Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Call for Transparency and an Audit of all Filipino Migrant Workers on Death Row or Languishing in Prison Abroad.


Call for Transparency and an Audit of all Filipino Migrant Workers on Death Row or Languishing in Prison Abroad.

Jakatia Pawa, a domestic worker from Zamboanga lost her life today when she was executed in Kuwait for allegedly stabbing her employer's 22-year-old daughter whilst she slept on May 14, 2007. Kanlungan offers our condolences to her family, especially her two children (aged 18 and 16) who have lost their mother in this cruel and inhuman way.

The notification of the scheduled execution was only published on the day eliminating any last intervention and inhumanely preventing a final goodbye with her family in person. She informed her family the day before by telephone. No one’s life should end in such a torturous manner.

Since 1989, Kanlungan have handled many legal cases involving migrant workers who faced or were executed overseas such as the cases of Flor Contemplacion, Sarah Demetera and Sarah Balabagan.

It’s common for serious doubt and sometimes evidence challenging their guilt to come to light. Jakatia professed her innocence since the day she was arrested in 2007. She argued the victim’s family members had a stronger motive to kill her because of an alleged illicit love affair with a male neighbour. Philippine Senator Cynthia Villar reported that the DNA found on the murder weapon did not match that of Jakatia. The death penalty is wrong given it is an irreversible punishment - the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.  

Migrant workers face discrimination in societies and in the justice systems, thus are more likely to be sentenced to death in unjust circumstances.  There have been cases where migrant workers with mental health problems were unfairly executed. Extenuating circumstances such as migrant workers being subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse by their employer are very rarely considered. Scapegoating migrants for the crimes of their employer’s family members is common. This is compounded by the many well-documented obstacles to access to justice for migrant workers, which remain due to lack of commitment and political will to overcome them.

We have observed that the lack of legal assistance or delayed assistance from the state that resulted in either death or prolonged incarceration of our fellow compatriots.  Sometimes the lack of concern and support from embassy officials, recruitment agencies and even their own families aggravates the situation. Blaming the victim and lack of empathy also exacerbates the suffering of migrant workers.

Access to justice of migrant workers should not only be limited to court legal assistance and raising “blood money”, as we have experienced in the case of Sarah Dematera. A holistic approach in handling legal cases should be adopted that includes other interventions such as psychosocial counseling and welfare assistance and also a much quicker response to realise the rights of the migrants and their families.

Apart from the people appallingly condemned to death, many hundreds if not thousands of migrant workers are also suffering and waiting for justice; such as the men in Saudi Arabia hoping that the courts will ensure they are paid their long overdue salaries and end of service benefits - rather than them joining the many who have experienced wage theft with state complicity.

It is important to remember that Jakatia Pawa’s tragic story did not begin with her legal case. Like many others it is grounded in the root causes of why Filipinos seek employment in countries abroad. In the case of Jakatia Pawa, she was underemployed overseas as a domestic worker holding a bachelors degree in banking and finance. It’s time to end the Philippines aggressive labour export regime and develop an economy with shared prosperity and equal opportunity for all.

We must guard against any normalisation of a culture of violence experienced by migrant workers whether its verbal and physical abuse or sexual and gender based violence or violation of their right to life.

As 88 people from the Philippines (and numerous others) currently face the death penalty worldwide: we call for all countries that still use the death penalty to immediately halt all executions and commute all death sentences to prison sentences. It is a timely reminder of why the death penalty should not be passed here in the Philippines.

We hope that Jakatia Pawa’s cruel death will be the last.

Kanlungan Centre Foundation, Inc.
77 K-10 Street, East Kamias, Quezon City
Email: kanlungan2008@gmail.com

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Migrant Workers Conference Declaration 2015 released for International Migrants Day

                            Migrant Workers Conference Declaration 2015
                                     released for International Migrants Day
                                                                                                               18 December, 2015
     We the Migrant Workers, employed in many countries around the world, gathered together from different parts of the Philippines (and whilst still abroad)
To unite as one voice:

1. We want our voices to be heard directly, not through others.
The best way to understand our situation is to let us speak for ourselves.
Hear our voice. 
For the longest time we were silenced and excluded and other people spoke and decided what is best for us. 
We must speak for ourselves, after all we are the real experts in migration:
We live day by day as one.

2. They call us 'Heroes' but we do not feel that we are treated that way.
 They call us 'runaways' when we only want our freedom, to be treated as decent human beings. 
We want to be recognised as someone who contributes to our own development,
our family, societies and the world.

