Standing firm by the theme, “Strengthen Solidarity and Advance Our Struggles! Resist Neoliberal Attacks on Migrants and Peoples of the World!” the International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA) held its Third General Assembly on November 11-13, 2015 in Quezon City, Philippines with a renewed its commitment to further strengthen and consolidate the rank of migrants, immigrants, refugees and displaced peoples to end modern-day slavery, resist neoliberal globalization in all its forms and contribute to the global movement of peoples struggling to defeat imperialism.
This is in line with the core identity of the IMA as a grassroots-led global movement of migrants and support institutions committed to the defense and promotion of their rights and wellbeing as a distinct sector in society. The IMA also serves as a major platform for engagement with migrants and advocates coming together to articulate and amplify the sector’s voice on critical issues affecting them. It is unwavering in its purpose to advance the struggle in the local, regional and international fronts. Recognizing the interconnectivity of the struggles of all oppressed and marginalized peoples, it is also part of the broad anti-imperialist movement in the world for justice, freedom, national liberation and genuine peace.
The assembly – held just days before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in Manila – brought together 85 delegates and guests from 17 countries representing major global regions, including Latin America, Africa, Europe, United States, Canada, Asia and Oceania and the Middle East.
As neoliberal globalization continues to bring detrimental impacts to many poor, underdeveloped countries amidst the crisis of the imperialist-dominated global economic and political system, IMA timed its assembly in order to be able to take part in the people’s actions in Manila against the APEC.
It was in this vein that Rina Anastacio, Vice-Chairperson of Migrante International, the global alliance of Filipino migrant organizations, welcomed the assembly participants and guests. She congratulated the IMA for its militancy in confronting the system that transforms migrants as modern-day slaves, and for remaining as the only global alliance of migrants, immigrants and refugees led by the grassroots.
She also lauded the IMA for being steadfast in its commitment to resist imperialism, to speak and act in unison against all forms of abuse, exploitation, and oppression of migrants and displaced peoples.
In the end, she challenged the IMA members to carry on the path towards building stronger solidarity that is based on collective purpose of resisting neoliberal globalization, imperialist wars of aggression and intervention. She further exhorted the assembly to unceasingly strive in building a world where people can live with dignity, freedom and justice; a world where no one is forced to migrate and be sold like a commodity.
Eni Lestari, the incumbent Chairperson of the IMA opened the 3rd IMA General Assembly with a tribute to Dr. Irene Fernandez, IMA Vice Chairperson, whose untimely passing was a huge loss for the migrant’s and people’s movement around the world. Her life-long service to the cause of migrants and refugees has been a great source of inspiration for all members of the alliance to continue defending and protecting their rights and wellbeing wherever they are and in whatever situation they may be.
The IMA Chairperson noted that countries in the north are changing the schemes of migration from unskilled to skilled migrant labor while poorer sending countries, on the other hand, continue to compete against each other for labor markets making life harder for migrants, especially the undocumented. For this, the challenge for the IMA has become greater as “the fate of migrants depends not on other people, but on migrants themselves,” she said.
Overall, Lestari noted that while IMA member organizations had varying and sometimes, uneven level of responses to calls for coordinated actions, and education and information campaigns were not consistently done, it persisted in its role as an international campaign center. Also significant in the last four years is that the alliance was able to consistently project its line and position on critical issues affecting migrants in various local, regional and international events and engagements used to be dominated by NGO-led networks.
Lestari laid out the challenges for the IMA as follows: 1. Further expand membership and reach out to migrants of different nationalities; 2. Interrelate national struggles of migrants into internationally coordinated campaigns and utilize the IMA’s regional and international advocacy and engagements to national struggles is also crucial; 3. Step up propaganda work to project the anti-imperialist line and position of the IMA, especially in international events and gatherings and promote the alliance on the ground; and 4. Build its own resources to enable the alliance to lead in international campaigns and other coordinated actions.
Azra Talat Zayeed of Roots of Equity, a grassroots-based organization working with peasants and small farmers based in Pakistan, delivered the keynote address for the assembly. In her speech, she said that the onslaught of neo-liberal policies has heightened due to the acute crisis facing capitalism. She said that neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatization and trade liberalization have caused so much misery for the world’s peoples leaving them without any means of accessing resources for living a life of dignity. “We are being forced to be in a position to beg or cheat for livelihood. With no decent livelihood at home, we are forced into migration.”
She also expounded on the advances in the working class movement resisting neoliberal globalization. “Today we are in the IMA precisely because we have understood and realized that our situation is beyond tolerance – the division that capitalism creates amongst us through language, religion or whatever – are just tools of imperialism to ensure that we are divided, that we do not become a force; a force that will threaten and overcomes the corrosive power of capitalism.”
