30 Nov to 1 Dec, 2011
The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) led by its Europe Section successfully led and concluded its counter-GFMD events in Geneva, Switzerland last November 30 to December 1, 2011.
The IMA counter-GFMD events in Geneva further exposed the anti-migrant and pro-imperialist/pro-big business schemes of the GFMD as it holds its 5th meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
The IMA counter-GFMD events once again earned the support not only of the entire IMA network but also of new grassroots-based migrant and refugee organizations and networks, and grassroots-based NGOs. particularly from Latin America, Africa and Europe.
Participants to the two-day counter-GFMD events included migrant and refugee organizations and advocates, namely: Comitato Immigrati in Italia (network of migrants in Italy), Caravan (network of refugees in Germany), Miredes International***, German-Philippine Solidarity, Migrante Switzerland, Umangat-Migrante (Rome), Migrante-Netherlands, Migrante Europe, Filipino Refugees in the Netherlands, People’s Artists Network, Migrante-Denmark, International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, IBON Europe, representatives from UNIA (Swiss Trade Federation), CETIM (Switzerland), Roswitha Golder of the Reformed Church of Switzerland, Lawyer Jean Pierre-Garbade (Swiss human rights and migrant rights lawyer who prosecuted the hidden Marcos billions in Switzerland), the Indonesian Research Institute and several migrants living in Geneva.
Countries represented included: Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Nigeria, Germany, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, the Netherlands, Philippines, and Indonesia.
IMA Europe Section closely coordinated with Migrante Switzerland which is the host migrant organization for the counter-GFMD events.
The IMA counter-GFMD began in the afternoon of November 30 with a welcome briefing to participants at the social hall of the St. Pierre Hostel. Migrante Switzerland gave welcome remarks as host of the counter-GFMD events. The participants then gave their greetings and introduced their organizations. A powerpoint presentation on a critique of the GMFD was shown, afterwards a lively and fun cultural workshop led by the People’s Artists Network followed.
The participants then proceeded to the Salle Zazi Sadou of the Maison des Associations complex in downtown Geneva for the “Consultation Meeting for the Rights of the Undocumented and Against their Criminalization”.
The forum/consultation, attended by over 30 people, including some who joined the civil society meeting of the GFMD, opened with welcome remarks from Emy Ilao, president of Migrante Switzerland as host organization.
Prominent human rights and migrant rights advocate, Swiss lawyer Jean Pierre Garbade then sent his greetings to the IMA and bid success to the counter-GFMD events.
Ilena Saturay of FREN described the mural she made and was supposed to be unveiled at the forum but unfortunately her luggage got lost during her flight to Geneva.
Grace Punongbayan, IMA ICB member and convenor of IMA Europe section together with Teddy Dalisay and Luz Jaramillo of Italy, introduced the IMA and its aims and grassroots-based network. She invited other migrant and refugees formations to join the IMA.
A representative of IBON Europe summarized the IMA critique of the GFMD stressing it is anti-migrant and only advances the economic policies of advanced capitalist countries to get more revenues for governments and bigger profits for big corporate businesses from migration which has become a profitable industry. He added that the GFMD peddles a concept of development for labor-sending countries that actually causes the massive poverty, unemployment and wars in these countries and thus forcing massive migration.
Osaren Igbinoba, a refugee from Nigeria and represents Caravan, a broad, progressive, militant and action-oriented refugee network in Germany, gave a testimony of how refugees like him are treated in a supposed democratic and free country like Germany. He condemned the existence of prison-like refugee camps in Germany and told the audience how through their own protests, many of these inhuman refugee camps were forced to close down. He said Caravan is in solidarity with the IMA in fighting for migrant rights and supported the IMA-initiated campaign on the undocumented in Europe. He invited the people to join the “Break the Isolation (of refugees)” campaign in Germany, in particular the camp-outs in Thuringen in August 2012.
Edgar Cifuentes of Ecuador and representative of Comitato, a network of migrants in Italy, stressed that the struggle of migrants is also the struggle of workers. He debunked the distorted view that migrants take away jobs from workers in host countries, and said that both must be in solidarity with each other because they are both exploited and oppressed. He also invited everyone to their national meeting in April 2012 in Italy.
