At least 5,000 migrant workers from different parts of the globe under the banner of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) held a rally in Manila today to protest the opening of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).
The protesters converged along Quirino Ave. around 10 a.m. and marched toward the direction of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), venue of the GFMD. Some 300 elements of the Philippine Air Force and the Manila Police District blocked the protesters at the corner of Quirino Ave. and Mother Ignacia St.
Eni Lestari, chairperson of IMA and an Indonesian working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, said, “The GFMD is a meeting of exploiters who are only after the money of migrant workers. For them, that is the only value of migrant workers. We are nothing, we are not even human in their eyes.”
Emmanuel Villanueva of Migrante-Hong kong and Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) said,
“It is the global pimps who have gathered to discuss how to commodify people and how to sell human beings.”
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luzviminda Ilagan said, “They are plotting the future of migrants. They will discuss how to facilitate remittances but they will not reveal that it will only help their pockets, their governments but not the migrants.”
Villanueva criticized the GFMD’s agenda. “How can these people talk about the human rights of migrants when they are the exploiters of migrant workers?” he said.
Villanueva said, “We are against migration for development because this would mean parents leaving their children and children leaving their parents. This would mean destruction and separation of families.”
Jossel Ebisate, secretary general of the Alliance of Health Workers and a nurse at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) said that most children who become victims of domestic violence have one or both parents working abroad. He said the same is true with women whose husbands work overseas.
The IMA also led the International Zero Remittance Day today. Migrant workers from 29 countries heeded the call, said the IMA, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Germany, Italy, Belgium, United States, Canada, Fiji,Argentina, South Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Hong Kong.
Lestari said that migrant workers all over the world take on the difficult and dangerous jobs that even the local people shun. “On top of our sweat and blood, they do not want to recognize our contributions, our rights as workers and as humans…Let us punish those governments exploiting us.”
Gil Lebria of Migrante-Middle East slammed the Arroyo government’s ‘criminal negligence’. Lebria said distressed overseas Filipino workers receive no help from the Philippine government. He himself has recently been deported by the Kuwait authorities, was also subjected to torture in Taiwan several years ago.
Villanueva said that the concept of migration for development is actually globalization applied to migration. “Forced migration is an indication of maldevelopment,” said Villanueva.
Lestari deemed that globalization has failed as it has caused millions of people to get poorer by the day. She said that unemployment and poverty in the Philippines and Indonesia have worsened through the years even as the two countries rely on dollar remittances of migrant workers.
Lito Ustarez, vice chairperson of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU-May First Movement) said the Arroyo government cannot find solution to the unemployment. “That is why the Arroyo government is hosting the GFMD, to promote cheap Philippine labor to other countries.” (Bulatlat.com)