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.

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