I have not been to the first two Peoples Global Action meetings in New York (High-Level Dialogue 2006) and Brussels (1st GFMD in 2007). But Ellene Sana has. And, as the Executive Director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines (CMA) remarked to me yesterday:”Every year it becomes more impressive.” That is certainly true regarding the location:
The 2008 PGA in Manila, the first I attended, was moved on short notice from a public park to church rooms and a Gymnasium nearby, because the local authorities suddenly had decided that the proceedings might be too disrupting. In Athens the next year, we started out in a crowded community center and proceeded to a very scenic former gass plant.
But it is hard to beat this year’s location: The San Hipolito Convent, a converted convent with an impressice central hall. Differences can also be observed in the attitude of the authorities of the hosting country: While in Manila, politicians threatened to kick out demonstrating participants from abroad “if they abuse our hospitality”, in Mexico City the major not only send a representatitve but also threw a Guateque (celebration) with music, food and a very fierce Mezcal…
Some participants felt somewhat uneasy about this development and wondered: Has the PGA been taken over by “the system”? A concern that Ellene Sana can not comprehend: “We are now an officially recognized part of the GFMD, it is the best way to mainstream our agenda.”
From my point of view, the critique might be justified if the PGA would have toned down its agenda in the course of moving closer to the official process. Judging by the opening night, I can assure everybody: It has not. There were a few speeches and good (and loud) music, but the organizers took the opportunity to go straight to the heart of the matter as well.
In a panel called “Rights at risk”, representatives from “frontline defense organizations and migrants’ rights advocacy organizations” were very outspoken in their claims. Among them was a representative of Muslim undocumented migrant workers that passionately attacked the policy of the US government and its continued framing of migration as a security threat. Her accusation was shared by other speakers: The resulting militarisation – and privatisation – of border controls has been continued under the Obama administration.
Other topics covered were visa restrictions, reports from Africa and the plight of the Roma in Europe.
There was also a moving story told by Mehru Cyrus Vesuvala from the Migrant Workers Protection Society in the Kingdom of Bahrain: A domestic worker from India had been helped captive for 14 years without being allowed any contact with heir family. When she finally was able to move back, she found out that her husband had remarried because everybody had thought her dead.
The Migrant Workers Protection Society is a fascinating case, because it is apparently the only registered organisation of its kind in the region. Mehru Cyrus Vesuvala told me that the status of being officially recognised results in many challenges but is necessary to bring forward the cause. Ellene Sana couldn’t have agreed more, I’m sure…
Strictly speaking, the two first PGAs did run under a different name, i.e. “Global Community Dialogue on Migration Development and Human Rights”during the High-Level Dialogue in New York. The PGA name and logo were introduced for the first time in Manila, but the PGA can definitely be seen as a continuation of the process started in 2006.