers” are accounted for by domestic helpers and other household workers, maids or cleaners in commercial establishments, cooks, waiters, bartenders, caregivers and caretakers; domestic helpers, in particular, account for over two-thirds of this skills classification. “Production workers” are mainly in construction-related jobs with some factory-based work. “Professional and technical workers” are mainly health professionals and engineers although a substantial portion of these jobs are actually musicians, singers and dancers; musicians, singers and dancers accounted for nearly a fifth of “professional and technical workers” in 2006.

In any case, whether or not migrants are higher skilled or not is beside the point because we should not celebrate Filipinos being forced abroad, whether they are highly-skilled or not.

Bulatlat: The Arroyo government said that taxes paid, including those paid by OFWs, are used to finance infrastructure and to create employment.

Africa: First of all, the largest part of the national budget goes to debt service and to corruption. The single largest budget item taking up around 30 percent are interest payments on foreign and domestic debt. At the same time, some 20 percent of the national budget is lost to corruption, amounting to over US$2B annually – as had been estimated by the World Bank, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and even a former speaker of the House of Representatives. Secondly, that kind of reasoning also means that we can say that taxes are used to finance human rights violators through spending on the military which has been implicated in thousands of human rights violations. Thirdly, if the government is really so concerned about generating employment then it should overhaul its economic policies much more than spend on likely graft- and corruption-ridden infrastructure projects.

Bulatlat: The Arroyo government said that OFW remittances are used by their families for their basic needs thus creating demand on goods and services. The Arroyo government further claims that this also translates into more jobs.

Africa: It is tragic that so many families have to depend on family members separating from them and going abroad just to support their basic needs. The so-called multiplier effect on the domestic economy is minimal however precisely because the economy is so backward to begin with. The overwhelming bulk of goods purchased by families are actually imported because there is no substantial domestic manufacturing sector that can produce those goods. Factories have actually been closing down for lack of government support and because of reckless trade liberalization.

If the government wants to create jobs it should put a genuine policy of national industrialization in place because otherwise OFW demand for goods will not go to creating opportunities for local factories. As it is, the manufacturing sector has already lost 125,000 jobs from a year ago with only 2.9 million jobs in July 2008 from 3.1 million last year.

Bulatlat: The Arroyo government said remittances increase supply of foreign exchange. How does this benefit Filipinos?

Africa: The biggest beneficiaries from the foreign exchange supplied by OFWs are foreign creditors who get paid, transnational corporations (TNCs) who repatriate their profits, big foreign financial speculators, and TNCs in export enclaves. These account for the overwhelmingly largest portion of foreign payments that the country makes.

While it can be said that peasants also benefit because they use imported fertilizer, the deeper question is why they have to rely on imported fertilizer to begin with. While it can be said that workers also benefit because they cannot but consume imported products, the truth is that they do not really have that much income to spend.

Bulatlat: The government said remittances are harnessed for investments in human resource capital through education and health care for beneficiaries. The BSP said beneficiaries could go to private schools and hospitals instead of government-owned schools and hospitals. Please react to this.

Africa: The most basic point is that Filipinos have a right to decent public health and education services and should not have to buy these from privatized or profit-oriented institutions. Health and education should be available to all and not depend on whether or not a family can afford these.

The government is abdicating its responsibility and passing the burden on to OFWs. And it can also be asked who in the end will benefit most from these so-called “investments in human capital”. If these Filipinos are likewise forced to go abroad then it is foreigners and foreign economies that will be the greatest beneficiaries.

Bulatlat: Remittances also go to physical capital investments through acquisition of real property including land purchases and home construction, said the BSP. Is this true?

Africa: Because Filipinos are so poor the largest part of OFW remittances goes to immediate and urgent consumption. And even if there are many OFWs able to buy real estate these are personal investments and not really investments in the productive capacity of the economy.

Bulatlat: Are remittances also used as capital? Do OFW beneficiaries also invest in business ventures such as in small and micro enterprises?

