We the 30 participants* of the WSCF AP Human Rights Workshop on the theme, ‘Youth, Migration and Human Trafficking’ held from 2-10 of June 2008 in Bogor, Jawa Barat, Indonesia, gathered together to learn and share about the social, cultural, gendered, political, religious and economic problems concerning ‘forced’ migration and human trafficking. The workshop enabled us to deepen our analysis of the problems experienced by people who are ‘forced’ as migrant workers or victims of human trafficking, draw parallel stories from the Bible and reflect upon our role as Christian youth in responding to the problem of Migrations and Trafficking.
Migration of people and human trafficking are over-arching themes in the Bible, as we explored in our bible studies. In Exodus, we were encouraged by the example of Moses, to go out and proclaim to “LET MY PEOPLE GO!” from bondage, slavery and exploitation. In Leviticus, we understood God’s intention of liberating people from slavery and economic injustice by freeing the slaves and returning their properties in the “Year of the Jubilee.” Both biblical texts speaks powerfully of the parallelism in the conditions and aspirations of migrants and trafficked people today and the Israelites in the Biblical times.
The inputs from our resource persons, country reports from participants and group discussion helped us to understand the varied aspect of forced migration and trafficking in different countries, such as forced marriage between migrant women and local men in Korea and Taiwan, the right of abode for mainland Chinese women coming to Hong Kong, the Labor Export Policies (LEPs) in the Philippines and Indonesia, trafficking of Thai women for prostitution to Australia, cross-border trafficking in Thailand, child-trafficking in India, forced migration due to the armed conflict in Sri Lanka.
Without confining ourselves to the discussions and bible studies, we saw the face of migration as we exposed ourselves to the realities of Indonesian migrants settled in the 2 villages of Sukabumi in West Indonesia. We understood their pain and pathos as we lived and interacted with families and migrants returnees from Malaysia and Middle East, who shared their experiences, and grievances. Families feared for the lives of their loved ones who have left them to work abroad but are now missing. Stories of physical abuse, sexual abuse, none payment of salary, overworking by the employers and exploitation by recruitment agencies were common among the almost 30 families we lived and shared our time during our exposure. Without seeing the help from the government, migrants fall prey to unscrupulous agencies and syndicates, who victimize them again and again even in their own locality where they come from. The so-called development impact of migration claimed by the Indonesian government is contradictory to the current living conditions of the migrant people and their families in these communities.
Political instability and the internal conflicts within many countries in the Asia-Pacific region drives people to migrate and seek shelter elsewhere. Armed conflict within ethnic groups, human rights violations, abductions, disappearances, political persecution force people to flee and secure their lives in other countries as refugees and asylum seekers. In some of these countries, interference by developed countries, thru aid and armaments fuels and aggravates the conflict.
The post 9/11 and US led “War on Terror” has impacted and changed world-wide immigration policies in developed countries, victimizing migrant workers and immigrant communities in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. While we are against Terrorism, we condemn immigration policies and practices that segregates and fuels discrimination and violence against people of certain racial background.
People migrate not because they enjoy working abroad far from their loved ones, but because the economic conditions in their countries force them to do so. Governments, following the dictates of neoliberal globalization, are unable to provide its people employment opportunities in their home countries. Instead, governments enter into multi-lateral and bilateral trade agreements or Free-Trade Agreements (FTAs) following the WTO and IMF-WB regulations. Under these agreements, policies of trade liberalization, privatisation and deregulation, developing countries are unable to protect their national economies from the onslaught of capitalists interest aiming for zero tariff. Furthermore, basic social services are privatised and are no longer accessible to the people under these agreements.
Finally, neoliberal globalisation encourages Labor Export Policies (LEP), as the way of “solving” the economic problems of developing countries. The local labor forces of developing countries are commodified and bought on cheap prices. They are exported overseas as migrant workers, and are neglected of their rights and benefits as workers. Remittances from migrant workers are used to props-up ailing economies and as payments of foreign debts. LEP are used to overhaul educational system of developing countries, imposing education curriculum and courses that will generate endless source of cheap labor for the global market. In the Philippines, the Revised Basic Educational Curriculum was implemented, after the dictates of IMF-WB, teaching students to forget nationalism in order to meet the “global demands” or that they be “globally competitive.”
Majority of the migrant workers and trafficked people in Asia and the Pacific are women and young people. This is because of the position and value of the women in the society. The nature of work of migrant women are extension of the traditional role prescribed to women in society, such as care-givers, nurses, entertainers and domestic workers. Young women migrant workers are also most vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse, as women are seen as properties that can be dominated and exploited. Women migrant works endless hours, in hard labor and with less pay in the Middle East and Malaysia. Conditions of women trafficked into prostitution are far worst than women migrant workers.
As a result of our collective learning experiences, we are committing ourselves to the following action plan:
Student Christian Movements as affiliated and associated members of the World Student Christian Federation of Asia and the Pacific Region (Aotearoa New Zealand; Australia; Timor Leste; Indonesia; Sri Lanka; India; Pakistan; Bangladesh; Thailand; Myanmar; Cambodia; Hong Kong; Taiwan; South Korea; Philippines).