By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
4 July 2007
On July 9, 10 and 11, the first Global Forum on Migration and Development will be held in Brussels, Belgium. The first day will be the Civil Society Dialogue where the agenda of the next two days’ meeting will be discussed. Recommendations of the CSD shall then be presented to governments attending the GFMD.
The GFMD is described as “an informal multilateral and state-led multi-stakeholder process … to identify practical and feasible ways to strengthen the mutually beneficial relationship between migration and development.”
The GFMD is set to discuss three major topics; 1. the management of migration in sending and receiving countries to maximize “opportunities” and minimize “risks”; 2. remittances as concrete aspect of migration that can be used for development, and; 3. the establishment of policies and partnerships between countries to achieve the goal of making migration work for development.
The agenda of the GFMD exposes the undeniable fact that “neoliberal” globalization has failed miserably on its promise to usher development and betrays the intent of the current drive of monopoly capitalist countries and their institutions to exploit the migration phenomenon, the lucrative labor export programs and migrant remittances for the purpose of salvaging or propping up the collapsing economies, especially of semicolonies and dependent countries.
Migration as a “tool for development” signifies greater commodification of migrants and management of migration to augment state revenues and help cover deficits in foreign payments. The growing migrant workers’ movement understands this and is prepared to resist the renewed offensive against their rights and welfare.
“Migration and Development” in the Context of “Neoliberal” Globalization
The aim of utilizing migration for “development” implies the perpetuation of conditions for cheap labor and exposes the fact that “neoliberal” globalization currently has not brought us closer to the eradication of global poverty and unemployment. Global powers and their crisis-ridden client states are desperate for additional sources of income and cheap labor to fuel their hungry profit machines and stop slumping growth rates.
The GFMD is being convened amidst an unprecedented world crisis. “Neoliberal” globalization, touted to salvage the global capitalist economy, has instead aggravated this crisis which has been suffered for decades by underdeveloped and developing countries and, now even by highly-developed countries headed by the United States at an intensifying rate.
Unemployment, underemployment, landlessness and deprivation of basic services are prevalent and chronic problems of semicolonies. Their natural resources are plundered and their economies are held hostage by their imperialist masters. While the great majority either sink deeper into the quagmire of poverty due to accumulated problems and the current impact of the economic crisis, a very few of the imperialist lackeys reap the rewards of the “neoliberal” globalization policies.
This global crisis has pushed the world’s capitalist powers, mainly the US, to launch brazen wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq while also continuing to make threats of armed aggression against states that refuse to kowtow to US’ demands. Under the guise of fighting terror, the US continues to use its military might to push forward its interests and crush any form of resistance, especially from the anti-imperialist movements.
Ominously absent from the announced topics for discussion of the GFMD is how neoliberal globalization impacts on the continuous increase of migrant workers, on their situation in host countries, on the situation of their families in their homeland, and on the general migration phenomena.
In the GFMD background paper, the effects of globalization are described superficially as making workers multi-locational internationally, “pulled by higher income and life opportunities elsewhere, and pushed by lack of opportunity at home.”
The GFMD is in a state of denial when it claims that the outcomes should ensure that development is not instrumentalized for migration management purposes, and avoid that migration is seen as an alternative to development because this is supposed to be the ultimate purpose. Nothing can be more perverse than to assert that development is the purpose and outcome of migration. Gross underdevelopment of the sending countries is the cause of migration of cheap labor, skilled labor, professionals and technicians. Further on, such migration perpetuates and aggravates the underdevelopment of the sending countries.
More importantly, GFMD also refuses to acknowledge that the worsening crisis of world capitalism, especially in the imperialist countries, is actually constricting the number and type of jobs available abroad for the millions of people driven by the deteriorating economic and social conditions in semicolonies. Competition even for 3D (dirty, difficult and dangerous) jobs among underdeveloped countries is intensifying. While the prospects for employment overseas shrink because of the contraction of capitalist economies and the heightening anti-terror hysteria and racism, the economies of labor-exporting countries are threatened with further stagnation and collapse.
The GFMD and the Commodification of Migrants
Migration, in recent years, is fast becoming an international concern. With almost 205 million migrants around the world, millions more undocumented migrants, and nearly 20 million refugees (excluding internal refugees), the migration phenomenon has steadily become a focus area for discussion.
Remittances of migrant workers around the world are also increasing. The estimated US$226 trillion worth of remittances, mainly to underdeveloped and developing countries, are far more than the combined “development assistance” grudgingly spooned out by highly-developed countries. Even the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have started to claim and account migration as part of its policy recommendations.
The global interest in migration is most concretely seen in efforts to put this matter into the agenda of the World Trade Organization through the Mode 4 of the General Agreements on Trade in Services or GATS. The imperialists are determined to make migrants more vulnerable and their rights further eroded under the concept of “movement of natural persons”. This so-called labor flexibility of GATS Mode 4 will ensure shortening of contracts, lowering of wages, continuing attacks on trade union rights, prevention of immigration, and ensuring the flow of cheap temporary migrant workers for the benefit of multinational corporations.
