Friday, November 02, 2007

Migration no guarantee out of rural poverty -WB

ISAGANI DE LA PAZ, OFW Journalism Consortium
11/02/2007 | 03:36 PM

MANILA – Contrary to popular beliefs, migration, despite the volume of money it brings, has neither brought rural folks out of poverty nor is it a sure fire way for farm people to clamber aboard the prosperity wagon.

“Where migration is more or less permanent, income from migration depends on the success of the migrant and the reason for migration. So migration is not a guaranteed pathway out of poverty," the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development said in its recently released report, debunking several myths on agricultural development.

The Washington, United States-headquartered IBRD, popularly known as The World Bank, cited in its 386-page report that “despite massive rural-urban migration, rural poverty will remain dominant for several more decades in Asia."

The bank’’s World Development Report 2008 that focused on identifying ways for governments to lift some 600 million rural people from extreme poverty has said that while this has been achieved, it is not due to migration.

“More than 80 percent of the decline in rural poverty is attributable to better conditions in rural areas rather than to out-migration of the poor," the report titled “Agriculture for Development" said.

“So, contrary to common perceptions, migration to cities has not been the main instrument for rural (and world) poverty reduction," it added.

In fact, authors of the World Bank report noted that out-migration of people from rural areas has even contributed to the constant rate of poverty rate in cities.

The report, released October 19, noted that while the poverty rate of US$1-a-day has been declining in developing countries –from 28 percent in 1993 to 22 percent in 2002- , this “has been mainly the result of falling rural poverty (from 37 percent to 29 percent) while the urban poverty rate remained nearly constant (at 13 percent)."

The report also noted that during the period under study, 1993-2002, there was an 81-percent reduction in rural poverty worldwide. But this is “ascribed to improved conditions in rural areas; migration accounted for only 19 percent of the reduction."

Migration, the report said, “lifts some of the rural poor out of poverty but takes others to urban slums and continued poverty."


Even remittances from abroad are downplayed by the report on contributing to national poverty rate declines.

While the report acknowledges that there are “indirect effects of urbanization on rural poverty through remittances and rural wage changes," this is “through tighter rural labor markets."
But this argument, the report’s authors said, has a conservative but unlikely assumption: all rural-urban migrants are poor.

The bank computed migration’s contribution to rural poverty reduction using the US$2.15 poverty line rather than the US$1.08 extreme poverty line “because it is unrealistic to think that all migrants are extremely poor."

Even so, using the same assumption that all those who migrate are poor, the report noted that reduction in rural poverty would still hit 81 percent, “not to migration."

“Indeed, almost all the decline in South Asia and East Asia is because of a genuine decline in poverty in rural areas. Even when China is excluded from the sample, 67 percent of the reduction in rural poverty is from causes other than migration," the report said.

According to data compiled by the Institute for Migration and Development Issues (Imdi), there is no direct correlation between the number of Filipinos going overseas for temporary or permanent work and stay, and the poverty incidence levels.

For example, the National Capital Region, composed of more than a dozen cities, has posted a 4.3-percent poverty incidence level in 2003. In an eight-year period beginning 1998, almost a million overseas Filipinos came from this region.

However, the data that the nonprofit group Imdi compiled couldn't cite if these Filipinos just used the NCR as temporary residence prior to going overseas or which rural area they came from if they, indeed, migrated from farm villages.

It is difficult to determine so since the NCR is the reservoir of major government agencies processing the export of Filipino labor as well as the receptacle for the air travel and remittance industries.

Likewise, despite Davao del Sur, for example, posting a 24-percent poverty incidence rate and having recorded 55,117 Filipino migrants, Batanes island posted only a 9.2-percent poverty incidence level despite only 72 of its residents having left that fishing and farming province that’s the tip of the Philippines.

Another example is Pampanga, President Gloria Arroyo's home province, which posted a six-percent poverty incidence level. It is second to the NCR for having the most number of Filipino migrants at 125,226. Compare this to Pangasinan, home province of former President Fidel V. Ramos, which had 111,029 of its citizens migrating in the eight-year period ending 2005. Still the province posted a poverty incidence level of 18.6 percent, more than double neighboring Pampanga’s.

