Address the roots of mass migration! Statement on International Migrants Day

December 18, 2020

On International Migrants Day, Anakbayan Canada calls to address the roots of mass migration by providing jobs, food, livelihood, justice, and equality in our home countries! We stand with the 11.5 million migrant workers worldwide who are uprooted from their homelands in search of livelihood and refuge. We also stand with the migrant workers of the world while their needs are ignored in this global pandemic.

More than 6,000 Filipinos leave the country every day to work abroad. The Philippine workforce is one of the most globalized on the planet.

The trends in Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) come from decades of systematized policies by the US-backed Philippine state. Starting on May 1st, 1974 with Marcos’ implementation of the Labour Export Program. This led to institutionalizing Filipino migration and turning Filipino migrant workers into a commodity.

Migration has become a business. Everybody makes money off a migrant worker including agencies at home countries, sending governments, travel agencies, and remittance companies. By leaving their homes in search of greater human security for themselves and their families, Filipino migrants experience family separation, forced assimilation, lack of protection, precarious status, high qualification with low recognition, and institutional and individual racism. The motive of leaving home is also informed by the culture of migration where US imperialism constructs North America as an attractive destination for Filipinos.

Filipinos are driven to work under the Labour Export Program due to the economic stagnation and lack of opportunities in the country plaguing the country since the 1970s. The lack of opportunities are caused by the neoliberal policies of the government and the exploitation of imperialist countries in the Philippines itself reinforces a vicious cycle. 

Despite the dependence on exploitative labour export policies, the Durtere government has neglected the welfare of overseas migrant Filipinos whose financial situations have exacerbated during the pandemic. The Duterte regime overburdens OFWs with additional state exactions such as mandatory Philhealth exactions and premium raise increases.

During the pandemic, 370,000 OFWs have already been repatriated and another 80,000 are expected to fly back to the Philippines according to government figures. These migrants have to return to one of the worst performing economies in Asia. Rather than addressing the economy and providing enough livelihood for its citizens,  the Duterte regime prioritizes silencing the voices of the discontent masses by red-tagging and arresting activists whose only “crime” was standing with the oppressed.

Migrants in Canada are a massively vulnerable population exploited by the state and predatory agencies/businesses. This exploitative relationship is amplified under the pandemic where a lot of migrant workers find themselves on the frontlines, in essential services, and in precarious conditions.

Filipino migrant workers are not exempt. They too are exposed to vulnerable, exploitative situations. About 558 Filipino tested positive for COVID-19 in the Cargill meatpacking plant in Calgary. 60-80 percent of the Filipino workers are employed under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). There were no proper supports for the workers’ protection with the workers complaining about the lack of physical distancing measures by Cargill. Despite calls by Filipino residents to close the plant, it remained open. Cases rose from 38 cases to 358 cases. The plant only closed down when one person died. These workers were non-unionized and at risk to this exploitation of labour over the safety of their lives.

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program facilitates many of these abuses. Under this system, these workers’ citizenship status and their terms of employment are intertwined. Workers who want to demand better working conditions, wages, or protections face not only threats of termination by their employer but also threats of deportation back home. Canada has guidelines on working conditions and wages of care workers and temporary migrant workers but there are no systems in place to actually hold employers accountable. These TFWs’ tenuous migrant status opens these migrant workers to hyper-exploitation on the part of these predatory agencies. Ultimately, it’s a system to keep migrant workers voiceless. 

On a global scale, migrant workers play an important role in the response to COVID-19 by working in critical sectors such as domestic and healthcare services; agriculture; seafaring; basic food and grocery services; and manufacturing. With a significant amount of migrant workers serving on the frontlines and carrying out essential jobs, they are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Additionally, lockdown measures in many countries have disproportionately affected the financial status of migrants especially women, who are often overrepresented in sales and service sectors. 

Our forced migration is tied to the socio-economic conditions of the country. Understanding the root causes of our migration helps us make our once “foreign” motherland home. We encourage youth to learn about the root conditions of the masses and to support the work of Migrant organizations such as Migrante Canada who seek to promote just rights for Filipino migrants in Canada. As progressive youth and students advocating for a liberated Philippines, awareness of our personal lives and reflection in the historical and contemporary forces that shape the conditions in the Philippines better 

By joining a progressive peoples organization, we can strive for a truly liberated Philippines where there is no forced migration and Filipinos can make a life in their home country. Together, we can end the mass exploitation of imperialist nations on countries where mass migration occurs. Together, we can fight for a brighter future for our aunties, lolas, titos and parents to have a voice and self-determination.

End Labour Export Policy!
Trabaho sa Pinas, Hindi sa Labas!
Oust US-Duterte Now!
Status for All Now!
Long Live International Solidarity!

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