|No to Migration for Development|
MANILA 26 October 2008: As governments around the globe prepare to dialogue at the upcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), scheduled for 29 to 30 October 2008, civil society organisations continue to mount their objections to the meeting that will focus on migration for development.
CARAM Asia, a network of 29 civil society organisations covering 17 countries in Asia and the Middle East, reject the current form of short term contractual, and low skilled labour migration. Cynthia Gabriel, Regional Coordinator of CARAM Asia said governments who embraced neo-liberal economic globalisation policies, have pushed migrant workers to be treated as commodities, ready to be bought and sold.
“It’s a rhetoric for governments to talk about protecting and empowering migrants when at the same time they are “signing deals” to either “export” or “import cheap labour,” she said.
“Migration has become a big business. Remittances from migrant workers have created huge banking systems and related financial institutions, to facilitate private earnings sent home by migrant workers. “It has become a whole new industry creating sub-industries of agents, sub-contracting of migrant workers, finance and remittances,” she said
Sheikh Rumana, a Bangladeshi migrant domestic worker who had returned from working in Malaysia has been a victim of the migration business. She now questioned whether the benefits of remittances outweigh the economic and social costs of migration.
“Our remittances have saved our families and further helped our country. But when we return home, we are in the same situation like before. None of our contributions are visible in our village lives. Yet, being away from home for so long had given rise to considerable emotional strain for both me and my parents,” she said.
Dede Elah Binti Tarju, another returnee migrant domestic worker, had worked for eight years in Saudi Arabia before returning to her home in Indonesia. She is now with the Migrant Worker’s Solididarity of Cianjur, which receives about seven to eight cases every week on migrant workers abuse and exploitation.
“Our data shows that there are so many female migrant workers who became victims of human rights abuses such as sexual harassment, rape, torture, death, and also exploited by employers, at the airports by authorities and by travel drivers until they are cheated of millions of rupiahs (about USD100),” she added.
She said the returnee migrant workers who had reported their cases to her organisations had difficulty getting help from the Indonesian government.
Domestic workers are not granted the same labour rights like other workers. Dede herself had worked exteremely long hours, sleeping only four hours a day when she was in Saudi Arabia. Yet, six years after returning home, she now ponders having to migrate again for work, as her income from picking cloves back home leaves her and her children to survive with rice and salted fish.
“I earn less than USD 1 from picking cloves. Land in my village has been bought or occupied by capitalists from Jakarta, Bandung, & Bogor (Indonesian towns). Village people can only work as farm labour with very low wages, about USD1.20 per day for male farmer and less than USD1 per day for female worker.” She said.
Gabriel concluded that there is a growing dependency on remittances as a financing tool for development by governments. She said CARAM Asia viewed remittances as private funds, and rejects policies that aim to divert these hard earned monies to alleviate current account deficits and foreign debt.
“Remittances should not be used to help keep afloat mismanaged economies or to fund state development plans. Remittances are private funds of migrant workers,” she added.
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