It seems to me that no country is interested in the protection of rights of migrants.
This statement by a Colombian migrant in Europe aptly reflects and summarizes the over-all sentiment and position of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) on the Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration (GCM).
What is the GCM?
What is the GCM and what is its significance to the global migrant movement? The GCM is one of the two global compacts (the other being the Global Compact on Refugees) that were to be developed as a response of the United Nations to the problems confronting international migration and the intensifying global refugee crisis.
This was announced during the UN Summit on Migrants and Refugees in New York City, USA on September 19, 2016 in which IMA chairperson Eni Lestari was invited to represent the migrant sector and to speak in the opening panel. There, she challenged governments and other stakeholders to commit to address the problems facing migrants everywhere and to finally put a stop on forced migration.
Two years have passed and after three drafts of the GCM zero draft which the IMA’s leaders and members have read and discussed, we can therefore concludethat the GCM does not provide a clear and actionable solution to the myriad of problems that beleaguered migrants and their families, much less the resolution of the phenomenon of forced migration.
The Problem with the Global Compact on Migration
Let us start by stating the obvious – the GCM offers no actionable points on resolving problems confronting migrants, neither does ithold anyState accountable to implementing the compact.
The GCM is packed with positive provisions tackling a comprehensive array of issues confronting migrants. These provisions in fact reflect what the migrants have been steadfastly campaigning governments to act on, some of which are commodification and exploitation of labour, trafficking of peoples, and slave-like treatment and conditions of migrant workers.
By wielding the sovereignty card at the beginning, the GCM has already set governments free from any commitment or liability. So,despite its adoption by the end of this year, the GCM may not make any significant impact on the migrants’ worsening situation, given that border controls are already being tightened across Europe, immigration laws are becoming more restrictive, and the criminalization of migrants, undocumented or otherwise, continues to be legislated.
The United States, notorious for instigatingxenophobia and discriminationagainst migrants, has already backed out from the GCM process – a decision that is reflective of its escalating war against migrants as well as a bad precedent forothergovernments to emulate.
GCM – A Neoliberal Agenda
Despite the palliative on championing migrants’ rights, the GCM clearly promotes the neoliberal agenda of managing migration for development. It has blatantly ignored the historical and current attributions of forced migration while presenting it as a normal phenomenon that can be taken advantage of and exploited for maximum profit.
It only aims to perpetuate the export of cheap, skilled and semi-skilled, docile and disposable labor from underdeveloped countries, continually stunted by neoliberal policies.
Neoliberal globalization cannot resolve the current imperialist crisis; it was the one that caused it and it is the same system that willaggravate it. Through its policies of privatization, deregulation, liberalization and denationalization, many poor countries continue to be economically insecure, dependent on foreign aid, and peddling their nationals for cheap labor export.
Under neoliberal globalization, the commodification of migrant labor has become prevalent and so has modern-day slavery. Thesituation of migrants isno different from that ofasylum seekers and refugees who have been cast away from their land because of conflicts, warsof aggression and occupation,and proxy warsyet continue to be subjected to inhumane treatment, criminalization, violence and genocide.
Will the Global Compact on Refugees concretely address the problems confronting the 600,000 Rohingya refugees, the millions of Palestinians seemingly perpetually aggressed by the Israeli government since the Al-Nakba, the many Africans who are loss at sea?
Neither of theseglobal compacts is legally binding, has referenced the historical and current reality facing migrants and refugees, nor has prioritized human rights-based approach over the neoliberal framework.
Building the Movement for Change
As we acknowledge the efforts placed in the process of developing the document, the International Migrants Alliancewill go beyond the Global Compact on Migration in pursuing the full recognition and respect of the rights of migrants and their families and the conclusion of forced migration.
We have proven time and again that it is only through the concerted efforts of grassroots migrants to educate, organize and mobilize among them to struggle collectively for and win their just demands. From wage hikes to saving migrants in jail to addressing anti-migrant policies, we have won victories through our unified actions and campaigns. Such initiatives contribute to a growing migrant movement from the country to the global level. The existence of the IMA is proof to this.
Not only did the IMA but the whole world celebrated when Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih won her case against her abusive Hong Kong employer. It was the concerted efforts of grassroots migrant organizations, migrant-serving institutions, local advocates and human rights defenders in Hong Kong as well as other members of the international community that broadcast to the whole world the horrors facing migrant domestic workers through the case of Erwiana. Erwiana’s win in the legal battle was a score for the migrant movement that continues to assert the protection and respect of migrants all over the world.
Countless victories for migrants were won because of our collective efforts and campaigns – the campaign to keep cancer-stricken Juana Tejada from being deported from Canada has led to the passing of a law protecting temporary migrant workers there; the broad international solidarity campaign, togethe with collaborative efforts of progressive and pro-migrant lawyers from Indonesia, Philippines and Australia, have successfully pressured the Indonesian government to commute the death sentence for drug and human trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso; and the justice given to survivors of trafficking and slavery.
The strength of the global migrant movement relies on the continuous, steadfast and collective efforts of migrant organizations, unions and movements on the ground that unite with local peoples and all friends, forge solidarity and work in a framework that champions the rights, welfare and dignity of the people over the capitalist interests of a few. This is the very framework by which the International Migrants Alliance leads the movement.
This is the framework by which we campaign and work towards a world where no family is broken apart by the need to survive, where migration is not anymore forced but is a right and a choice, and where all actors – governments, institutions, business and peoples – are accountable to one another.
As long as neoliberal globalization exists, forced migration and the hardships of migrants will persist. This is the reality that we will have to steadfastly challenge and change.
We have a world to win. A world without forced migration, a world without neoliberal globalization.
Reference: Eni Lestari, chairperson