Monday, October 27, 2008

Migrant Workers are Not Commodities

To add to the official discourse of governements meeting in the Global Forum on Migration and Development kicking off today, this is the declaration of the parallel civil society forum I attended last week, the People's Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights. Also read the Madrid Declaration during the 3rd World Social Forum on Migrations.

Peoples’ Global Action Declaration
on Migration, Development and Human Rights

Submitted to the Global Forum on Migration and Development - Manila, Philippines, 27 October 2008

A world of migrants

There are over 250 million people in the world today that are in various conditions of being a migrant. Throughout human history people have been migrants or descended from migrants – with the exception of indigenous peoples residing in their ancestral lands.

There are many root causes of migration, including armed conflict, persecution, discrimination, poverty, underdevelopment, forced displacement, environmental destruction, and a search for family unity. And in the last decades, migration flows have been intensified because of neoliberal, corporate-centered globalization such as that promoted by the World Trade Organization (WTO), including free trade agreements, reduction in publicly-provided social reproductive services, and the expansion of the rights of business, have created wealth for economic elites but have consistently widened the gap between rich and poor and deepened vulnerabilities of individuals and communities.

While hugely profiting from the labor of migrants, the majority of countries in the world, have continuously adopted anti-migrant policies through scapegoating migrants for all social ills and perceived threats to national security. The adoption of simultaneous policies of being ‘open’ but at the same time ‘closed’ to migrants have led to the increased fragmentation of the working class, heightened insecurities for all migrants especially those in the grey zones like exiled peoples, amplified racial discrimination, and worsened the vulnerability to abuse and exploitation by organized crimes and corrupt officials, especially among women migrants. Meanwhile, the re-emergent emphasis on state-centered security as developed states secure their economic privilege has sharpened territorial divisions and pre-border surveillance as well as strengthened inward looking governance especially since the so-called ‘war on terror’ was unleashed.

The GFMD’s “migration and development” paradigm does not go far enough in affirming the human dignity of migrants and migrant workers, firmly placing their inalienable rights at the center of development and addressing their myriad insecurities. Moreover, such paradigm calls for the rendering of female migrant labor in specific gendered ways and is thus likely to reinforce inequalities between men and women.

Instead, the GFMD seeks to create an international migration regime that manages temporary workers for the benefit of global production and profit while at the same time institutionalizing more coercive and restrictive migration policies that penalize and lump together as one undesirable group all so-called ‘irregular’, ‘undocumented’ workers and all other migrants who fall in the grey zone.

As well, civil society including migrants’ organizations, trade unions, women’s organizations, and others have been severely restricted in their participation in GFMD debates, while the role of banks, financial intermediaries, and the corporate sector has been enhanced.

Obviously, the GFMD is not about respecting migration as a human activity in all of its varied forms, nor is it about protecting the rights of migrants and of workers. It is certainly not about realizing development for the majority of the world’s poor. Simply put, the GFMD is about protecting the security of states and markets. The GFMD and other new forums have been vigorously promoted, funded and controlled by developed countries together with a handful of developing countries. The result has been to further undermine an already weakened United Nations system where developing countries at this time stand a better chance of representation and participation.

Our challenge to governments attending the GFMD

Governments hold mutual obligations and responsibilities to respect, protect, fulfill, and promote the human rights of all peoples, migrants and workers everywhere included. In this regard, governments must ensure that the core UN and ILO conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and human rights treaties, including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, ILO Conventions 97 and 143,and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and ILO rights-based Multilateral Framework on Labor Migration are enforced at every level.

Governments have also been called on “to protect the vital core of human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment” especially in dealing with issues of conflict, poverty and migration (Commission on Human Security 2003).

Governments must not deviate from but rather build upon the normative rights-based framework-approach to development. We recall Chapter 1 of the Declaration on the Right to Development (UNGA Resolution 41/128, 4 December 1986) - “The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.”

Governments must ensure the genuine and meaningful participation of migrants and other stakeholders in international discussions on migration policy, and migration and development.

Governments must not differentiate between ‘regular’ or ‘irregular’ migrant workers in respecting migrants and workers rights. Regardless of their status, migrants are participants in contributors to and members of the community and country in which they live and work.

Governments must ensure that migrants enjoy equality of rights and non-discrimination in the places where they live. Discrimination based on any status, including national origin, nationality, migration status, race, gender, sexual orientation, religiousbelief and language, is prohibited by international law and human rights principles. Governmental policy must also address de facto discrimination (unequal conditions), and promote empowerment and equity for migrants.

Governments must protect and uphold the human rights of women migrants as subjects within a gendered history and context of migration. The vicious cycle of ‘poverty – human trafficking – poverty’ denies poor women their basic rights including the right to decent work and the right to security and justice. Policies aimed at curbing trafficking must address its myriad root causes and avoid pushing vulnerable women into deeper exploitation and abuse.

Governments must cease its implementation of state migration policies that constitute or cause violations of human rights. These include policies that: deny migrant workers decent work and the protection of their basic rights as workers; criminalize migrants, including the criminalization of migrants with irregular status; militarize borders and externalize migration control in international waters or in countries of origin and transit; discriminate against migrants based on nationality or migratory status; enforce collective deportations and deportations which violate any human right, including right to protection of the family, due process of law, right to security of person, and the principle of non refoulement; allow for arbitrary detentions and arrests, and all other deprivations of liberty of migrants in contravention of international standards on detention including on the reasons, conditions, procedures, and allowable time period of detention; and policies that fail to prevent and eliminate the exploitation and abuse of migrants, including trafficking of persons.

Governments must institute a functioning international system with migration and development policies that guarantee the human rights of migrants, workers, and all peoples, and promotes sustainable, rights-based development. This requires that forums for multilateral discussions on migration and development policies ensure genuine civil society participation. It also requires that all developing country governments have equal participation and voice.. Governments in the South should not adopt policies or enter into agreements with Northern countries that increase forced migration of its population, such as free trade agreements, Neither should they make any multilateral or bilateral agreements that that does not fully respect and protect the human rights of migrants, such as many repatriation, border control, and temporary labor agreements. We call on governments to respond to these challenges and fulfill its obligations, and create new global mechanisms and processes that are genuinely democratic, transparent and accountable and which will meaningfully ensure each individual’s human rights, freedoms and sustainable development.

Endorsed by the Philippine Working Group

Akbayan, Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), ASEAN Trade Union Council (ATUC), Asian Migrant Center (AMC), Asian Migrant Domestic Workers Alliance (ADWA), Atikha, Batis Center for Women, Building and Wood Workers International, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD), Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), Coalition for Migrants Rights (CMR), Daughters of Charity, Focus on the Global South, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), Global Network Asia, International Gender and Trade Network-Asia (IGTN), Jubilee South-Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, KAKAMMPI, Kanlungan Center Foundation, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), National Union of Building & Construction Workers/BWI, Philippine Consortium on Migration and Development, Public Services International (PSI/PSLINK), Save the Children-UK, Solidaritas Migran Scalabrini-Philippines, Stop the New Round, UNI-PLC/UNI-APRO, Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Women and Gender Institute-Miriam College (WAGI), Women Legal Bureau (WLB).

The Core UN Conventions are:

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) 1965
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) 1966
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)1979
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) 1984
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) 1989
International Convention on Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICMRW) 1990
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPAPED) 2005
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) 200

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