Friday, October 24, 2008

The GFMD Does Not Provide Any Hope

by Colin Rajah
Oct 24th, 2008

Workshops and other events continued today at the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (PGA), including the opening of a couple of large forums as well as other smaller but equally critical workshops.

Migrant Forum in Asia’s (MFA’s) annual Regional Conference on Migration (RCM) kicked off its 2-day forum, this year with the theme “The Right to Development: Migrants’ and People’s Perspectives and Strategies”, with attendance of over 150 delegates from countries all over Asia, as well as a few ally invitees and observers from other regions. Aside from yours truly, keynote addresses in the opening panel included that from Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba (Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN and former UN Human Rights Council President) and Gigi Francisco (International Gender & Trade Network).

Of note, Amb. de Alba – who has increasingly proven to be an important ally to migrant groups – candidly underscored how the GFMD and its future “does not provide up till now any hope” of changing its course of action to promote managed migration policy frameworks and ignoring the eroding human rights of migrants. He challenged the GFMD’s insistence on placing the burden of economic development on migrant communities and even critiqued his own country’s and others’ reliance on migrant remittances for a country’s development. These remittances, he stressed, “are private funds… and cannot and should not be controlled by any government.” Some of us are wishing the Georgia state legislature and other U.S. policy-makers could hear this! Click here for short video clips of Amb. de Alba's presentation:

Elsewhere, many members of the Global Unions held their individual union workshops, leading up to their Global Union Forum on Migration on Oct 25th, entitled “Movement of Workers: Unions Beyond Borders”. Up to 500 union members from around the globe are participating in these.

NNIRR co-organized two workshops: one on the upcoming Durban Review Conference in 2009 (a review of the 2000 World Conference Against Racism), and another on Borders, Detentions and Deportations: The International Regime of Migration Policy Enforcement.

In the Durban Review Conference workshop, we discussed the challenges and opportunities the upcoming review conference provides, and strategized how migrant rights groups can impact its outcomes with our limited resources.

The Enforcement workshop presented a critical series of descriptions of various enforcement strategies and practices taking place around the globe. Our own Arnoldo Garcia kicked this off with a summary of conditions in the U.S. and these collectively contribute to the intense human rights crisis facing U.S. immigrant communities. This was followed by stark descriptions of severe practices and conditions by:
  • Alice Nah from Malaysia who described the criminalization and mass deportations of Burmese, Indonesia and many other refugees and migrant workers there;
  • William Charpantier, from the Dominican Republic who described the racism and inhumane treatment faced by Haitians in the D.R.;
  • Pablo de la Vega from Ecuador discussed new propositions there to actually promote better migration policies globally;
  • Manfred Bergmann from Italy who described the targeting of African migrants landing in Lampedusa and other Italian borders, as well as the Italian government’s brutal treatment of them; and
  • Ousmane Diarra from Mali and Clariste Soh-Moube from Cameroon who organize and provide services to returned deportees in Mali, who described the increasing Fortress Europe regime and their own deportation experiences, as well as critiquing the new Migration Center in Bamako as a means to further control migrants.
While many of these descriptions of enforcement policies and the conditions endured by migrants seemed bleak and incredibly wretched, the workshop also presented a good opportunity to build alliances and strategize collective action and advocacy. For instance, Alice explained an emerging International Detention Network that will no doubt be of particular interest to many groups in the U.S.

More workshops are scheduled tomorrow, culminating in the Global Opening Plenary in the evening. As always, don’t forget to visit NNIRR’s YouTube channel ( for video clips from the previous days’ activities, and return back here for more reports.

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