Majority of the foreign workers are found in industries as factory workers, in agriculture, and in the service sector, especially in low-paying jobs in households, restaurants, hotels and entertainment establishments. They are subjected to the most intense anti-labor and anti-women conditions. National labor standards usually do not cover migrant workers, especially temporary migrants. Undocumented workers are criminalized. Abuse is rampant especially of women working in households and the entertainment industry.
Immigrants in capitalist countries are also one of the first to carry the brunt of economic deterioration. They are commonly displaced from their jobs while policies for social services are made restrictive and inaccessible to majority of them. Racism, discrimination and xenophobia have also become widespread.
Migrant workers are the first to be subjected to harsh labor and immigration policies including pay cuts, imposition of taxes, reduction of benefits and the massive arrest and deportation of the undocumented. Worse, during crisis they are scapegoated as states fan up anti-migrant sentiments among the local workforce to shift the blame for the economic hardships from the implementation of “neoliberal” globalization and the crisis of the global capitalist economy. The “war on terror” does not spare migrant workers as anti-terror hysteria makes them, particularly the undocumented , targets of racial discrimination, racist attacks and other grave human rights violations.
Meanwhile in labor-exporting countries, migrant workers are but commodities.And in some countries, they are the main export product, used to prop up their sagging economies. Remittances have become such anintegral part of the country’s survival that even a few days’ disruption in the flow of remittances can plunge theeconomy to even more severe socio-economic and political crisis.
The GFMD presents the phenomenon of migration in a cavalier and insensitive way even as it recognizes the role that migration plays in income generation of sending countries as well as its role in alleviating the chronic problem of unemployment. With regard to revenue generation, migration is uncritically praised and has become a matter of pride for the GFDM to depict the remittances of migrant workers as a means of “development” rather than as a means of consumption (at the level of families and the big comprador state) and as an alleviation to the current accounts deficits and foreign indebtedness.
The embellishments that the GFDM wishes to put on migration – be it as a “tool for development” or “partnership and cooperation” – cannot obscure the fact that high migration rate is an indicator of serious economic problems of underdevelopment on the part of sending countries. Attempts to alleviate these problems without addressing their root causes will serve only the exploiters in misleading the people, diverting the focus from addressing essential concerns, conjuring the illusion of development and perpetuating the conditions of underdevelopmet..
The GFDM, in its refusal to take into account the implications and consequences of “neoliberal” globalization as well as the root causes of forced migration in discussing migration and development, is merely serving the agenda of imperialist states and the ruling classes and governments of sending countries.
GFMD and the Struggle of Migrant Workers
The GFMD cannot be expected to become relevant and helpful to the most important of its supposed stakeholders – the migrant workers themselves – as it fails to address the essential issues of the migration phenomenon, including the immediate and long-term issues involving themigrant workers.
Civic organizations participating in the GFMD process must call the participating states to this task and not to fall into the policy framework on migration and development that the GFMD wishes to advance. They must recognize the centrality of the rights and welfare of migrant workers in the global migration phenomenon and must fight for the rights and interests of the migrant workers. It is high time to condemn and repudiate the snare of monopoly-capitalist interests disguised cynically as mere “management” of migration.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)has the continuing and pressing task of building the anti-imperialist front among the peoples of the world in order to resist and defeat the onslaught of “neoliberal” globalization, imperialist plunder and imperialist wars of aggression.
Migrant organizations participating in the ILPS and, in particular, those interested in Concern No. 16 on Migrants, Refugees, Homeless and Other Displaced Peoples have already undertaken substantial discussions and made resolutions on the root causes of migration, the impact of “neoliberal” globalization on migrant workers and the courses of actions for defending the rights and welfare of the migrant workers.
The study commission on this concern, created and developed in the first and second ILPS international assemblies, has also jumpstarted the process of building the International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA). The IMA is envisioned to gather grassroots organizations of migrant workers around the world, to engage and conjoin the migrant workers, immigrants, and refugees in struggle; to push for the full implementation of international conventions on the rights of migrant workers and their families; to protect the rights of undocumented migrants and women migrant workers; to end human and sex-trafficking; and to participate in the struggle against imperialist wars of aggression, repression and fascism.
Set to be convened and established early next year, the International Migrants’ Alliance will constitute a significant and outstanding rallying force in the struggle of migrant workers. It is expected to be at the forefront in taking up the urgent concerns of the migrant workers and in pursuing the struggles of the migrant workers in connection with those of all other oppressed peoples and sectors.
There is a need to persevere in arousing, organizing, mobilizing and empowering the migrant workers of various nationalities and give priority to countries where there are large concentrations of migrant workers and immigrants. The international movement of migrant workers shall have as building blocks the migrant workers’ organizations in various countries. It will contribute significantly to the all-round development of the international people’s movement against “neoliberal”globalization.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle urges the migrant workers to do their best and utmost in the struggle of all peoples against imperialism and all reaction in order to build a new and better world of greater freedom, democracy, social justice, development, international solidarity and world peace.###