Fight capitalist greed and exploitation; Women and men migrants unite for dignity, against modern-day slavery

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) commemorates the 2015 International Women’s Day by calling on all women and men migrants, refugees and displaced peoples all over the world to stand up against injustice and modern-day slavery.

We make this call even as we celebrate with Erwiana Sulistyaningsih the success of her court case against her former employer who has abused, violated and treated her like a slave for eight months.

Herself formerly a victim, Erwiana now stands among us as a survivor, an advocate and an activist. She has learned that only through collective struggle can marginalized, oppressed peoples like her can win their battles and achieve justice. Together with lawyers and migrant-serving institutions were throngs of migrant workers from Hong Kong who have banded together in an organized effort to raise support for her case, build awareness and solidarity among migrants and locals, and encourage people in Hong Kong and even elsewhere to fight modern-day slavery.

We make this call because the fight is far from over.

Migrants are among the first to experience the crunch of the global economic crisis. With the crisis of neoliberal globalization intensifying and ever spiraling down, migrants can expect the worst forms of oppression, discrimination, social exclusion and exploitation.

Bilateral and multilateral agreements among States have only intensified the commodification of migrant labor, treating migrant workers merely as cheap, docile labor with no rights or freedoms. In countries of migrants’ destination, existing laws and policies that demean migrants and deprive them of rights, movement and freedoms continue to be made more stringent and oppressive. In their own countries, migrants and their families see no hope of any pro-people development as their own governments continue to implement neoliberal policies that have always prioritized capitalist profits over the rights and dignity of peoples.

In the light of the new sustainable development goals being formulated in the United Nations, it is but proper for us to involve ourselves in the process, whether within it or outside it. We need to raise our voices and make them louder, both at the local and international levels. We need to register our resistance against a very neoliberal and corporate framework that global leaders use in shaping these goals and directing our future, at our expense.

Wherever we may be, we need to stand up, band together and form ourselves in organizations, forge principled unities with other groups and build solidarity. For wherever there is exploitation of a migrant or refugee, there should be organized resistance.

Today is the ripe moment to stand up and resist.

Statement on the 2015 International Women’s Day
Eni Lestari, IMA Chairperson (+852-9608-1475)

Erwiana’s victory is the migrants’ victory

We in the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) celebrate the victory of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih as the Wanchai District Court in Hong Kong has ruled in her favor and found guilty on 18 charges her employer.

As we congratulate her in this much-awaited and much-deserved win, we also congratulate the many member organizations and friends of the IMA in Hong Kong who have steadfastly stood by Erwiana and campaigned with her for justice, the abrogation of repressive and anti-migrant policies in Hong Kong, and an end to modern-day slavery in the territory and elsewhere.

Erwiana did not fight it alone. She became part of a movement of people who have collectively decided to not only demand justice for one person but for many others who also have experienced abuse. She became part of a movement of migrants, locals and many solidarity friends who stood up for human dignity and collective rights and against social exclusion, discrimination and oppression.

Erwiana did not become a symbol of weakness but of strength, more aptly so, of the collective strength of the people. Her victory is proof that we can be triumphant in our struggles if we are united.

But the battle is far from over. In many countries, more Erwianas fall victims to trafficking, exploitation and criminal neglect. As they experience hardships, governments continue to mouth migration for development as if it is the key to solving global poverty, which is wrong and misleading.

Migration for development is a neoliberal framework that will only intensify the commodification of migrant labor. It glosses over the fact that many migrant workers are forced by conditions back home to be parted from their loved ones and find work abroad. Neoliberal globalization is the one that causes both global poverty through imposition of neoliberal policies, the cheapening and commodification of labor and the proliferating modern-day slavery. It also forces the opening of economies and resources of poor countries for exploitation and plunder of foreign monopoly corporations, privatization, deregulation and liberalization, which bring about dire poverty to the peoples of poor countries.

With the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation happening soon, we can expect more bilateral and multilateral agreements to be signed in order to amplify labor migration at the expense of migrant workers and their families.

May Erwiana’s victory become a symbol of hope for many of us who are struggling for our rights and dignity and for a world without forced labor migration.

Justice for Erwiana! Justice for All Migrants Workers! End Modern-Day Slavery!

Press Statement
Reference: Eni Lestari, chairperson
Contact number: 852-96081475

Statement of the IMA on December 18 2014 International Migrants Day

Struggle for genuine development and justice for migrants and the people! Struggle and win!

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) commemorates this year’s International Migrants Day with greater resolve to advance the struggle for the protection of our rights and dignity, the end to modern-day slavery and the resolution of the root causes of forced migration.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih is the image of this struggle that we are pursuing steadfastly.

Erwiana is the young Indonesian domestic worker who was subject to physical abuse and torture from her employer in Hong Kong last year. Her sufferings depict the countless number of physical abuse, harassment and intimidation, exploitation and oppression that many migrant workers experience. Her strength and will to fight for justice in her ongoing case against her employer also symbolizes the willingness of migrants – migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees, immigrants – to collectively fight.

It is her sufferings that belie the pronouncements of development in the world today. She and the 232 million international migrants paint the real picture of forced migration – both a symptom and the result of the intensifying, protracted and prolonged crisis of imperialism.

Neoliberal globalization has caused this phenomenon and continues to aggravate it. The implementation of neoliberal policies has only led to massive landlessness, deindustriualization, environmental degradation and wave upon wave of global economic crisis that caused the dissolution of public services and utilities, skyrocketing of prices of goods, displacement of peoples, unemployment and abject poverty. Without work or salaries to live their families by, many are forced to find work abroad – a phenomenon that many governments have developed into labor export policy.

It is with the same neoliberal framework that the leaders within the United Nations are also aiming to optimize migration for development. Instead of addressing the root causes of forced migration, they only mean to maximize the remittances sent by migrants and facilitate migration all in the name of development. As governments beautify slavery by promoting migration for development through the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), the situation of migrants has only worsened over time. Migrants experience oppression in the workplace, visa restrictions, arrest and deportation, social exclusion, among others.

But there can be no genuine development for the people under this current system. A system that prioritizes capitalist profit over the rights, demands and dignity of peoples. A system that lets modern-day slavery and oppression to prevail.

Yet we are strengthened, inspired and with firm resolve to fight this system. We are strengthened by the likes of Erwiana who have decided to stand up against oppression and abuse. We are inspired by the late Irene Fernandez who has committed her life in defending the rights of migrants and challenging a system of oppression. We are filled with resolve as many migrants all over the world decide to be organized and collectively advance the international migrant movement.

Next year 2015 we will bring the battles in all fronts. We will engage governments of both our host and home countries and challenge them to junk anti-migrant laws and create ones that ensure the protection of our rights and stop oppression and discrimination. We will engage in the international debates and platforms and expose and oppose their scheme to make migration as a tool for development. We will enjoin and encourage all migrants, our families and our local brothers and sisters to strengthen solidarity and demand an end to modern-day slavery and forced migration.

Because we are worth more than the remittances and dollars we send. Because we are workers, not slaves.

For reference: Eni Lestari, IMA chairperson (+852-96081475)

IMA Statement for 2014 International Women’s Day

The world was shocked with the pictures of the bruises, wounds and obvious sufferings of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, an Indonesian woman domestic worker in Hong Kong. The shock turned to anger, and the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) enjoins all migrants to turn our anger into collective actions to change the condition of millions of us who live and work with abuses, exploitation and oppression. Continue reading