“Now we will speak for ourselves”
Grassroots migrants set to launch global formation in June
“For many years, many have spoken on our behalf. This time, we will speak for ourselves.”
This was declared by Eni Lestari, spokesperson of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB-HK) as migrant workers in Hong Kong and in other countries gear up for the founding assembly of the International Migrants Alliance or IMA on June 15 and 16 in Hong Kong. Lestari is one of the lead convener’s of the IMA representing the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers (ATKI) in Hong Kong.
Already 121 individuals from 97 organizations and 24 countries have confirmed their participation in this historic event.
Other conveners of IMA include the Turkish group called ATIK-Europe; Migrante-Canada, Migrante-Europe; Migrante International in the Philippines; May 1st Coalition for Immigrant Rights-USA; PhillForum-USA; and TENAGANITA Malaysia.
Lestari relayed that the presence of a vibrant movement of migrant workers in Hong Kong played part in the decision to hold the IMA assembly in the said territory.
“Successful campaigns were launched by migrant workers in Hong Kong and the migrant movement here is considered as one of the biggest and most active in the world. Hong Kong is one of the focal points when it comes to the gravity of the migrants’ situation and migrants’ resistance,” she added.
There are about 250,000 migrant workers in Hong Kong and almost 90% of them are women working as domestic workers.
The upcoming assembly will be hosted by migrant organizations under the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB-HK) as well as some NGOs in Hong Kong including the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), the Mission for Migrant Workers or MFMW and the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge (BHMWR).
Meanwhile, Teresa Gutierrez of the May 1st Coalition in the USA relayed that the IMA was conceptualized due to the perceived need of creating a formation in the world that can represent people living and working in countries other than their home ones and create a common platform for them.
“To date, there are around 200 million migrant workers present almost every country in the world. They came mostly from countries beset with economic and political problems and they work in countries that are relatively well-developed. Despite the different countries of origin or sectors where they can be found, the common concerns on their situation in the host countries as well as with issues related to why they are forced to migrate exist,” she added.
Sixty per cent of the world’s migrants are to be found in developed regions. Most of the world’s migrants reside in Europe (64 million), Asia (53 million) and Northern America (44 million). Almost one of every 10 persons living in the more developed regions is a migrant.
Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante International in the Philippines mentioned that among the topics up for discussion in the founding assembly include issues on wage, remittance, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) Mode 4, the war on terror and its impacts to migrant workers, on undocumented migrants, on women and violence, health and HIV/AIDS and other far-reaching social costs of forced migration.
Renowned advocate for the rights of migrants and Right Livelihood Award recipient Dr. Irene Fernandez shall keynote the event.
Regalado said that some of the upcoming programs of the IMA as soon as it is established is on the coming second Global Forum on Migration and Development to be hosted by the Philippine government in October as well as the advancement for the recognition of domestic work as work and thus entitled to the rights of workers indicated in various international conventions.
“The GFMD is a clear example of how governments talk about migrants and migration without taking into serious account the sentiments of the workers themselves,” she added.
Regalado reported that participating organizations in the IMA are also making preparations to confront the coming GFMD in Manila. She said that they will make sure that the GFMD in Manila shall not only hear those speaking for migrants but the sentiments of the migrants themselves.
“The time for the grassroots migrants, immigrants, refugees and other displaced people has arrived. The IMA shall make sure that their voices will never be discounted again,” Regalado concluded