Africa: Small and micro enterprises do not just need capital, although this is certainly urgent, but also a supportive trade and investment environment. They should not just be provided with capital but also be allowed to grow under a protected trade regime and within a supportive investment environment. Thus, even if some part of OFW remittances are diverted to them, at the expense of families’ immediate consumption, they will still not prosper if there are no radical economic reforms.

Bulatlat: Do remittances create savings?

Africa: There will never be enough OFW savings to compensate for potential capital lost due to stunted domestic industry and agriculture, and for the hostile domestic economic environment for Filipinos due to reckless trade and investment liberalization.

Bulatlat: Can remittances be a tool for development?

Africa: Remittances can only be tool for development within the context of strategic and far-reaching policies of true agrarian reform and national industrialization. In the absence of these, the “remittances as a tool for development” mantra will just be hype to cover up the government’s severe economic failures. (Bulatlat)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Launch/Lancement - International Migrants' Alliance - Quebec/Canada chapter

Chers ami-e-s, travailleurs et travailleuses migrants, militant-e-s pour les droits sociaux,

Vous êtes tous et toutes invité-e-s au lancement de l'Alliance internationale des migrants - section Québec/Canada!

Quand: Samedi le 4 october 15h à 18h
OU: UQAM, Pavillon Hubert Aquin salle A050
400, Ste-Catherine est, coin St-Denis, Métro Berri, Montréal, Québec

Conférencière: Wahu Kaara de Kenya

Rapport des groupes ayant participé à la fondation de l'Alliance internationale à Hong Kong en juin 2008.

Musique, collation, célébration!

Information: +1 514 528 8812

Dear friends, migrant workers, social justice advocates,

You are all invited to attend the Launch of the International Migrants' Alliance - Quebec/Canada chapter!

Keynote Speaker: Wahu Kaara from Kenya

When: Saturday, October 4, 2008 3pm to 6pm
Where: UQAM, Pavillon Hubert Aquin, Room A050
400, Ste-Catherine est, corner St. Denis, Metro Berri, Montreal, Quebec

Reports from the founding of the International Migrants' Alliance in Hong Kong in June 2008.

Music, Snacks, Celebration!

Information: +1 514 528 8812

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Vancouver, B.C.-- An estimated crowd of 70 people, which included guests, well wishers and members of the Filipino community came together to celebrate the successful launch of the MIGRANTE B.C. last September 14, 2008. MIGRANTE-B.C. is a new community-based organization of Filipinos in British Columbia that asserts that Filipino migrants deserve the greatest promotion and protection of their rights wherever they are.

At the Longhouse Church in the east side of Vancouver, the community was welcomed by First Nations Elder Jim White and Longhouse Church Pastor Barry Morris. Councillor Ted Stevenson (City of Vancouver) and Members of the Legislative Assembly David Chudnovsky (Vancouver-Kensington), Shane Simpson (Vancouver-Hastings) and Jenny Kwan (Vancouver-Mount Pleasant) sent in their greetings of solidarity to the new organization.

Member of Parliament Libby Davies (East Vancouver) personally delivered her sincere greetings and best wishes to the Migrante B.C.’s members and supporters. “While the Migrante B.C. is new and small,” MP Davies said, “you have a mighty spirit” and “your strength, discipline and political consciousness and awareness are all good things” that help build a network to take up the migrants’ cause. She pointed out that the collective Filipino experience is important and encouraged the community to find its political voice, more so in the upcoming federal elections, and engage in political debate. Speaking of workers’ rights, she brought up the issues of the temporary foreign workers who are very vulnerable to exploitation and also of the long standing injustice of the live-in-caregiver program. Of the latter, she said, “you come here and you find that you have left one prison for another.” MP Davies declared that she and the New Democrats will work to remove the restrictions on the live-in-caregiver program so that “people can come here as permanent residents.” “You have our support,” she said, “and we will continue to work on this issue.”

