GFMD: An Insult to Migrants and Refugees

When I was finally able to visit the Philippines, my homeland, after years of living as a refugee in the Netherlands, a friend welcomed me with a remark, saying that I clearly looked ‘imported’. Unable to relate myself to her description, I was quick to respond, with my displeasure almost evident. “I am not imported, but exported.”

This is true for the 12 million Filipino migrants today and the thousands leaving the country every day. Among us are graduates who will never find a decent job, hard-working men and women whose jobs cannot provide even the basic necessities of their families. We are the mothers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons who are forced to choose between being with their loved ones and surviving. Every single one of these people are exported like commodities, carefully packaged by poverty and desperation in the big factory run by imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

This situation is of course not exclusive to the Philippines. We also have brothers and sisters from all over the world who are forced to leave their countries due to poverty or war instigated by imperialist countries.

The ruling class of monopoly capitalist countries and their institutions are trying hard to exploit this migration phenomenon – to exploit our exploitation. One of their efforts is this Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), which held its 7th meeting in Sweden last May 14-16.

For each one of us migrants, the GFMD is a big insult.

GFMD is a global meeting that brings together governments of migrant-receiving countries and migrant-sending countries to address the interconnections between migration and development. Since its first meeting in 2007, it has done nothing to improve the situation of migrants and in fact has only intensified the commodification of migrant workers.

It promotes the concept that migration leads to genuine development when, in fact, forced migration is a consequence of the lack of genuine development. It is their desperate and hypocritical move, being unable – or, more accurately, refusing – to solve the root causes of forced migration. After all, like many multilateral institutions, it is dominated by the governments of countries that impose neoliberal policies of the IMF, World Bank, and WTO — which worsen the situation of migrants and further impoverish underdeveloped countries and attack and destroy the rights and welfare of the working people in the developed countries.

These are the governments and their institutions that colonized us, enslaved us, suck dry our labor and rich natural resources then insist that we are poor. They are the ones that send their troops to murder our people and insist that it is for our freedom or mutual benefit. Meanwhile, the bureaucrat capitalists of our own countries voluntarily let their hands be tied with strings, like a neo-colonial puppet, to be constantly pulled by the imperialist puppeteer. These are the reasons why people are forced to leave their country.

The problems of migrants and refugees do not vanish once they leave the country. First, for a lot of our brothers and sisters, the journey to the countries of destination is a journey of life and death. Around 17,000 migrants and asylum seekers died trying to cross the Mediterranean in the last twenty years. Hundreds die every year in the borders between the US and Mexico; and countless more in other places. Once in our host countries, we are slapped with anti-migrant laws and policies, like the EU Directive and FRONTEX. We are criminalized, targeted for deportation, and detained in inhumane conditions. We are exploited as cheap labor, while our remittances are used to salvage collapsing economies. Women are abused. Everyday, we are confronted by racism, by xenophobia.

But just like it has been in the previous decades of oppression, the oppressed will resist.

I was able to attend the three-day “speak-out”; discussions and protest mobilization held parallel as a counter-event to the GFMD assembly. The speak-out was organized by grassroots migrants, by refugees under the militant banner of the International Migrants’ Alliance. There were participants from different migrant communities in different countries. We shared the story of our struggle with one another and discussed how we can further advance our work together.

We vowed to arouse, organize, and mobilize our fellow migrants, our fellow refugees, to fight for our rights. In our home country, we will continue working with progressive movements that are already fighting for social change so that the resources of our countries will be used for our own people and not for the benefit of huge foreign capitalists. The struggle of migrants is the struggle of all oppressed peoples, so it is imperative to work in solidarity with all the oppressed people where we are and back home.

Every migrant carries the baggage of the exploitative system back home. As they arrive abroad, this baggage seems to be getting heavier and heavier as we realize it is not only a broken system back home, but of the whole world. The only way we can free ourselves is to organize ourselves to take action to end the economic, political and social order that perpetuates forced migration. Each of us migrants and refugees are living proof of this broken system. As long as there is no genuine people’s development, there will always be forced migration.

Expose and oppose the myth of migration for development! Continue the resistance against commodification and modern-day slavery of migrants! Advance a just, equitable and sustainable development for migrants and the people!

Written by Ilena Saturay.