This is the statement of International Migrants' alliance on
International Migrants' Day
Organise our fellow migrants, refugees and families
Unite and Fight for Our Rights, Dignity and a World Without Forced Migration Slavery and Exploitation
In commemoration of International Migrants Day, the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) calls on all migrants, refugees and their families to unite and fight for our rights, dignity and the well-being of all.
Two years since the COVID pandemic erupted, the novel coronavirus continues to spread and mutate, defying efforts to contain it and wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods the world over. Government efforts to contain the pandemic including internal and international travel restrictions have severely affected the mobility of people within and across borders. As a result, the number of would-be migrants fell by around 2 million last year.
But the underlying conditions for forced migration remain. Imperialism, neoliberalism, fascism and patriarchy have engendered social structures that have led to widespread landlessness, joblessness, labour precarity, climate change, social conflict, gender-based violence and the dismal neglect of health and social services in migrant-sending countries. These historically-rooted conditions have been made worse in the present context as monopolistic pharmaceutical companies and tech giants have exploited the COVID crisis as opportunities for unbridled profiteering. Likewise, some state officials and their cronies have been diverting public resources away from pandemic response to line their own pockets and using the pandemic as a pretext for suppressing dissent and curtailing the human rights of the people.
As the regular channels for migration close down, more migrants seek irregular channels to escape grinding poverty and violence in underdeveloped countries. But government authorities in migrant-destination countries are also citing fears over the virus as additional justification to militarize their borders and block “unwanted” migrants. More migrants and refugees are driven back from the US border with Mexico and Europe’s Mediterranean coastline. More than 550 migrants have perished trying to cross the US Southwest border so far this year, more than any other year since the US Border Patrol started keeping records 30 years ago. An estimated 1,369 migrants have died from January to September 2021 while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. The true figures are likely to be much higher since many more migrants lose their lives and their bodies are never found in these border crossings.
On the other side, the widespread loss of jobs and income, lack of employment, lack of flights, loss of residence permits and lack of resources to return home have also resulted in nearly 3 million people being stranded in transit and destination countries. They include thousands of migrant workers, temporary residence holders, international students, seafarers and others. Many of them do not even have enough resources for food and shelter even as they are left without access to consular services. Many migrant workers have been held in crowded dormitories or other forms of accommodation that are ripe for the rapid spread of disease. Thousands of migrants are held in cramped detention centres or camps where they are subject to ill-treatment, unhygienic living conditions and denied access to COVID-19 vaccination programmes or other health services that have been stretched thin by decades of neoliberal cutbacks and privatisation.
Many migrants who have lost their jobs have also lost their regular status in their host countries, exposing them to even more vulnerabilities. Those in irregular status are most at risk of extreme poverty, highly exploitative working conditions as well as discrimination and violence. Many more women migrants have become victims of sexual and gender-based violence and multiple forms of abuse. Xenophobia and especially anti-Asian racism have worsened worldwide, with some mass media, public figures and political groups maliciously linking migrants to the spread of the virus.
Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the essential role played by migrant workers in society. Even where lockdowns are imposed, migrants – including undocumented workers – have emerged as providers of "essential services" including caring for the vulnerable in medical facilities and care homes; cleaning, cooking and caring for children in residences; harvesting crops, processing, packing and delivering food; serving in supermarkets; transporting people and goods; providing security and other “frontline” activities.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a jarring reminder that we need a new social and economic system where labour is employed to ensure the needs of all, continuously enhance the people’s well-being, and care for the environment instead of merely enriching the few. It reminds us that those who benefit from the existing system – the monopoly capitalist elite and the governments that serve them – are the principal obstacles to our vision of a just new world order.
The International Migrants Alliance calls on all migrants and refugees, in host countries and countries of origin, to defend our dignity and assert our rights amidst the global pandemic and its aftermath. We must demand our immediate inclusion in financial and other forms of aid dispensed by governments to alleviate the harsh impacts of the pandemic and COVID containment measures. Assistance measures should include immediate, free and safe repatriation of migrants stranded in land and sea; cash handouts and livelihood opportunities in their home countries; shelter and social support mechanisms in transit and destination countries; and free COVID testing, vaccination for migrants and refugees.
We must demand stronger laws and mechanisms for the comprehensive protection of the rights of migrants regardless of their status, including ensuring their access to health services, basic economic rights and justice, and upholding their right to liberty, free association, free speech and free assembly and other civil and political rights. We must strengthen our unity and resolve to stop discrimination and violence against migrants; end criminalization and brutal crackdowns targeting migrants; stop targeted raids and deportations of migrant workers involved in trade union or political activities.
We must struggle for long-term solutions to the root causes of forced migration, exploitation, war and conflict. We must struggle for the liberation of our peoples from the shackles of neoliberalism, imperialism, fascism and patriarchy. It is through our continuing struggles that we build our collective strength so that we can ultimately demolish the monopoly capitalist system and build a new world order on the foundations of justice and solidarity.
Health, rights and welfare of migrants and people over capitalist profits!
Strengthen our movement and build solidarity with peoples for a world without forced migration, slavery and exploitation!
Long live the migrant movement!
Long live international solidarity!