Friday, June 26, 2009

2nd National Migrant Justice Gathering held in Waterloo, Ontario

The Second National Migrant Justice Gathering was successfully held at the University of Waterloo, Canada, June 20-21, 2009. Members of IMA-Canada from Montreal, the Greater Toronto Area and Vancouver joined migrant workers, union organizers from the Agricultural Workers Alliance and the United Food And Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), and advocates from across Canada to discuss how to strengthen networking and alliance building. The first national gathering of migrants had been held in 2006.

The participants heard testimonies from Filipina migrants working as Live-In Caregivers and Thai factory workers under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program in Canada. Both groups raised the problem of the lack of control of unscrupulous recruitment agencies who charge huge sums to bring workers to Canada -- $13,000 in the case of one Thai worker.

The keynote speech was given by Ramon Bultron, Managing Director of the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) in Hong Kong. "The most significant of the recent efforts to establish networks and alliances of migrants and advocates is the formation of the International Migrants Alliance," Bultron said. "In June, 2008, under the slogan, 'for years, others have spoken on our behalf, now we speak for ourselves' more than 110 groups from 25 countries met in Hong Kong for the founding assembly."

Bultron pointed out that more than 70% of IMA members are grassroots migrant workers as well as immigrants and that the first elected chairperson of the IMA, Eni Lestari, is an Indonesian domestic worker in Hong Kong.

Bultron invited participants to attend the upcoming Second International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR2) in Athens, Greece, this November 1-4, 2009. He explained that the IAMR was an alternative conference to the World Bank and IMF-backed Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) that would also take place in Athens in November. "Since migrant workers are essentially excluded from the GFMD, we considered it important once again to provide a place where migrants can 'speak out', network, and organize," Bultron said. The first IAMR was successfully held last year in Manila, Philippines.

Participants underlined the important role that Alfredo Barahona and Connie Sorio from KAIROS Canada had made to ensuring the successful holding of the 2nd national migrants gathering.

A coordinating group was set up during the conference to continue building alliances and helping to organize the third National Migrant Justice Gathering to be held in 2011, with the UFCW promising to help with translation facilities to make sure migrant workers can participate fully.

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