Migrants, Refugees Reject Global Forum Agenda

Eric Meijer, member of the European Parliament representing the Socialist Party of the Netherlands, lamented the increasingly restrictive and sometimes racist-based migration policies of the EU. He said that migrants, refugees and citizens in Europe who are fighting for migrant rights are confronted with the reality that those who impose themselves by hating migrants and restricting them are in the majority of states, governments and policy-making bodies.

On the EU return directive, Meijer said that although the 27 EU member-countries are obliged to implement it, the implementation might vary from country to country. He cited the right-wing government of Italy, which is already implementing repressive measures against migrants there, while other EU countries continue to extend limited amnesty.

The return directive adopted by the European Union is described as “the first step towards a European immigration policy.” It provides for a maximum of six months of detention for illegal immigrants who are due for repatriation; it contains measures to promote legal immigration by skilled workers; it provides punishment for employers of illegal immigrants; and it discourages clandestine working.

While calling on migrants and refugees to seek the broadest possible solidarity with the trade unions and other progressive entities, Meijer also called on them to address the roots of forced migration. “International solidarity means that we address the circumstances in the sending countries so that migrants need not find work outside their home countries.”

Marijke Bijl of the Support Committee for Illegal Workers in the Netherlands (OKIA) narrated the history of the importation by the Dutch state of cheap migrant labor from the Mediterranean in the 1960s, and the struggle for the regularization of undocumented migrant workers in the Netherlands in the 1990s. She said that migrant organizations and advocates must look into the living conditions of undocumented migrant workers, and lobby effectively for the rights of the undocumented by presenting in real terms their marginalization and exploitation.

Rev. Cesar Taguba, chairperson of Stichting Migrante Europe, said that the GFMD is “elitist and non-participatory” because it fails to address the structural roots of migration which is underdevelopment due to the neoliberal globalization policies of the advanced capitalist countries. “Liberalization, deregulation and privatization are imposed on the people. This caused de-industrialization, the collapse of local industries, causing massive unemployment. It promoted unhindered plunder of natural resources, destruction of the environment, sale of state assets at bargain price to profit-oriented transnational corporations, making basic services far beyond the reach of the majority. In the name of the US-led `war on terror’ state repression is used against those advocating for people’s development, defense of national patrimony and sovereignty and social transformation.”

He called on migrants and refugees to fight for debt cancellation and repatriation of stolen wealth; just and fair trade; implementation of development aid in accordance with the priorities of the south; democratization and transparency of international financial institutions, trade institutions and states; and rejection of neoliberal globalization. He also called on the formation of a European Forum of Migrants for Alternative Development Strategies Towards Social Transformation.

“We are challenging the GFMD because we are for genuine peoples’ development. We adhere to the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, which is consistent with our dream of a society ‘where people are not forced to migrate as a matter of survival; a society where there is equal opportunity for all to a life of dignity; a society where the capacity of each is developed to contribute to the building of a just and progressive society,’” Taguba said.

According to a survivor of the Schiphol detention center in The Netherlands – which was burned down more than two years ago resulting in the death of 11 undocumented migrants – the center built in 2001 used to be a facility for suspected drug criminals. It later on became a detention center for undocumented migrants in preparation for their deportation. At the time of the fire, which news reports blamed on neglect, 85 detainees from 35 nationalities were at the facility. Several survivors suffered physical and psychological scars as a result. They were promised residence permits by the Dutch government, but that promise was not delivered.

The forum titled “Challenging the Global Forum on Migration and Development in its European Context” was spearheaded by the International Migrants’ Alliance Europe (IMA-Europe) composed of Europe-based Turkish and Filipino migrant and refugee organizations. The organizations participated in IMA’s founding assembly last June 15 in Hong Kong. IMA is a broad international alliance representing 118 grassroots migrant organizations from 25 countries in East Asia and Oceania, South Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, Africa and the Middle East.

There were more than 100 participants and guests from 29 organizations, among them Nederlands-Filippijns Solidariteitsbeweging, IBON-Europe, People’s Artists Network, Rode Morgen, Africa Roots Movement, International Organization of Migration, students from the Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, students from the University of Amsterdam, Filipino Refugees in the Netherlands, Latino Community, M2M, OKIA, International Network of Philippine Studies, Committee DEFEND, Kodao-Philippines, TRUSTED, UMDW, Kabalikat, Pinay sa Holland, Migrante Party List-Netherlands, Migrante-Australia, Maidens for Christ, ILPS-Greece, ATIK, HTIF, AYIGF, YDG, Migrante Netherlands and Migrante Europe.(Bulatlat)

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