Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Migrants Are Not For Sale!

by Colin Rajah

The media coverage of this WTO meeting has been relatively impactful. But the unfortunate focus on sensationalist stories, such as supposed threats of "riots" and "violence" by protestors, especially the large Korean farmers delegation, have been gravely exagerated. At the opening march and rally, the farmers staged a "swim" to the WTO's convention center - hardly a case of "rioting" or "violence" the mainstream media seems intent on delivering.

In spite of the many creative acts of protests both inside and outside the WTO convention center, what the media has been missing are the other real stories. The negotiations among WTO delegates are probably no match for the the intense discussions between the vastly disparate groups that are outside the convention center. These revolve around the WTO's policies and its impacts on various sectors of society, as well as sharings, encounters and exchanges on the day-to-day realities communities face due to globalization. The resounding message from migrant groups were that "Migrants are not for sale" as well as demands that we not be treated as commodities.

Migrant Forum Asia (MFA) led a No to GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) march and rally, right up the convention center and faced a stand-off with the police and an increasing presence of the riot squad. Negotiations between the march's leaders (including MFA's William Gois) with the police officers, proved futile as the police seemed intent on keeping us as far away as possible from the convention center's holy perimeter. In spite of the sudden blockade being erected by the police, the migrant groups present chanted loud and strong, played drums, danced, and made our collective message clear that the WTO had no right to trade migrants within the GATS policies.

Our own US Asian Pacific Islander (API) delegation organized an intense session, where migrant youth and workers shared stories about the impacts of globalization on them and their communities, and heard very similar stories from migrants from Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines and Cambodia.

We joined other migrant groups to take similar messages to the many embassies located here, culminating of course at the U.S. embassy. And tomorrow, we will have our joint forum on Mode 4 (the WTO's proposed global guestworker program) alongside AFSC and MRI. But even before then, its clear that we have raised the issues of the interlinkages of migration and globalization, and more importantly, raised the voices and perspectives of migrant communities about these. One thing should be clear to the WTO by now, migrants are NOT for sale!

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