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

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

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

Call for Justice for All Domestic Workers!


Call for Justice for All Domestic Workers!

We celebrate International Domestic Workers day, recognising the significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy and to everyone's lives.

We must unite on this workers day in international solidarity to demand human and labour rights and justice for all women and men who perform domestic work.

Domestic workers are situated in structural inequality within the global neoliberal political economy; the local economy and households

Around the world neoliberal agendas have led to a growth in inequality. The human cost of structural adjustment programmes imposed in developing countries has been harsh - from budget cuts to privatisation policies aimed at reducing the role of the state and the deregulation of the market to open the local economy to global competition and foreign investment. There has been a shift from an informal sector to an informal economy with more precarious exploitative and unprotected forms of jobs and a decline in wages. It is in context in which women and men contemplate migrating to work overseas.

We call for an end to migrants being forced into low-wage domestic work by challenging the unjust conditions and policies that deny them a meaningful ‘choice’.

Everyone is thinking of going overseas because of poverty [inequality - no redistribution], to find a good job that will be enough for the family, especially with the increasing cost of living with privatization.
I went overseas to work because of a problem with my husband.
The problem here in our country is a lack of jobs and the salary is much higher in other countries.
For someone like me who could not finish studying I cannot work in an office only as a domestic worker or factory worker. I really want to be a teacher.

Kanlungan has found 60 to 70% of domestic workers are either college graduates or tertiary educated. Despite their education these women were forced into underemployment as domestic workers.

If I could choose a job, I would want a better job like simple office work as a secretary or a job that will make you known and rise up in a position more. I would like to serve in the government in order to help the poor.

Overseas job opportunities are highly gendered with women migrant workers only being offered employment in low-wage ‘feminised work’ such as domestic work, caregiving, entertainment sectors and nursing.

All domestic workers in a Kanlungan survey said NO - they would not want their daughter to be employed in domestic work.

Some workers are denied the opportunity to migrate due to lack of resources.
The Philippine government's aggressive labour export policy, especially of domestic workers leads to the promotion of cheap labour to compete with other sending countries. There are contradictory policies between regulating labour migration whilst at the same time targeting a 1 million deployment per year. The government promotes domestic work by creating and marketing the concept of ‘super maids’ and ‘world-class domestic workers’.

We recognise reduced levels of state public accountability for family under neoliberal regimes in some countries and gender inequalities in families has led to a greater demand for the labour of domestic workers without subsequent recognition of its value.

Decent work and dignity for all domestic workers worldwide

We are one with migrant domestic workers who suffer injustices in the workplace:
No freedom, you are always incarcerated- you must be free to do what you want. No proper wages, rape, 24/7 work, physical abuse, not enough food, not enough rest especially in the evening and not having a weekly day off; being viewed and treated as lowly, stupid or a slave; cannot protect themselves from abuse or exploitation without further threat of violence or loss of job and being sent home; sometimes being framed up, accused of stealing; not having their own sleeping quarters or room; and the high cost of placement fee.

We recognise some domestic workers have a positive migrant experience based on suwerte suwerte lang - luck, through the random encounter with a ‘kind’ employer, rather than recognition of their entitlement to labour rights in the workplace.

We condemn the expectation that domestic workers ‘perform’ a subordinated role, which makes them particularly susceptible to violent abuse. Many are subject to control and surveillance practices by their employer and recruitment agents; some end up in forced labour situations. Stigmatizing societal and state stereotypes, derogative labels and the commoditised marketing by some recruitment agencies, shapes the inhumane treatment of migrant domestic workers.

We call for an end to so-called ‘protection’ for women domestic workers being conflated with confinement to oppress in some workplaces, training centres and shelters. This gendered system of control has led to social exclusion and created unsafe living conditions for women migrant workers where physical and sexual violence occurs.  There must be rights-based gender sensitive social protection for domestic workers. 

We recognise the wider structures of inequality and lack of resources that impact upon the domestic workers’ ability to claim rights and call for their transformation.

In keeping with the neoliberal agendas of privatization, states have created the conditions for private actors including employers to control low-wage migrant domestic workers. Exclusion of domestic work from labour laws; the impunity of recruitment agents and employers; lack of enabling conditions for access to justice; gender inequality and resistance by states to commit and comply with international instruments to protect the rights of migrants workers: All are significant in creating structural conditions for exploitation and abuse of migrant domestic workers.