3. Like other human beings we laugh, we cry, we dance 
and deserve to feel safe, be respected and have our dignity. 
We are not only victims, We are workers, risk takers, courageous people, survivors, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, fighters, singers...
Our identity is diverse and rich. 
We are not 'illegal' nor 'irregular', we are who we are. 
The story of a migrant worker is deep like the sea. Not simple.
Like anyone else we have dreams, we want to live comfortably, study and work.

4. We are viewed as someone who sends remittances, balikbayan boxes,
someone who earns for our family, pays to send our children to school, 
Someone who sends perfumes, wine, appliances...
Why not also view us as human beings who want to be listened to and need love, affection, understanding and support when our life is hard.

5. The only way we can change our predicament and problems is by
uniting, marching together, speaking up and taking a stand. 
We have the power to make changes .
We have the numbers - 12 million!!

6. We stand in solidarity with all Migrants,
who are experiencing the same things that we are experiencing in the workplace and community.
Let us not allow our nationalities, our colour, sex or religion to divide us.
We are important ,We must represent ourselves, on our own terms.

7. We are claiming our space. 
We must raise the status of migrant workers. 
 Let us decide on our priorities and speak for ourselves on our issues.
We remain hopeful and must never give up!
We will continue to unite and let our presence be felt in all corners of the world.

        Our lives, Our issues, Our future, Our right- Stand up, Speak out!
Kanlungan Centre Foundation, Inc.
77 K-10 Street, East Kamias, Quezon City
Email: kanlungan2008@gmail.com


Friday, September 18, 2015

26th Anniversary Kanlungan

Listening, watching and speaking out: Acting in solidarity with migrants and asylum seekers

Listening, watching and speaking out: 
Acting in solidarity with migrants and asylum seekers

The unfolding chaotic and distressing situation in Europe largely stems from the dominance and longevity of government policies focused on securitisation aimed at deterring migrants and asylum seekers from entering.
This continues to lead to untold human suffering and many deaths.

In recent weeks migrants and asylum seekers have protested and marched in Europe standing up for their rights and demanding humane treatment.  

“If we could go anywhere else we would, but we have family in... I need to be with them”
“Why are they making me risk my life to be with my family when I know I should get asylum if I get there?”
“Freedom, freedom, we want peace.”

“Stopped waiting, started walking”

“We walk, we walk…. We make our own decisions, not wait for solutions”
We are people too”
People begun to listen and a movement of solidarity has begun offering a ‘welcome’, transport, voluntary assistance and a place in their homes.

There have been petitions and demonstrations in solidarity in Europe, around the world and online calling to:

save lives, protect people, change mindsets, recognise ‘our common humanity’,
open borders, ‘welcome refugees’; recognise the contributions and labour demand for migrants and refugees; take a stand for ‘what type of community, society we want to be’; an end to policies that separate families and to put a ‘heart’ back into policy making.

They have also made visible EU states complicity in the creation of many of the ‘root causes’ for peoples movement for protection and better livelihoods that means that they particularly have a responsibility to act.

Now is the time to unite and continue the call for human rights-based migration policies with decriminalisation and safe and legal routes for migrants and asylum seekers.

Join the people’s movement – Stand up for all migrants! Act in solidarity with them!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Closer to Home: Calling Again for Solidarity with All Migrants!


Closer to Home: Calling Again for Solidarity with All Migrants!

We mourn and are deeply saddened by the loss of life of 61 people from Indonesia who drowned travelling in an overcrowded boat in poor weather. They were attempting to return home from Malaysia to Tanjong Balai, Indonesia to share the Eid al-Adha holiday with their families. Amongst the dead were 37 men, 23 women and a young girl, whilst 20 were rescued by fisherman and a search and rescue operation.

Malaysia’s refusal to officially recognise its true demand for labour in its economy contributes to the creation of these undocumented workers, who can be exploited as cheap labour without social protection. There is estimated to be up to 2 million undocumented Indonesian migrants workers in Malaysia. Denied safe and legal routes these low-income workers are forced to make dangerous clandestine journeys resulting repeatedly in tragic preventable deaths.

Untold deaths at sea of migrants are appallingly becoming a familiar sickening phenomenon in the region (and elsewhere in the world) – many Rohingya have died trying to escape systematic persecution for decades; many people have died over the years on perilous sea journeys as undocumented migrants, with smugglers or at the hands of human traffickers; or as forced labour in the fishing industries. Where is the justice for all these deaths? The daily reality for too many low-income migrant workers continues to be living in fear and face discrimination, exploitation, violence and death.

Now is the time to put people before profit!

