2nd GFMD: It’s like drinking and driving. They don’t mix!

Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Chairman and Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos says the 2nd GFMD, which will be held here in Manila this end of the month, will “shine the spotlight on the human face of migration.”

Well shine your spotlight on this Mr. Chairman…

Laid-off OFWs return from Romania

Laid-off OFWs return from Romania

Human Faces

The “human faces” in the picture above (courtesy of Business Mirror’s Recto Mercene) are the batch of overseas Filipino workers who has just returned home yesterday because they lost their jobs in Romania due to the biting global financial crisis.

Today’s Business Mirror says these returning OFWs “provide the first human face of the global turmoil’s impact on OFWs.” Well, they do provide a human face to it, but they are not the first; and by all means, they won’t be the last.

Every time host governments feel the crunch of the economic crisis, it is always the migrant workers who bear most of its heavy brunt. They always find themselves at the receiving end of unjust mass retrenchments, wage cuts; and for the most vulnerable among their ranks – the undocumented workers – violent crackdowns and inhumane deportations.

The logic here is very simple; these migrants are guests in those countries, so they are always the first ones to be eased or kicked out. So for the Department of Labor to claim that OFWs won’t be affected at all by this crisis is like saying that we won’t be seeing the sun set later on the day.

(I’ve even read somewhere this stupid notion from a stupid Filipino official that Filipino domestic helper’s jobs are safe and they won’t be getting the axe anytime soon because their services are badly needed while both of their employers find work just to make ends meet at this trying times. Stupid.)

Crackdowns galore

Ever since the United States drummed up the “anti-terror” hysteria after the 9/11 attacks, to justify its imperialist wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere; several governments imposed stricter immigration rules and the result was, to say the least, devastating.

The US’ immigration rules legitimized mass arrests on a nationwide scale and even the organizations or churches that give aid to the undocumented were not spared and were given harsh jail time.

We’ve seen batches of Filipinos deported from the US who arrived in the country handcuffed and restrained in the entire duration of their flight. They were treated like common criminals. Whole families were also uprooted in the States in the course of such deportations. Such fate happened to the Manalastas and Cuevas families.

Of late, thousands of OFWs treated inhumanely and deported from Sabah, Malaysia made the headlines. A recently concluded fact finding mission led by Migrante International found out that Filipino deportees from Sabah were “harassed, humiliated and maltreated.” They were subjected to deplorable conditions and made to eat rotten food teeming with maggots, according to them.

European Countries has, also recently, voted to flush out the thousands of illegal workers within their territories. South Korea too has stepped up their own campaign. We have over a hundred thousand undocumented Filipinos in the EU countries while we have more than 30,000 working incognito in South Korea.

We also saw 6,000 OFWs who were stranded at Kish Island near the United Arab Emirates border as a result of UAE’s new and more stringent visa requirement. Reports coming from migrant organizations say that quite a number of them have been “sick, hungry and dying.”

All of this unfortunate events (and in fact there are lots more) are happening because of the intensifying global economic turmoil. And the OFW returnees from Romania are just one of the many.

That said, lets go back to Conejos and his asinine assertions.

Usec. Conejos photo courtesy of Reuters

Usec. Conejos photo courtesy of Reuters

He says the focus of the GFMD debate in Manila will be on “migration and its interlinkages to development,” and on “how migration can be made to work for development.” Such claims betray his ignorance on the very nature of migration in the Philippines.

Contrary to his beliefs, Filipinos migrate because development in the Philippines is enjoyed only by a miniscule 1% percent of our population. Filipinos grudgingly leave by the thousands (3,000 or so to be not so exact) daily to uncertain shores overseas because the very government Conejos represents failed to provide them gainful and decent employment.

What we have is forced migration simply because of the fact that no one in his right mind would choose to leave their families behind – most of the time to tend to somebody else’s children or take care of somebody else’s aging parents abroad – if there are opportunities here.

The Philippine government has “been in the business for a long time,” Conejos says and fact is, he’s right. But why the hell the screaming fact that we are still the backward, underdeveloped and crisis ridden nation escaped his melons?

If we are to follow his logic, then we should be a first world country by now since we have been in the “business” of systematically exporting humans abroad for the last thirty years. Migration leads to development right? Wrong!

Migration leads to broken families, human rights violations, de-skilling of our work force, the destruction of our health care system (because even our doctors scramble to become nurses just to go abroad), and a national government and economy that is heavily dependent on the remittances that migrants bring home. It has led us to a situation that even if our own currency rallies strength,the whole nation mourns and only Malacanang rejoices.

It’s like drinking and driving. Migration and development don’t mix.

But still, our GFMD poster boy insists that the migration we have now “benefits also the economies of the sending countries…” According to him also, people leave because there is a demand for them overseas. “It’s a supply and demand thing,” he argues.

If so then why the hell his boss in Malacanang is so hell-bent on deploying more than one million of our precious workers abroad annually? Why is it that the Philippine government has become the biggest migrant recruitment agency in the planet?

No, it is NOT because of the flimsy reason Conejos pointed out. It is because, it is their POLICY to export our workers in exchange for the billions of dollars they inject in to our economy.

I am no fan of the GFMD that Conejos and the entire Arroyo regime is trying so hard to pass off as a blessing to the migrants of the world. It’s only aim is to work out ways how governments can squeeze more profits from the migrants’ labor.

It’s not surprising that legitimate and grassroots migrants organizations has shunned the forum. I salute them for standing up against the GFMD and exposing its evil agenda.

To the organizations not invited to Conejos’ sham forum, and will hold instead the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) where “migrants will speak for themselves,” MABUHAY KAYO!

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