Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gov’ts unwilling to protect rights

Press Release
19 February 2009

For reference: Eni Lestari
Tel. No.: (852) 96081475

International migrant group decries layoffs, labor flexi moves
Gov’ts, unwilling to protect rights of foreign workers - IMA

Attacks to our wage and job security are happening everywhere. Yet, both the sending governments and the receiving ones are incapable or worse, unwilling, to stem the tide of violations to the rights of migrants that the financial crisis brings.

This was declared by Eni Lestari, chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) as migrants around the world reel from the creeping impact of the US-born financial crisis.

Speaking from HK where she is based as a domestic helper, Lestari said that her group has been receiving regular reports from their members in the United States, Canada and in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Europe regions of mass layoffs of migrants and implementation of more labor flexibilization schemes due to the financial slump.

“What we have feared for is rapidly coming true as termination of employment hounds domestic helpers; factory workers, like in Taiwan, are stripped of their labor rights with many even forced to resign from their jobs; immigrants and migrants in the US are fired from their jobs or are made to work for even few hours; and more workers ran away from abusive conditions in Saudi Arabia and become stranded,” she remarked.

Lestari cited the termination of more than 800 Filipino workers in Taiwan as well as about 1,000 workers in the construction and financial sectors in Dubai, United Arab Emirates as some of the more recent victims of the financial tsunami. She said that even the Indian and Pakistani authorities in the UAE are also expecting layoffs of their nationals soon.

In Canada, the government itself has admitted the reduction of demand for temporary foreign workers in the midst of the financial crunch and warned of ‘tougher times’. Meanwhile, 75,000 undocumented Indonesian migrants in Syria will be deported back to Indonesia early this year and the Indonesian government has even signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Syria over this.

Lestari said that the situation has been increasingly hard especially for migrant workers who are “carted off back home”.

“These repatriated workers find themselves in an even worse situation as they have to face mountains of debt, unemployment and insecurity for the future of their family. Instead of assistance, the responses of sending governments are empty promises of protection, deafening silence, or schemes that do not genuinely serve the migrants,” she added.

The IMA chair mentioned, in particular the governments of Indonesia and Philippines – two of the countries with the most number of nationals overseas – as “inutile” in protecting the wellbeing of their citizens abroad as well as “severely unprepared” for their responsibilities to their repatriated workers.

“Instead of providing the needed assistance to those who have been sent home and bringing about changes to reduce the vulnerability of its nationals abroad, the Philippine government institutes more policies like the ban on direct hiring that put migrants under the mercy of unscrupulous recruiters. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government remains as ineffective as ever in curbing the excesses of Indonesian recruitment agencies that continue to squeeze dry migrants of their hard-earned income,” she relayed.

Lestari also expressed their fear that the crisis shall bring about a more systematic and intense export of labor as sending countries sink in even deeper problems and only the forced migration of its people can be the source of its income.

“This is precisely what the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) gears for. The exploitation of migrants shall be more widespread and intense as slogans of migration for development shall surely be used as one way out of poverty and crisis we are experiencing,” she said.

The group renewed their call for sparing the wage and jobs of migrants during these hard times. Lestari said that workers, including migrants, must be granted reprieve from the attacks to their rights and livelihood.

The IMA chairperson also called to their members to continue to monitor the impacts of the crisis to migrant workers especially cases of retrenchments and labor rights violations. She said that actions should be launched wherever and whenever possible as IMA drumbeats the issues in the international level.

“Workers and the people must come first and not the big businesses and monopolists that have caused this crisis. Imperialists have plundered the world and the people are the ones made to suffer from its policies of neoliberal globalization. This is what we, migrants and immigrants, shall continue to struggle against,” she ended.#

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