These human tragedies of migrants that spark media frenzy are in reality often the latest exposure of long-standing situations that represent in part states’ resistance to: develop and enforce rights-based migration policies, recognise labour demand and migrants contributions; and respond and guarantee rights of asylum seekers fleeing war and persecution. This visibility of these human rights violations demonstrates there must be a strengthened call to protect through prevention.

We must act to provide and ensure migrants can live in dignity without risking their lives.

In response to the rising number of deaths of migrants we often rightly call for recognition of our common humanity to act. However the credibility of this call will be weakened if we don’t also insist that it is regardless of immigration status, nationality, religion, race, gender or any other status of migrants.  

We must value all human life equally, everywhere.

We reiterate our Regional Call for Migrants’ Rights:

Now is the time for ASEAN member states to demonstrate the collective political will to convert responsibility into practice and demonstrate a commitment to the rights-based protection and access to justice of all migrants.
Now is the time for ASEAN to show solidarity, respect for human rights for all and move beyond rhetoric to abide with the principle of being people-centred.
We urge the entire ASEAN community to unite and be in solidarity all migrants
- Remain vigilant and steadfast in ending these injustices against migrants.

Let us always act in solidarity to guarantee the rights of all migrants
to protection and justice everywhere in the world

Kanlungan Centre Foundation, Inc.
77 K-10 Street, East Kamias, Quezon City
Email: kanlungan2008@gmail.com

In Solidarity with All Migrants and Asylum-Seekers


In Solidarity with All Migrants and Asylum-Seekers

We mourn and are deeply saddened by the image of a Syrian toddler named Aylan Kurdi who drowned whilst trying to cross the sea to seek refuge from his war torn country. Aylan was just one of many migrants and asylum-seekers around the world who struggle everyday to escape intolerable situations and seek a dignified life worth living. Whilst asylum-seekers flee war and persecution, there are also many migrants everyday escaping poverty, abusive and exploitive workplaces and forced labour that also demand our compassion and action on their rights.

Migration policies focused on securitisation with minimal humanitarian intervention have dominated over rights-based policy for too long, leading to an enormous number of deaths and untold human suffering. Blocking land borders by building fences between Morocco and Spain has led to migrants risking their lives and dying in appalling numbers by taking the alternate route across the Mediterranean Sea. The UK government has responded only with fences to the people’s suffering in Calais. Whilst Hungary is building fences and blocking the travel of asylum-seekers and detaining them in camps; rather than organising their transport to European countries like Germany and Sweden who are fulfilling their duty to guarantee rights and provide protection.

Labeling the situation a ‘migrant crisis’ and now ‘refugee crisis’ has contributed to the justification of securitisation policies. Unfortunately this also conflates with humanitarian migrant organisations use of ‘crisis’ language in their rush to help.

In reality, 86 percent of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries. The influx of migrants into Europe in 2015 is only 0.068 percent of the EU's population, thus there is capacity to accept them. These situations are not something that have suddenly happened - they have been going on for a long duration with states lacking the political will to act and cooperate on recommendations for safe and legal routes for migrants and asylum-seekers. Instead the smugglers have organised their unsafe perilous journeys or they have fallen victim to human traffickers leading to untold human tragedies.

Reframing the people as refugees rather than migrants has also contributed finally towards more compassion and greater pressure on Governments to act with campaigns such as “Refugees Welcome”. As this builds there is immediate relief that asylum-seekers may now receive a more united EU response to recognise and guarantee their rights under the 1951 International Convention on the Status of Refugees. Hopefully given the massive resettlement that is currently required in the world, it will also ignite similar campaigns elsewhere in rich and developed countries.
What will be the impact of this on anti-migrant rhetoric and discourse that undermines rights? Kalungan is concerned that in a similar way to the so-called ‘boat crisis’ in South East Asia, that there is a false dichotomy being constructed between migrants and refugees, with the latter being privileged as ‘more deserving’ of our empathy and protection. Bangladeshis who suffered at the hands of human traffickers had rights too and were no less deserving of our compassion and rights-based intervention than the Rohingya. We must challenge this construction to avoid negative long-term effects in the politics of protection of migrants.

Let us act in solidarity with all migrants!

We call for the following for all migrants and asylum-seekers in Europe:

1.       Immediately expand and intensify the search and rescue operations of the women, men and children, whose lives remain at risk at sea in overcrowded boats.
2.       Provide organised transportation to countries fulfilling their duty to guarantee their right to asylum.
3.       Provide rights-based protection in all EU countries and immediate medical attention with state funding.
4.       Release those who were inhumanely confined in detention. Provide humane treatment and safe
open accommodation for all.
5.       Comply with the obligation to protect children as per the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, (1989).
6.       Do not send them back to face persecution and death - Respect the norm of non-refoulement.
7.       Facilitate access to justice with free legal services.
8.       Monitor and protect these people from any further human rights violations.

