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End the political exclusion of more than 7 million of the nation's "modern-day heroes"!   The 1987 Constitution requires Congress to pass a law enabling overseas Filipinos to vote! After 14 years, where is that law?

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Declaration on Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance Against Migrants and Trafficked Persons

Recognizing that racism is an ideological construct that assigns a certain race and/ or ethnic group to a position of power over others on the basis of physical and cultural attributes, as well as economic wealth, involving hierarchical relations where the "superior" race exercises domination and control over others;

Recognizing further that xenophobia describes attitudes, prejudices and behavior that reject, exclude and often vilify persons, based on the perception that they are outsiders or foreigners to the community, society or national identity;

Noting with deep concern that racism, discrimination and xenophobia against migrant workers and trafficked persons are structural in character, reflected in legislation, policies and social attitudes and practices, and manifested in both subtle and overt acts of hostility and violence against specific groups based on color, gender, class, ethnicity, nationality and position in the international power relations;

Underscoring that globalization widens economic inequalities within and between countries in the Asia-Pacific region, further impoverishing masses of people, specially women, and place them at risk to the demand for cheap and informal labor in labor-importing countries;

Stressing that migration, particularly labor migration, has not been a choice but a necessity for migrants and their families to survive massive poverty, racial, ethnic and gender-based discrimination and internal conflicts in their home countries;

Acknowledging that patriarchal and sexist ideologies framing the current international division of labor intensifies women’s subordination, undervalues women’s work, and contributes to the feminization of poverty, labor migration and trafficking perpetuates gender stereotypes and restricts women to reproductive work, entertainment and jobs that require "feminine" attributes in labor-importing countries. These make migrant and trafficked women even more at risk than men to racist, discriminatory, xenophobic and exploitative treatment;

Stressing that in the pursuit of profit, the movement of capital across national borders is promoted and facilitated, but that of labor is restricted and controlled. The belief that migrants are economically necessary but socially undesirable puts premium to economic gains while migrants’ human rights are grossly compromised and violated;

Recognizing that trafficking in persons, specially women and children, is growing in alarming proportions as a form of modern day slavery, caused by racial stereotypes, gender inequality and economic exploitation, victimizing mainly Asian Women and children from rural areas, lower castes, religious minorities and indigenous peoples;

We hereby state the following manifestations of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the experience of migrant workers and trafficked persons:

1. Restrictive and exclusionary immigration and labor laws and policies

  • denial of the right to organize, to bargain collectively and to strike
  • denial of basic human and legal rights for migrants and non-nationals
  • prohibition to change job category, thereby confining migrants to 3-D jobs (dirty, difficult and dangerous) while denying them access to health and social security
  • in the labor-sending countries, ban on women to cross national borders for work which oftentimes puts them at risk to illegal recruitment or trafficking

2. Discriminatory and xenophobic laws and practices which violate women’s rights

  • reproductive rights: e.g. regular mandatory testing for pregnancy and deportation for positive status, prohibition of marriage, denial of access to health information and services related to reproductive health
  • stereotyping by media of trafficked and women migrants

3. Xenophobic attitudes

  • blaming migrants and trafficked persons for economic, social and health problems in the receiving countries, e.g. criminality, infectious diseases, unemployment
  • social segregation, e.g. denial of access to housing

4. Laws, policies and practices which discriminate against the rights of the children of migrants in the receiving countries because their parents are not nationals or because of fear of their social integration into the receiving country

  • denial of citizenship to children of migrant workers in the receiving countries
  • denial of legal identity to children of migrant workers born in receiving countries, in sending countries where legal identities are conferred through paternity
  • denial of right to education and/ or lack of access
  • denial of right to family reunification

5. Laws, policies and practices which deny or violate the rights of migrant workers to social services

  • mandatory testing for HIV/ AIDS and immediate deportation for migrants with positive status
  • higher fees for medical treatment and demand for legal documents prior to admission in hospitals
  • absence of health information services in the migrants’ native language
  • immediate termination from work and repatriation of migrants who become physically and mentally ill because of poor work conditions and violence committed against them, particularly women
  • lack of counseling facilities, shelters and legal aid for migrant seeking redress

