Message to the 2nd General Assembly of the International Migrants Alliance
Manila, Philippines
3 July 2011

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International League of Peoples’ Struggle

As chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), I convey warmest greetings of solidarity from the League to the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) and all its member-organizations on the occasion of its 2nd General Assembly.

We are glad that your assembly is a major event in the International Festival for People’s Rights and Struggle (IFPRS), which is supportive of the Fourth International Assembly of the ILPS.

We highly appreciate the purposiveness of the theme of your assembly: Strengthen and Expand our Movement! Migrants, Resist Intensified Imperialist Attacks! Achieve Victories in our Struggle!

We are confident that your assembly can lay the basis for realizing your purposes by assessing the past three years of your alliance, formally accepting new members, planning work for the next three years and electing new members in your International Coordinating Body.

We have full trust in the ability of the alliance, its members-organizations and the solidarity organizations in host countries to strengthen themselves politically and organizationally, engage in mass struggles against imperialist attacks and win still greater victories.

The large-scale migration of workers, now more than 214 million, to more developed countries has been the consequence of imperialist exploitation under the policy of neoliberal globalization. Workers are driven to migrate from their countries, by poverty, underdevelopment and lack of employment. Oppression has also generated large numbers of political refugees.

The more developed countries are the destination of more than 60 per cent of the migrant workers, most of whom are women, who provide cheap labor for menial jobs, allow the workers of the host countries to take comparatively higher-paying jobs and help to improve the quality of life.

But the governments of the more developed countries, in collaboration with the countries of origin, keep the migrant workers deprived of the basic democratic rights of workers and even of the most basic human rights. They delayed and diluted the formulation of the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

This convention is a comprehensive international treaty regarding the protection of migrant workers’ rights. It aims to uphold human rights and protect migrant workers and members of their families and serve as a guide and standard for the promotion of the rights of migrant workers. It does not create new rights for migrant workers but draws from previous human rights instruments of the UN and other major relevant documents of the International Labor Organization.

It seeks to guarantee a minimum standard of protection to all migrants, ensuring freedom from discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, sex, religion or any other status, in all aspects of work, including hiring, conditions of work and promotion, access to housing, health care and basic services. It aims for equality of treatment, and the same working conditions for migrants and nationals. It also recognizes the right of migrant workers to join labor unions like the nationals.

It seeks to ensure freedom from arbitrary expulsion from the host country and protection from violence, physical injury, threats and intimidation by public officials or by private individuals, groups or institutions. It recognizes that legal migrants have the legitimacy to claim more rights than undocumented migrants, but it requires respect for the fundamental human rights of undocumented migrants.

It also proposes actions to counter and eliminate clandestine movements of migrant workers, through information campaigns against illegal or irregular migration, and through sanctions against trafficking and employers of undocumented migrants.

After the Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1990, it took 13 years to come into force through ratification as a treaty primarily by 20 underdeveloped countries from which migrant workers originate. To this date, the Western developed countries that benefit most from migrant workers have not ratified the Convention on the specious argument that this would limit their control over immigration, especially in relation to the right of family reunification and the provision of social services, despite the fact that the Convention makes countervailing assurances conceding and bending to the prerogative of the state to make its immigration policy and law.

The countries in Europe and North America, where the overwhelming majority of migrant workers live, still refuse to ratify the Convention. Other major hosts of migrant workers, like Australia, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and India have also refused to ratify the Convention. Thus, the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), which monitors implementation of the convention, has been hampered or even rendered impotent.

But even as the Convention is not effective in many countries where the migrant workers are, the IMA can use it as a basis for drawing up a check list of rights which need to be upheld, defended and protected. The check list of rights can inspire and guide the actions for asserting, exercising and realizing these rights.

Of the highest importance is your resolve to be ever vigilant and militant in the face of the worsening crisis of the world capitalist system. We can anticipate the escalation of exploitation and oppression of migrant workers by the imperialist countries as well as by the reactionary rulers of the underdeveloped countries from which the migrant workers come.

The global economy continues to be in a state of protracted depression because the imperialist powers cling to the US-directed policy of neoliberal globalization. The big banks and favored corporations that caused the abrupt plunge of the global economy in 2008 are causing another abrupt and more disastrous plunge.

They have been rewarded with public funds to improve their books of accounts and have not expanded production and employment. At the same time, they have continued to extract superprofits by pressing down the incomes of the working people and inflate the value of corporate assets through speculation and manipulation of the financial markets.

Huge public deficits have occurred due to the bailout money given to the banks and corporations, the tax exemptions and reductions that these enjoy, the stagnation of the economy and the enlargement of expenditures for military production and wars of aggression as in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

The public deficits have resulted in the public debt bubble, which is now the biggest financial bubble, and is now bursting in both the developed and underdeveloped countries. The imperialist powers and puppet governments are resorting to austerity measures by cutting back social services, health insurance and pensions. They are further shifting the burden of the crisis to the toiling masses and even to the middle class.

Worse times are already conspicuous and ever worser ones are in the offing. In the underdeveloped countries from which the migrant workers originate, the economic depression means far more unemployment than ever before. The reactionary rulers urge the unemployed to seek employment abroad and extort from them higher fees for all sorts of reasons. And yet in the destination or host countries, the social, economic and political conditions are deteriorating and becoming ever harsher for migrant workers.

In the imperialist countries, rates of unemployment are rising and are resulting in currents of chauvinism, racism, religious bigotry and fascism against migrant workers. In certain trading centers, like Hongkong, Singapore and Dubai, the economic down trend is also generating reactionary currents. In oil producing countries, as in Middle East and North Africa, social turbulence and political turmoil have arisen, forcing the exit of the migrant workers or subjecting them to harsh and hazardous conditions.

IMA, its member-organizations and solidarity partner organizations are more than ever before needed to uphold, protect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the migrant workers in the host countries. They must stand up against the increasingly harsh laws and reactionary currents against the migrant workers.

They must demand that the sending governments fulfil their obligations. They must resist the impositions by sending governments of exorbitant fees on migrant workers. They must demand that reasonable fees collected from them be used for their benefit. They must demand that sending governments protect the migrant workers from the unjust laws and rules in the host countries and be prepared to evacuate the migrants when necessary.

The foreign exchange earnings of the migrant workers must contribute to the development of their homeland so that workers would find local employment and not be separated from their beloved families. The home governments must cease to use the foreign exchange merely to feed the profit-making of the imperialist and big comprador firms and service the ever growing foreign debt.

As the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens and the global depression protracts, job opportunities abroad for migrant workers will decrease and the working and living conditions there will deteriorate. Reactionary movements are also scapegoating the migrant workers for the economic crisis and making the host countries inhospitable to them. Reactionary laws and regulations are being adopted and implemented to pressure, hamper and reduce migrant workers.

It is therefore necessary for the people to demand real economic development and employment in their underdeveloped countries. The limits and difficulties of depending on the export of men and women to provide cheap labor are already starkly clear. The broad masses of the people must struggle to end the conditions that deprive them of real development and employment and force many of them to become migrant workers and suffer separation from their beloved families.

We hope that your assembly will be successful in taking stock of your current strength, learning lessons from your experience and setting forth the tasks for further strengthening your alliance and movement, for waging struggles for the rights and interests of the migrant workers and winning victories for their benefit as well as for joining and supporting the struggles of the people in your respective homelands for national and social liberation, democracy, development and just peace. ###

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