This blog contains postings of news clippings that concerns Overseas Filipinos, Migration and my diary of important events as an Overseas Filipino Worker in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – Bong Amora
Unity Statement of the Asia Pacific Roundtable on ASEAN, Labor Migration and Free Trade Agreements
We, participants in the Asia Pacific Roundtable on the ASEAN, Labor Migration and Free Trade Agreements, unite in our commitment to advance the rights and wellbeing of migrants (including those considered as irregular), political refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced peoples; ensure that the genuine interests of migrants are upheld in the ASEAN, and; expose and resist adverse impacts to migrant workers of bilateral free trade agreements on labor migration.
We recognize that:
a. Labor migration is integral to all countries in Southeast Asia. In most cases, poverty, landlessness and unemployment due to underdevelopment are the motive forces that compel people to migrate to other countries. Free trade agreements (FTAs) promoting globalization deepen such underdevelopment which in turn, creates further labor surplus that continually replenishes the migrant labor pool. Many countries in the region are sources of millions of migrant workers while there are also ones that are destination for labor migration. This does not even include yet the tens of thousands more of refugees like the Burmese in Thailand or Filipinos who flee to Sabah due to intense military operations and landgrabbing in southern Philippines.
b. Member countries in the ASEAN are highly-dependent on labor exportation – either as a source of cheaper laborers or as a way to curb unemployment. The UN estimated in 2005 that migrants in the region numbered around 5.6 million. With millions of more of undocumented or irregular migrants as well as refugees, the number will even be significantly higher. Remittance sent by nationals of ASEAN member countries working in another ASEAN member state was around US$10 billion that time.
c. Basic rights of migrant workers have been laid down in instruments such as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; and those by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The 2007 ASEAN Declaration on Migrant Workers also reiterated a number of these rights. While there are now efforts to create instruments on migrant workers that will bind all member countries of the ASEAN, these processes generally lack genuine participation by migrants.
d. In Asia and the Pacific, the ASEAN’s continuing geopolitical, economic and military value attracts further globalization schemes packaged as bilateral and plurilateral FTAs by the Northern trade blocs. Multinational companies (MNCs) from the world’s superpowers such as the United States, Japan, the European Union and Australia as well as transnational companies operate widely in the region and have strong foothold and control in the region’s market and also to the rich natural resources, particularly land, in most member countries of the ASEAN.
e. Increasingly, labor migration is being included in various bilateral free trade agreements between countries in the ASEAN or between individual ASEAN members with other countries outside the regional formation.
f. Current processes and structures in the ASEAN are not inclusive or transparent, thereby hindering the meaningful participation of CSOs and social movements.
We believe that:
a. Migration is an inalienable right and must be made of one’s free choice. Due to fundamental economic, political and socio-cultural problems in sending countries, migration has been a forced one and is being fully-integrated in national economic policies and programs. On the other hand, voluntary migrants should be covered by instruments protecting the rights and welfare of migrants.
b. Labor migration is increasingly seen as a major source of income and revenues for countries. Under such a framework, migrant workers are treated more as commodities and are denied the dignity and rights as human beings and as workers.
c. Current bilateral free trade agreements are largely-designed to make labor exportation and importation more efficient but are superficial with regard to the protection and promotion of migrants’ rights and wellbeing.
d. Principles of democracy, social justice and pluralism including those enshrined in the United Nations and International Labor Organization’s instruments should be the bases of instruments that will be created by the ASEAN. There should also be mechanisms for the meaningful participation of grassroots people.
e. ASEAN instruments must reflect and serve social justice, peace, gender equality and the interests of the people, particularly the marginalized, and not the narrow interests of local ruling elites in ASEAN member states, the monopolists, and powerful states in the world that have significant influence in the ASEAN.
We call on the ASEAN to address the major and concrete issues of migrant workers, asylum-seekers, refugees and their families in the region. These include:
a. The civil, political and socioeconomic rights of migrant workers, especially those concerning policies on wage, job security, working conditions, and the right to self-organization.
b. Bilateral free trade agreements on labor migration that legitimize and systematize profit-generation from labor migration.
c. Recognition of domestic workers as workers and inclusion in labor policies that adhere to UN and ILO conventions on worker’s rights.
d. The lack of protective policies in recruitment, placement and employment of migrant workers.
e. Policies that criminalize irregular migrants including restrictive and even militarized border control and their arrest, detention and deportation.
f. Rights of women migrants, immigrants, refugees, and their specific needs such as sexual, health and reproductive rights.
g. Rights of marriage migrants, especially with regard to acquiring citizenship, securing their labor rights and protection against domestic violence.
h. Protection of children against trafficking, child labor, forced statelessness and family separation, and the promotion of other fundamental children’s rights.
i. Right to asylum of political refugees and the end to all forms of restriction and persecution.
j. Social Integration of migrants and refugees, access to basic social services and recognition of their fundamental economic, political, social, and cultural rights.
k. Unjust and discriminatory state health policies as a tool to regulate the movement of people, especially migrant workers, and ensure provision of basic and equitable health care services like HIV prevention.
l. Overcharging of placement fees and state exactions that mire migrant workers in an irresoluble debt cycle.
m. Trafficking in persons in all its forms, with emphasis on labor trafficking.
n. Policies on migrant workers founded on racism and xenophobia.
o. The non-ratification and/or non compliance to the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families, CEDAW and the CRC by ASEAN member countries .
To this end, we commit ourselves to:
1. Engage the ASEAN and its member states to make sure that a genuine instrument for the protection of migrant workers will be formed and implemented;
2. Build regional and inter-regional linkages and coordination for the advocacy towards a genuine ASEAN instrument on the protection of migrant workers;
3. Establish the Migrants’ Caucus on ASEAN as a network of NGOs, migrant advocates and grassroots migrants to deal with the ASEAN and FTAs.
4. Conduct and collaborate on intensive and extensive studies on the impacts of free trade agreements to migrant workers and adopt appropriate actions as needed.
5. To launch advocacy actions in the regional and national levels to address the most basic, concrete and immediate of the migrant worker’s concerns.
6. Strengthen solidarity with grassroots migrant workers, as well as advocacy and support mechanisms to hasten their empowerment through organizing and campaign.
7. Conduct collaborative capacity development on human rights at the regional level. 8. Mobilize financial resources for advocacy actions for mechanisms that will protect the rights and welfare of migrant workers
Signed: 20 September 2009; Manila, Philippines