Aug. 17, 2008 - 4:01 p.m.
Migrante International held a wreath laying and press conference this morning at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, near the corner of EDSA and Quezon Ave., to show the true face of migrant Filipinos and to pay tribute to overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who have died under questionable circumstances. Photos of OFWs who became victims of violence and abuse served as backdrop to the press conference.
Joining Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante, in the press conference were Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, Rita Baua of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Sonny Africa of IBON Foundation, and Lilibeth Garcia, sister of Eugenia Baja. Baja was an OFW who worked as a domestic helper in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in May 2007 but mysteriously died in February 2008. The Saudi police and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs concluded that Baja's death was a suicide even as her body bore signs of beatings and of being starved for more than 20 days.
Rep. Ilagan deplored that fact that the policies of the Arroyo government as well as that of receiving countries do not protect the rights of migrant workers.
"Ang ating gobyerno ay hindi nireresolba ang mga problema ng ating mga migranteng manggagawa," (Our government does not resolve the problems confronting Filipino migrant workers.) Rep. Ilagan said. She criticized the Arroyo government for its failure to generate enough jobs in the country and for aiming, instead, to increase OFW deployments to two million a year.
"Tutulan natin ang labor export policy ng gobyerno," (Let us oppose the labor export policy of the government.) Rep. Ilagan said. She also took note of the sacrifices that families of OFWs go through and the social costs of labor migration.
Lilibet Garcia sister of Eugenia Baja said, "Sinabi po ninyo na ang mga OFW ay bagong bayani subalit sa pagkamatay ng aking kapatid nawala ang kanyang pangarap. (The government says that OFWs are modern-day heroes. But with the death of my sister, her dream of giving a better life to the family was also shattered.) My sister left weighing 47 kilos but when her body was returned to us she weighed only 32 kilos. Nananawagan po ako sa Arroyo government na imbestigahan ang pagkamatay ng aking kapatid." (We are calling on the Arroyo government to investigate the death of my sister.)
Connie Bargas-Regalado read the statement of the International Migrants' Alliance, an alliance of organizations of migrants and refugees across the globe, criticizing the Global Forum on Migration and Development. The Global Forum on Migration and Development is an "informal, voluntary, and state-led global forum", under the auspices of the United Nations, that tackles "how good migration governance can contribute to development and how development policies can impact on migration." The first meeting of the forum was held from July 9-11, 2007 in Brussels, Belgium.
Parts of the statement of the alliance read," The Global Forum on Migration and Development is not made for its supposed main stakeholders-the migrants themselves. Violations of rights of migrants are rampant. Attacks on the rights of migrants, immigrants, refugees and other displaced people are happening everywhere, everyday. Ironically, the violators of the rights of migrants, through grave anti migrant policies, are the same countries in the Global Forum on Migration and Development."
"The presence of the International Migrants' Alliance in all global regions will pose the most formidable challenge to the Global Forum on Migration and Development. We, being the grassroots migrants who are at the receiving end of numerous anti-migrant attacks, are the living proofs of the Global Forum on Migration and Development's anti migrant agenda and direction."
Regalado added, "The campaign against the Global Forum on Migration and Development will culminate in an International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees from October 28-30, 2008. The theme of the assembly would be 'Migrants' Challenges to the Global Forum on Migration and Development: End poverty, ensure jobs at home, stop forced migration, uphold and protect the rights of migrants and refugees.'"
"The International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees will be the genuine assembly for migrants where real and concrete issues shall be discussed. The International Assembly for Migrants and Refugees will speak for the grassroots migrants," Regalado said.
"GMA said I care, Is this the care she was talking about:
I care, with the migrants having 29 victims in death row;
I care, with the migrants having more than ten thousand stranded OFWs;
I care, with the migrants having 23 mysterious deaths;
I care, with the migrants having so many charges from their remittances," Regalado concluded. Bulatlat
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