She praised the IMA for holding on to the correct political line and its establishment as clear proof that the global movement of migrants, immigrants, refugees and displaced peoples is in the right path. “By organizing ourselves we have ensured that a clear segment of our working class understands its role in the struggle that we are engaged in, and which still has to be taken much further,” she said. She expressed confidence that the IMA will come out of its 3rd Global Assembly “more resolved, more united and ready to take down the brutal forces of capitalism, of feudalism and patriarchy that have dehumanized us.”
Delegates then approved the assembly agenda and rules of participation, which was followed by the presentation and acceptance of new members. With the addition of 8 more organizations – Fellowship of Filipino Migrant Workers (USA), Confederat Nationale des Travailleros de Senegal (CNTS, Senegal), Serve the People Association (SPA, Taiwan ROC), Indonesian Migrant Worker’s Union – Macau (Macau SAR), Voice Refugee Forum Caravan (Germany), Migrante Denmark (Denmark), Migrante Austria (Austria), and KANLUNGAN (United Kingdom) – the total members of IMA now stands at 141 .
Delegates heard and unanimously approved the report of the IMA Chairperson with some additions. The report told of how the IMA stood pat to its militant tradition and persevered in the face of serious blows brought on by the capitalist crisis on migrants. The alliance fought with vigor and without let up the attacks of neoliberal globalization policies against migrants in various host countries. With these attacks ever increasing, Lestari challenged member organizations to further tighten their grip onto the goals and ideals of the alliance.
In pushing through, she advised the assembly “to use the strength that the IMA has developed, the level of expansion it has reached, the victories it has achieved and the challenges it has identified in the past as foundation for the coming years.” She said that these are necessary as the alliance forges ahead in its role of being at the forefront of the migrant struggle and “as part of the peoples’ global movement against imperialism and all reactions.”
The assembly likewise approved the report of the IMA Treasurer.
Regional reports followed where representatives from various global regions took turns in sharing their experiences in the last four years. The reports gave particular attention to the most critical and urgent issues facing migrants, immigrants, refugees and displaced peoples, and the actions and engagements taken by member organizations in the areas of campaigns, mobilization, education, propaganda, alliance work and organizational building.
Rosario Bella Guzman of IBON Foundation gave a comprehensive presentation on the global economic and political trends and their impacts to the migrants. She expounded on the effects of neoliberal globalization policies to peoples and nations and how richer countries led by the US use various maneuvers and forms of offensives to imbed these policies in the economies of poorer, underdeveloped countries. She also presented alternative actions to the assembly, including campaigns that the IMA may consider in the coming years.
Afterwards, the IMA General Program of Action for 2015-2018 was approved. The context and general direction of plans and tasks for the next 3 years were laid down giving particular stress on education and information, campaigns and mobilization, international advocacy and strengthening the alliance organizationally so it may effectively and decisively resist and fight the onslaught of imperialism. It likewise stressed the importance of solidarity among member organizations, on the one hand, and the rest of the oppressed and impoverished peoples of the world, on the other, as the only assurance that the struggle of migrants, immigrants, refugees and displaced peoples against imperialism will advance.
Amendments to the IMA Constitution where then ratified including the streamlining of the International Coordinating Body (ICB).
Earlier on, delegates in their regional caucuses selected their representative to the ICB. Similarly, associate members also held a separate caucus to select their representative. An additional 7 members of the ICB were selected at large through an election process facilitated by members of the International Women’s Alliance or IWA. The following will constitute the IMA ICB for the next three years: Eni Lestari (AMCB, Hong Kong), Antonio Arizaga (FUIE, USA), Hsia Hsiao-Chuan (TASAT, Taiwan), Glorene Dass (Tenaganita, Malaysia), Sadeqa Siddiqi (Women of Diverse Origins, Canada), Luz Miriam Jaramillo (Comitato Degli Immigrati in Italia, Italy), Rina Anastacio (Migrante International, Philippines), Malick Sy (CNTS, Senegal), Terry Valen (USA), Grace Punongbayan (Migrante Europe, The Netherlands), Rev. Chang Jeong Won (Osan Migrants Center, South Korea) and Ramon Bultron (Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, Hong Kong). Karsiwen of ATKI-Indonesia and John Leonard Monterona of Migrante – KSA were elected as alternate members of the ICB.
The ICB elected amongst them the Executive Committee. Eni Lestari was re-elected as chairperson of the alliance while Antonio Arizaga was elected as the new vice chairperson. Rina Anastacio (Secretary General), Hsia Hsiao-Chuan (Deputy Secretary General), and Glorene Dass (Treasurer) completed the roster of new officers.
Quezon City, Philippines
November 12-13, 2015