International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees and some questions for bloggers

Migrants, including our OFWs, won’t be joining state governments and big business in their second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). They will usher in their own conference, the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) and they cite good reasons in choosing to do so.

The GFMD, sponsored by the Arroyo administration, aims to justify and prettify “forced migration” as a a way of live for people in so-called Third World countries. GFMD organizers have even boasted that they will present the Philippine experiences as among the “best practices” in migrant deployment, for instance.

Like other state governments, the Arroyo administration has often boasted about wealth creation, but this has only benefited a few and have largely been viewed and experienced as “jobless growth” for the most part. The wealth creation seems focused more in the stock market and portfolios, and less on encouraging businesses to engage in enterprises that result in mass employment opportunities. (The closest thing to mass employment we have now are the BPO companies which now employ thousands, mostly those who received training for other careers. A veritable brain drain, so to speak, considering the wasted talent that could not find companies and initiatives that could make full use of them.)

For the most part of the Arroyo administration’s extra-long tenure, the President has boasted about strong economic fundamentals but such boasts are meaningless to OFWs and the 3,000 others who join their ranks every single day.Meaningless too to a growing number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos who do not have the means to go abroad.

Filling in the obvious absence of OFWs and migrants in the GFMD are the banks, led by the Bank of the Philippine Islands. BPI is represented in the GFMD by the Ayala Foundation, the lead convenor of the so-called “civil society days” of the GFMD. How the Ayala Foundation all of a sudden discovered its heart for OFWs and migrants in general, we do not know. What we know is that the BPI continues to enjoy the distinction of cornering the largest bulk of OFW remittances and thereby besting other banks who all salivate over the billions of dollars our OFWs send in a year.

The choice of the Ayala Foundation as “lead convenor” in the “civil society” component of the GFMD speaks volumes about the GFMD and its view of migrants and our own OFWs. All of the GFMD players — state governments that send and accept migrant workers, recruiters, banks and money-sending firms like Western Union where remittances pass through — depend largely on the migrants and OFWs one way or another. They will be sad if this phenomenon of “forced migration” comes to an abrupt end. They will be sad because there will no longer be remittances to save entire economies, no more taxes and state exactions, no more placement fees, no more remittances to play around in the money markets, the works. Its simply all about the money.

Get more data about “remittances and development” in this World Bank study.

Migration has spawned not just welfare and rights problems of migrants, such as racism, discrimination and other oppressive acts. Migrant issues now involve the role of remittances in saving moribund and bankrupt economies such as the Philippines — the predatory role played by the Arroyo government for instance in encouraging “forced migration” in the belief that more migrants mean steady and growing amount of remittances in dollars! We can just imagine the banks’ views of our migrants.

Migration and migrant remittances have become integral in the “new world disorder” where almost everything — including migrants — are now commodified, and they will be talking about “humanizing” this madness in the GFMD, in protecting the rights and welfare of the migrants the GFMD stakeholders have commodified. No wonder the migrants wish no role in the GFMD!

Enter the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), the migrants’ counterpoint to the GFMD and where they intend to tell the truth about the horrors of “forced migration”, the total lack of glamor in being forced to work abroad sans protection and amid rising racism and xenophobia in the First World. They will speak about the complete lack of any form of “bailout” for them amid the financial crisis (Billions for ailing banks, nothing for the people!) and about the gall of the Arroyo administration to say that OFW remittances will be a crucial factor to shield the country from the meltdown.

They will discuss and chat and talk among themselves and their families, and with their allies from trade unions and cause-oriented groups, progressive parties and legislators, and hope they will be heard.

More about the IAMR here and a previous post on the GFMD and the IAMR here.


Some questions for bloggers:

  • What’s the proper role of migration in attaining national development?
  • Is migration a valid solution to mass unemployment?
  • What should the Philippines need to accomplish to eliminate the need for “forced migration”?