Participation of domestic workers is the foundation upon which justice for domestic workers must be built

Now is the time to unite and show solidarity with domestic workers - to move beyond treating domestic workers as the ‘subject’ and paying lip service to their empowerment.

Let us end the culture of consultation: domestic workers must be central in all stages of policy-making and importantly the framing of their struggle. There must be direct capacity building rather than a hierarchical chain with no real evidence of transfer to the migrant workers themselves. 

We must be vigilant against the growth in neoliberal ‘technical advocacy’ with its professionalization of advocacy where trained ‘experts’ speak for domestic workers. This reinforces their subordination and adds another layer to the ‘migration industry’.

Now is the time is build the direct collective bargaining power of domestic workers in trade unions and associations.

We must build and strengthen the commitment to a grassroots movement to: forge solidarity; ensure activist thinking from the position of the disadvantaged; to ensure framing and mobilisation is based upon what domestic workers want; to improve their situation and emancipate them.
As with any movement, those affected must speak for themselves.

We call for solidarity with migrant domestic workers by:

§  Recognising domestic work as work
§  Building and supporting solidarity between domestic workers
§  Ensuring migrant workers are well represented in conferences on their situation.
§  Strengthening labour and women’s movements support for the domestic workers’ struggle.
§  Ending human and labour rights violations of migrant domestic workers and demanding rights-based gender sensitive social protection
§  Challenging the dominance of neoliberal policies and inequalities in the global political economy and migrant management approaches that limit social and gender justice.
§  Calling for the ratification and compliance with the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (C189); the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Justice for all domestic workers!Domestic Workers Unite!

Kanlungan Center Foundation
77 K-10 Street, East Kamias, Quezon City

Call for Rights-based Protection and Justice for All Migrants!


Call for Rights-based Protection and Justice for All Migrants!

We welcome the humanitarian response of governments who have begun search and rescue of the Rohingya and Bangladeshi people at sea and offered them temporary refuge.
Migrants trapped at sea on boats is not a new phenomenon in the region, neither is the daily reality of the struggles and plight of refugees and many migrants forced to live in fear and face discrimination, exploitation, violence and death. Visibility of this long-term problem of brutality rite large demands both protection and justice.

The latest exposure of mass graves and trafficking camps on the militarised Thai-Malaysian border has again rendered visible the tragic consequences of the regional conditions of: inequality and injustice; the decades-long persecution of Rohingya people and inadequate refugee protection; systemic corruption; the structural labour demands for trafficked and smuggled people in our economies (and lifestyles) and beyond; restrictive immigration policies; and lack of commitment in practice to rights-based labour migration and protection for low-income workers.

These conditions have allowed the criminal large-scale trafficking industry to flourish for years, despite being an open secret in the region.
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 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 call for action by ASEAN member states, the ASEAN people, and the International community to:
Intensify the search and rescue operations of the women, men and children whose precious lives remain at risk at sea in overcrowded boats.
§  Monitor, guarantee rights and provide transparency of the human rights situation of all those who have made it ashore.
Establish an independent oversight committee, inclusive of civil society.
§  Provide humane treatment and safe open accommodation for all who have been rescued at sea or from the brutal hands of traffickers.
§  Ensure that family members remain in contact and comply with the obligation to protect children as per the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
§  Provide rights-based protection for all with access to free legal services and health care - with initial assessments of need by a qualified professional.
§  Recognise the devastation of sexual violence on women lives: provide psychosocial support and prosecute perpetrators.
§  Do not send the Rohingya people back to face persecution and death - Uphold the principle of non-refoulement and respect their agency to escape.
§  Respect the mobility rights, right to life and development of Bangladeshi people. No deportation without due process.
§  Investigate and ensure justice for all those who died and their families left behind.
Move beyond humanitarian assistance to prevention and justice: No more repetitions. Develop comprehensive regional binding solutions that address the long-term conditions responsible for the deaths and devastation of an untold number of lives over the decades.

We urge the entire ASEAN community to unite and be in solidarity with these people - Remain vigilant and steadfast in ending these injustices against migrants.
Rights-based Protection and Justice for All  !!!

Kanlungan Centre Foundation, Inc.
77 K-10 Street, East Kamias, Quezon City