With the exception of Batanes, 14 provinces have poverty incidence levels above the national average of 25.7 percent.

“The high poverty levels of these provinces can perhaps explain why citizens from these areas cannot easily migrate overseas," the Imdi scoping study on migrant philanthropy released last August said.


Even the World Bank report admits it is difficult to establish migration’s direct impact on rural poverty reduction levels.

“Migration can be a climb up the income ladder for well-prepared, skilled workers, or it can be a simple displacement of poverty to the urban environment for others," the report noted.

The report also cited that while remittances from migrants back to the farm household “can relax capital and risk constraints, the relationship between migration and agricultural productivity," for one, is “complex."

“The (temporary) absence of household members reduces the agricultural labor supply. Agricultural productivity can therefore fall in the short run but rise in the long run as households with migrants shift to less labor intensive, but possibly equally profitable, crops or livestock," the report said.

Remittances, the report noted, “often drastically change the composition of the rural population" and “can pose (their) own challenges for rural development, because migration is selective."

“Those who leave are generally younger, better educated, and more skilled. Migration thus can diminish entrepreneurship and education level among the remaining population," the report said.

Likewise, the report cited there are evidence suggesting migration “is most accessible for the wealthiest and best educated of the rural population, as moving requires means to pay for transportation and education to find a good job."

“Moreover, better-educated migrants are the most likely to have a successful migration outcome," the report added.

It particularly cited the Philippines as having more female migrants to urban areas faring better than the less-educated males.

The report estimated some 575 million people migrated from rural to urban areas in developing countries over the past 25 years.

Of these, it said, “400 million lived in transforming countries, where migration flows increased to almost 20 million a year between 2000 and 2005."

Migration flows as a share of the rural population have been traditionally highest in urbanized economies, but they have fallen over 2000–05 to an annual rate of 1.25 percent. In transforming and agriculture-based economies, the annual flow of out-migration steadily increased to 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent of the rural population, respectively.

The report also noted that international migration out of rural areas is male-dominated in Ecuador and Mexico, but female-dominated in the Dominican Republic, Panama, and the Philippines. - OFW Journalism Consortium

Note: To download the complete World Development Report 2008, go to this link:

Monday, October 22, 2007

RP is 4th largest recipient of overseas remittances in Asia - UN

10/22/2007 | 03:52 PM

The Philippines ranked as fourth top recipient of overseas remittances in Asia, receiving $14.65 billion in 2006, a United Nations report showed.

The report, released in time for the Oct 19 opening of the International Forum on Remittances in Washington DC, said the $14.65 billion remittances sent to the Philippines was based on "a conservative estimate."

The amount includes the $12.8 billion remittances coursed through the banks, as reported by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, plus OFW earnings sent through informal channels such as door-to-door delivery.

The report titled, "Sending money home: Worldwide remittances to developing countries" by the United Nations' International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) listed India on top of the list, receiving $24.5 billion, followed by Mexico with $24.2 billion and China with $21 billion.

Russia, with $13.7 billion, ranked next to the Philippines.

Lower remittance charges

The report prompted Sen. Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs, urged the government to “quickly draw up and execute a roadmap toward purposely driving down excessive remittances charges."

"We have to consciously bring down burdensome remittance fees. This is the single most efficient way for us to truly make full economic use of remittance inflows," Legarda said.

The senator lamented that migrant workers spend a staggering total of up to $1.72 billion every year to pay for remittance fees, or 13.5 percent of the $12.8 billion that they sent home through banks in 2006.

Legarda said her estimate was based on a study by the International Monetary Fund, which pegged at 13.5 percent the average transaction cost of remittances to the Philippines, with OFWs paying anywhere from $15 to $26 in transfer fees for a typical $200-remittance.

"If we reduce by half the amount spent by OFWs to pay for remittance charges, this would easily translate into an additional $860-million worth of inflows every year. This is a lot of extra money coursed through the pockets of their families here and the economy," she said.