9.       Guarantee their rights under the 1951 International Convention on the Status of Refugees - grant asylum, not just humanitarian rescue and assistance.
10.   Challenge consistently any dehumanising anti-migrant language and behaviours, including myths and negative stereotypes.
11.   Revoke laws that prevent family reunification
12.   Suspend the Dublin Regulation, under which the EU country where a migrant first arrives is supposed to process the migrant's asylum claim.
13.   Act now to create a comprehensive, co-ordinated and ambitious regional binding solution for safe and legal routes for all migrants into Europe. Do not externalize the problem risking even worse human rights violations.

Recognising our common humanity regardless of nationality, race, religion or other status
Let us always act in solidarity to guarantee the rights of all migrants to protection and justice everywhere in the world.

Kanlungan Centre Foundation Inc.

77 K-10 Street, East Kamias, Quezon City
Email: kanlungan2008@gmail.com

Migrants’ Challenge to the Philippines Bureau of Customs


Migrants’ Challenge to the Philippines Bureau of Customs

‘Handle  with  care’ - this  is  the  note usually attached to the balikbayan box. This box has come to represent the traditional way Filipino migrants extend their love and affection to their loved ones back home. The sacrifices of every migrant worker is somewhat eased whenever they connect with their families by sending their remittances  and  the much awaited balikbayan box.

The  recent attempt by the Bureau of  Customs,  headed  by Commissioner Alberto Lina to impose random physical inspection of balikbayan  boxes  in  order to  counteract smuggling and loss of revenue shows blatant disrespect for this important family tradition and all  migrant  workers. These hardworking people were responsible for a record-high contribution of USD 24.3 billion in remittances in 2014, yet they are disrespected by being likened to smugglers and their important family connection pursued for careless disruption.

What did this proposal reveal about the political issues and financial interests that surround this issue?

1. Commissioner Lina  instead of targeting  the  migrant  workers and tarnishing them with petty criminality, should focus on the big-time smugglers and the enormous amounts of vital revenue lost to our impoverished people. How much revenue is lost on smuggled luxury cars and items for the rich?  How was it possible that large containers of waste  coming  from Canada were not detected  by our customs and  able to enter  the  country freely?  We  want to see big smugglers  put  behind  bars first, then  perhaps  the  office  might  gain some credibility.

2. Forwarding  companies  like that of Commissioner  Lina’s  business  Air 21 , which has an average annual shipment of  5 million balikbayan boxes would definitely have benefited from the stricter rules. Private  forwarding  companies already  have  easy  access to their 
customers data thanks to the poor data protection associated with tracking of boxes. 

Subsequently, migrant workers are now routinely bombarded with advertising. Additionally inappropriate use of this data by his company allows government agencies to forward documents and notices pertaining to labour cases to migrants – how much profit does his company make from this?  How much revenue is lost to the duty exception given to selected forwarders? 

3. There  are  numerous complaints of lost and damaged  balikbayan boxes from migrants  and  their families. Is the government not concerned about the desecration of the box that connects filipino families?  What is the Bureau doing about minimising delay in delivery due to inspection, compensating for lost and stolen items and holding those responsible to account? What legal mechanism is there for migrant workers voice to be heard, apart from resorting to social media to complain?

4. Before subjecting the migrants care packages to scutiny, let us first open the accounts  of  employees and all  officials  working in the  bureau. For every Filipino it is an open  secret that the  Bureau  of  Customs  is tainted  with corruption  and  bribery  issues. Even  shippers  and cargo forwarders  will attest  to  the  rampant  corruption. Whilst migrant workers and their activities come under ever increasing surveillance and control, transparency and accountability of government agencies continues to remain elusive.

5. It is appalling that this issue has been  exploited  by  political rivals of the current  administration  and even aspiring presidential candidates to boost  their  political  campaigns. This insensitivity  demonstrates how politicians view the migrant workers in general:  as ‘milking  cows’  for remittances and later  as captured  votes for  the  election. Shame on politician’s for using this emotive issue for migrants to advance their political agenda!

There must end to the creation of any policies that place an additional burden on migrant workers. Let us see evidence of real commitment to the social welfare of these filipinos rather than just viewing them through an economic lens. The  government’s focus  should be to  prioritize services   offered  to migrant  workers  and their  families, especially  women  migrant workers who are often  victims and survivors  of  abuse  and exploitation.

Stop harassing the migrant workers and their families!

Kanlungan Centre Foundation  Inc.
77 K-10 Street, East Kamias, Quezon City
Email: kanlungan2008@gmail.com