6. Informalization of migrant labor, e.g. no clear terms of employment, absence of laws and policies that recognize and protect the rights of migrants in domestic work and entertainment, as well as trafficked persons

7. Various forms of violence committed against migrant and trafficked women

8. State policy to summarily deport victims of trafficking

9. Victimization of primarily Asian women in the mail-order bride business

10. Denial of the right to suffrage in absentia in the migrant’s home country

Undocumented migrants are doubly at risk to racial discrimination and xenophobia. Their lack of legal status is often used to justify denial of basic human rights, e.g. access to redress mechanisms. Under the "trainee" system in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, for instance, there is no option to remain in the country at the end of the tenure. Clandestine entry becomes the only recourse.

On this occasion, we wish to call the attention of the international community to the pressing need to give serious and urgent attention to the violation of migrants’ rights in certain countries in Western Asia. Some of the laws, policies and practices, which totally disregard the rights of migrants in said region are:

  • arbitrary arrest and detention
  • denial of the right to worship
  • imposition of local laws that often result in torture and death
  • widespread use of torture or forced confessions
  • denial of legal protection on account of weak or absence of laws on rape and other gender-based forms of violence against women

In light of the aforementioned manifestations and roots of racism, discrimination xenophobia and related intolerance against migrants and trafficked persons, we strongly urge governments in the Asia-Pacific region to consider for adoption the following recommendations:

1. Ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and all other pertinent international instruments for the protection of fundamental human rights to ensure non-discrimination towards all persons and the protection of their basic rights and dignity.

2. Formulate an alternative development agenda that is self-sustaining, respectful of multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies; gender-sensitive and recognizes human dignity and human rights for all, where migration is no longer the only option to survive.

3. Recognize the positive political, economic and social roles and contributions of migrant workers by ensuring their full political, economic, social and cultural participation as an essential element in eliminating all forms of discrimination, acknowledging and validating multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious participation in society and encouraging mutual respect among different groups and identities.

4. Investigate and address the root causes of migration and trafficking including poverty, political and social oppression, ethnic, religious, gender and caste-based discrimination and situations of violence and armed conflict.

5. Create and institutionalize national and regional intergovernmental mechanisms, in cooperation with NGOs and migrants’ organizations to monitor and act on cases of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and gender-based violence committed against migrants and trafficked persons in host and transit countires.

6. Stop deregulation of the labor export industry as it will further erode accountability of sending countries to migrants and give more power to non-state agencies such as private recruitment agencies and trafficking syndicates to perpetuate the racial divide to the detriment of migrant workers and trafficked persons. In fact, mechanisms should be established to closely monitor the recruitment procedures of these agencies.

7. Grant absentee voting rights to migrants.

8. Harmonize and standardize health policies among member states to ensure migrants’ access to health care and treatment and afford them global health rights.

9. Institute and strengthen laws protecting victims of trafficking and discourage the demand side that fosters sexual exploitation of women and children. Recognize victims’ rights to seek refuge and be given comprehensive support services.

10. Enter into bilateral, multi-lateral, regional and international cooperation to stop trafficking, prosecute traffickers and provide full protection to victims.

11. Develop preventive action through consciousness raising and dialogue among communities, institutions and between countries. UN member states and agencies should sensitize national institutions like the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, community leaders and other stakeholders in migration.

12. Address the reported increase in violation of migrants’ human rights in Western Asia/ the Middle East through the creation of a mission/ commission to investigate such allegations and ensure justice to victims.

13. Develop strategies for economically and socially productive reintegration programs for migrant returnees.

14. Urge cooperation among concerned international agencies, particularly the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Organization on Migration (IOM) and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR); and NGOs to promote protection of migrants’ human rights and dignity, to prevent discrimination and promote migrant well-being.

Prepared by the Workshop Group on Migration and Trafficking and adopted by
The Asia-Pacific NGO Meeting for the
World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
18 February 2001


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