Roswita Golder of the Reformed Church of Switzerland discussed the role of churches in protecting migrants especially the undocumented. She said her church was forced to withdraw from being a member of a Swiss-government created monitoring body to make sure that the rights of undocumented migrants are respected, after it found many practices in the treatment of undocumented migrants unacceptable. Golder also invited two friends from the World Council of Churches during her talk.
After the testimonies, Rev. Cesar Taguba of Migrante International-Europe led in the deliberation on the IMA proposal for a Europewide campaign on the undocumented.
Among the major objectives of the campaign include: To consistently and systematically put into the European human rights agenda the plight of the undocumented and the need for their protection, To put a stop to the criminalization, detention and deportation of the undocumented, and, To establish a network of organizations of undocumented and their advocates for mutual solidarity.
The campaign plan also called for the coordinated holding of a “Day of Shame, Day of Remembrance and Day of Protest” in June 18 to mark the adoption of the EU Return Directive on 18 June 2008, to remember and honor all who died in deportation centers, in transit and at the borders and to protest unjust anti-migrant laws and policies. It also called for mobilization in 18 December on the theme “Migrant Rights are Human Rights” to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The participants reached a consensus to support the campaign spearheaded by the IMA Europe. They asked the IMA Europe Section to get down to work immediately by creating an email network for a fast exchange of information and communications.
Other highlights of the forum included a video presentation of the IMA and the previously-held International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees in Manila, Athens and Mexico City.
Participants also gave a short cultural presentation that was a result of their workshop earlier in the afternoon.
On December 1, early in the afternoon, the international delegates joined their Filipino colleagues in staging a protest picket at the Philippine Mission in Geneva, Switzerland, to condemn the continuing human rights violations in the Philippines. They handed over to Ambassador Evan Garcia, the head of the Philippine Mission, an open letter addressed to Philippine president Benigno Aquino III.
The members of the delegation made known to the Philippine Mission their deep concern on the impunity and continuing violations of human rights despite the change of administration in the Philippines from Arroyo to Aquino.
The delegates from Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia pointed to the Philippine ambassador their deep concern that the situation in the Philippines today is similar to the time of the military dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s and 80s where the security forces carried out summary executions and enforced disappearances against political activists, trade unionists and other oppositionists. They expressed solidarity with the Filipino people in their quest for justice.
After the picket at the Philippine Mission, the international participants proceeded infront of the United Nations Complex in Geneva to conduct a militant protest picket against the 5th GFMD and to say a loud no to the GFMD.
The IMA held banners and posters which said: NO to the GFMD! UPHOLD the Rights of the Undocumented! No to the EU Return Directive! No to the Criminalization and Deportation of the Undocumented! Development for the People, NOT for Banks and Corporations!
They were later joined by representatives from the Swiss Labor Party and other big Swiss NGOs, and a few who were also attending the GFMD sessions. Swiss and Dutch journalists covered the manifestation and conducted interviews. At one point, several dozens of tourists passing by inquired on the purpose of the protest and some posed for photos holding the banners of the IMA which says “NO to the GFMD!” and “Bailout the People, not the Banks and big corporations.”
People coming out of the UN Complex at 5pm clearly saw the protest picket and some inquired about the protest.
After the successful protest picket, the international delegates proceeded to their hostel for a warm solidarity evening and a short assessment of the two-day event.#
IMA Europe Section
c/o Migrante Europe
***MIREDES International is a network of organizations and associations of migrant, refugee, and displaced persons and communities, whose members currently reside throughout the American continent, and who have origins in Mexico (Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Bilaterales-FIOB/Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations, with membership both in various regions of Mexico and in the U.S.), Colombia (Organizacion Wayuu Munsurat/transnational organization of Wayuu indigenous peoples along the Colombia/Venezuela border), Ecuador (Asociacion Llactacaru/binational organization of Ecuadorian migrants and their families, with membership in Ecuador and Spain), Peru (Coordinadora de Comunidades Indigenas y Campesinas Desplazadas en Reconstruccion del Peru-CONDECOREP/Coordinator of Peru’s Displaced Indigenous and Peasant Communities in Reconstruction), Bolivia (MIREDES chapter), Argentina (Asociacion de Mujeres Unidas Migrantes y Refugiadas-AMUMR/Association of United Migrant and Refugee Women), Chile (Associacion Pro-Integracion de Latinoamerica-APILA/Association in Support of the Integration of Latin America), and in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad, and the United States (Desis Rising Up and Moving-DRUM).