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement Labour Centre), the biggest trade union alliance in the Philippines, MIGRANTE International, and Ka Osang Beltran, the widow of the late Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran also forwarded their militant congratulations and commended MIGRANTE B.C. on its “commitment to defend the rights of Filipino migrants and their families as we all fight for a society that genuinely promotes the rights and interests of the workers and people of the Philippines, wherever we may be.” From Canada, messages came in from PINAY, the Filipino women’s organization in Quebec, MIGRANTE-Ontario, the Victoria Philippines Solidarity Group and the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights.

Ms. Maita Santiago, the General Secretary of MIGRANTE International, the international alliance of Filipino migrant organizations, delivered the keynote address. She gave a brief situationner of the plight of Filipino overseas workers now found in 197 countries and territories around the world. Ms. Santiago lauded the historic launching of the MIGRANTE B.C. at a time when grassroots migrants organizations have joined ranks under the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), the first global network of its kind in its Founding Assembly in Hong Kong earlier in June. Ms. Santiago also shared the stories of those involved with Migrante International in its work of assisting Filipino overseas workers and their families in the Philippines. Maita, an immigrant to Canada herself, came with her newborn son to the launch and said that her son, “like all our children, symbolize the hope and aspirations of Filipino migrants for a better life.” A lively question and answer period followed the keynote presentation.

Cultural numbers performed by the members showcased the artistic talents within the MIGRANTE B.C. A short video presentation on the life of the late Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran in the program was a poignant reminder of Ka Bel’s last visit to Vancouver as part of the Philippine Solons Tour this year. Those who supported Ka Bel, many of who are now founding members of MIGRANTE -B.C., provided the accommodations, medical assistance and community support for that tour.

Two banners of Migrante B.C. were proudly displayed, each banner a labour of love from the migrants themselves. Bert Monterona, international award-winning painter and visual art designer from Mindanao, made the blue banner with the Migrante B.C. logo. The other banner was worked on by Bootz Estella, a Migrante member from the Igorot tribe in the Cordillera.

Jane Ordinario and Florchita Bautista, emcees of the program, declared that MIGRANTE B.C. is a fitting memorial to the legacy of the late Crispin Beltran who defended the national and democratic rights of workers, including that of the Filipino migrant workers.

For reference: Migrante-B.C.
109-4155 Central Blvd.
Burnaby, British Columbia
Canada V5H 4X2
Tel: 604.408.0830

See photos and report at Arkibong Bayan

Monday, September 8, 2008

Urgent action for Irene Fernandez!

Dear members of the International Migrants' Alliance,

As you all may know Dr. Irene Fernandez, member of ICB-IMA, has been prosecuted by Malaysian government for documenting and exposing the “Abuse, Torture and Dehumanized Conditions of Migrant workers in Detention Centres” in Malaysia. She was sentenced for 12 months imprisonment but the appeal against the decision is still on going.

Her case will be resumed in court on 10 September 2008 in Malaysia and the actual hearing for the appeal will begin from October 28 - 30, 2008, followed by next hearing dates from 24-28 November 2008.

In support of Dr. Irene's case and to demand her immediate release, I would like to encourage all members of IMA, to:

1. Organize urgent actions on or before 10 September 2008, at 9 am (Malaysia time) in front of Malaysian Consulate/Embassy in your respective country

2. Prepare actions during the hearing of her appeal from October 28-30, 2008 and November 24-28, 2008

Since Oct 28-30 is IAMR activity in Manila, perhaps we can include this in our plan of action during IAMR.

Here in Hong Kong, AMCB-IMA we will organize a protest action in front of Malaysian Consulate on 10 September 2008, at 10:00 am (HK time).

Release for Dr. Irene Fernandez now!
Justice for Dr. Irene Fernandez!


Eni Lestari
IMA Chairperson

Monday, August 18, 2008

Migrante International and IMA launch campaign against Global Forum on Migration

Connie Bragas-Regalado
Aug. 17, 2008 - 4:01 p.m.

