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.