Remittances, the bulk of which go to poor families in the rural areas, could contribute to prosperity in the countryside, according to the IFAD report.

The IFAD is a special UN international financial institution dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries. - GMANews.TV

Monday, August 13, 2007

Asia's labor force to grow by 200 million, says ILO

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 08:20am (Mla time) 08/13/2007

GENEVA -- Asia's economies face the challenge of finding jobs for an extra 200 million workers between now and 2015, according to a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report out Monday.

It said the region will have its work cut out to improve the quality of jobs on offer and ensure the benefits of Asia's future economic growth are distributed more evenly as the labor force, currently 1.8 billion, increases.

"One thing is clear: doing business as usual is not sustainable over the long term," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "Asia is experiencing unprecedented growth and development.

"At the same time, vulnerabilities arising from environmental pressures, economic insecurity, shortcomings in governance and unequal income distribution pose a threat to the region's future development."

"Visions for Asia's Decent Work Decade: Sustainable Growth and Jobs to 2015", has been presented to an ILO Asian Employment Forum in Beijing running from Monday to Wednesday.

Government representatives, trade unionists and employers from some 20 countries in Asia and the Pacific will attend.

The report said the service economy would be the main source of new jobs and by 2015 would have become the biggest single sector employer, representing about 40.7 percent of the region's jobs.

It also predicted the share of industrial jobs would rise from 23.1 percent of the total jobs market in 2006 to 29.4 percent in 2015.

By contrast, agricultural jobs would by 2015 have declined to 29.4 percent of the market from 42.6 percent, said the report.

And that trend from rural to urban jobs would create greater wage inequalities between the classes of workers, part of a broader wage gulf between the extremely poor and other workers.

In fact the report identified the problem of the working poor -- those living on less than two US dollars (1.5 euros) a day -- as one of the major challenges facing the region.

More than one billion -- 61.9 percent of the workforce -- still worked in the informal "black" economy with little or no social protection.

While this was down from 67.2 of the workforce a decade earlier, it was still a cause for concern, said the report, especially since it was not expected to fall much further by 2015.

The report identified a number of other challenges facing the region including:
-- an ageing labor force, which in some countries meant that as many as one in four people would be over 65 by 2015;
-- increasing migration that would see millions of workers quitting Asia in search of jobs;
-- the inability of wage growth to keep pace with labour productivity in some countries;
-- long working hours becoming the norm in many parts of Asia.

"Meeting the challenges facing the region will require far-sighted thinking and careful planning," said Somavia.

"We all need to work together to make globalization and economic growth more inclusive."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Filipino workers in Iraq deceived, abused - report

Filipino workers in Iraq deceived, abused - report
07/27/2007 | 05:58 PM

Filipino workers promised jobs in Dubai hotels were deceptively recruited and trafficked to Iraq for a massive US Embassy construction project in Baghdad, two former American civilian contractors of a Kuwaiti company testified at the US Congress on Thursday.

The foreign workers, including Filipinos, experienced physical abuse and substandard working conditions, said John Owens, an American citizen who worked for First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co. as a construction foreman for six months.

The Kuwaiti firm was awarded the $592-million contract for the construction of the US Embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. This was said to be the largest US diplomatic mission in the world.

“Conditions there were deplorable, beyond what even a working man should tolerate," Owens said in his testimony before the House committee on oversight and government reform on allegations of waste, fraud and abuse in the construction project.

“Foreign workers were packed in trailers tight. There was insufficient equipment and basic needs – stuff like shoes and gloves. If a construction worker needed a new pair of shoes, he was told, ‘No, do with what you have’ by First Kuwaiti managers," Owens said based on a transcript of the congressional proceedings.

“The contract for these workers said they had to work 12 hours a day 7 days a week, with some time off on Friday for prayers," he said.

Rory J. Malberry, also an American who worked as emergency medical technician at the embassy site under a subcontract, said First Kuwaiti managers asked him to escort 51 Filipinos through the Kuwait airport and onto a flight to Baghdad.