Migrante International held a wreath laying and press conference this morning at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, near the corner of EDSA and Quezon Ave. in Manila, to show the true face of migrant Filipinos and to pay tribute to overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who have died under questionable circumstances. Photos of OFWs who became victims of violence and abuse served as backdrop to the press conference.

Joining Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante, in the press conference were Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, Rita Baua of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Sonny Africa of IBON Foundation, and Lilibeth Garcia, sister of Eugenia Baja. Baja was an OFW who worked as a domestic helper in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in May 2007 but mysteriously died in February 2008. The Saudi police and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs concluded that Baja's death was a suicide even as her body bore signs of beatings and had a stab wound on her side.

Rep. Ilagan deplored that fact that the policies of the Arroyo government as well as that of receiving countries do not protect the rights of migrant workers.

"Ang ating gobyerno ay hindi nireresolba ang mga problema ng ating mga migranteng manggagawa," (Our government does not resolve the problems confronting Filipino migrant workers.) Rep. Ilagan said. She criticized the Arroyo government for its failure to generate enough jobs in the country and for aiming, instead, to increase OFW deployments to two million a year.

"Tutulan natin ang labor export policy ng gobyerno," (Let us oppose the labor export policy of the government.) Rep. Ilagan said. She also took note of the sacrifices that families of OFWs go through and the social costs of labor migration.

Lilibet Garcia sister of Eugenia Baja said, "Sinabi po ninyo na ang mga OFW ay bagong bayani subalit sa pagkamatay ng aking kapatid nawala ang kanyang pangarap. (The government says that OFWs are modern-day heroes. But with the death of my sister, her dream of giving a better life to the family was also shattered.) My sister left weighing 47 kilos but when her body was returned to us she weighed only 32 kilos. Nananawagan po ako sa Arroyo government na imbestigahan ang pagkamatay ng aking kapatid." (We are calling on the Arroyo government to investigate the death of my sister.)

Connie Bargas-Regalado read the statement of the International Migrants' Alliance, an alliance of organizations of migrants and refugees across the globe, criticizing the Global Forum on Migration and Development. The Global Forum on Migration and Development is an "informal, voluntary, and state-led global forum", under the auspices of the United Nations, that tackles "how good migration governance can contribute to development and how development policies can impact on migration." The next meeting of the Forum will be held in Manila on October 27-30, 2008.

Parts of the statement of the alliance read," The Global Forum on Migration and Development is not made for its supposed main stakeholders-the migrants themselves. Violations of rights of migrants are rampant. Attacks on the rights of migrants, immigrants, refugees and other displaced people are happening everywhere, everyday. Ironically, the violators of the rights of migrants, through grave anti migrant policies, are the same countries in the Global Forum on Migration and Development."

"The presence of the International Migrants' Alliance in all global regions will pose the most formidable challenge to the Global Forum on Migration and development. We, being the grassroots migrants who are at the receiving end of numerous anti-migrant attacks, are the living proofs of the Global Forum on Migration and Development's anti migrant agenda and direction."

Regalado added, "The campaign against the Global Forum on Migration and Development will culminate in an International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees from October 28-30, 2008. The theme of the assembly would be 'Migrants' Challenges to the Global Forum on Migration and Development: End poverty, ensure jobs at home, stop forced migration, uphold and protect the rights of migrants and refugees.'"

"The International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees will be the genuine assembly for migrants where real and concrete issues shall be discussed. The International Assembly for Migrants and Refugees will speak for the grassroots migrants," Regalado said.

"GMA said I care, Is this the care she was talking about:
I care, with the migrants having 29 victims in death row;
I care, with the migrants having more than ten thousand stranded OFWs;
I care, with the migrants having 23 mysterious deaths;
I care, with the migrants having so many charges from their remittances,"
Regalado concluded. *Bulatlat*