“I was given my flight information to Baghdad. At this time, First Kuwaiti managers asked me to escort 51 Filipino nationals to the Kuwaiti airport and make sure they got on the same flight that I was taking to Baghdad. Many of these Filipinos did not speak any English," he told US congressmen.

"I wanted to help them make sure they got on their flight OK, just as my managers had asked. We were all employees of the same company after all. But when we got to the Kuwait airport, I noticed that all of our tickets said we were going to Dubai. I asked why? The Kuwaiti manager told me that because Filipino passports do not allow Filipinos to fly to Iraq, they must be marked as going to Dubai," Malberry said.

Washington Post reported on Friday that US State Department officials disputed the testimonies of Owens and Malberry.

It quoted Howard J. Krongard, the State Department’s inspector general in charge of investigating the project, saying that he conducted a “limited review" on the conditions of foreign laborers at the construction site in Baghdad and did not find reasons to substantiate the claims.

The inspector general of the US-led military force in Iraq also conducted inquiries, he said.

“Nothing came to our attention that caused us to believe that trafficking-in-persons violations or other serious abuses occurred at the construction workers’ camp at the new embassy compound," Krongard told the committee.

The Filipinos worked at the embassy construction site with laborers from India, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

Malberry said he had read Krongard’s report. “It's not worth the paper it's printed on. This is a cover-up. I'm glad that I have this opportunity to set the record straight," he told the committee.

Malberry said the workers were told they would be working in hotels in Dubai, not in Baghdad.
According to him, the First Kuwaiti managers even instructed him specifically not to tell the Filipinos they were being taken to Baghdad.

“As I found out later, these men thought they had signed up to work in Dubai hotels. One fellow I met told me in broken English that he was excited to start his new job as a telephone repair man. They had no idea they were being sent to do construction work on the US embassy," Malberry said.

"Mr. Chairman, when the airplane took off and the captain announced that we were headed for Baghdad, all you-know-what broke lose on that airplane. People started shouting. It wasn't until a security guy working for First Kuwaiti waved an MP-5 in the air that people settled down," he said, addressing Rep. Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the oversight committee.

"They realized they had no other choice but to go to Baghdad," he said. “Let me spell it out clearly. I believe these men were kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work on the US Embassy," Malberry said.

According to the Washington Post report, the US Department of Justice is also investigating First Kuwaiti’s labor practices, particularly the allegations that foreign workers were brought into Iraq under false pretenses and were unable to leave because the company had confiscated their passports.

The Kuwaiti firm was awarded the contract because no US company met the terms for the construction project, the committee was told. Company officials declined the congressional panel’s invitation to testify.

The report also said foreign workers came from countries in South Asia and the Philippines because of the difficulty of hiring Iraqis to work inside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

In the transcript of Thursday’s proceedings, Malberry testified that he “witnessed" the trafficking of the Filipinos.

“When flying from Kuwait to Baghdad, I saw a bunch of workers with tickets to Dubai. Mine was the only one that’s for Baghdad. When I asked the First Kuwaiti manager, he said, ‘Shhh, don’t say anything. If the Kuwaiti customs knows they’re going to Iraq, they won’t let them on the plane’," Malberry said.

When the plane landed on Baghdad, the workers were then taken away in buses to the construction site.

Malberry said First Kuwaiti assigned him as “security liaison, among other tasks" at the construction site although he claimed to have “more experience with building
embassies than anybody else on that site."

“I think the American people might understand what was going through my head over there as I watched this abusive and unprofessional practice taking place. I kept thinking it would get better. I kept telling myself that it would get better, and after more time had passed and things didn't get any better, I felt so bad all the time and I realized it was time to resign and speak up for those who do not have a voice," he said.

Waxman, a Democrat congressman from California, remarked: "It does not help matters that there are only three career State Department officials on site to oversee this massive project. Everyone else is a private contractor." - GMANews.TV

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Gulf states threaten to ban Filipino workers

05/31/2007 | 10:08 PM

The Gulf states -- Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman – may no longer accept Filipino workers unless the Philippine government take steps to clarify its policy imposing $13 daily penalty on foreign employers who would not pay their workers on time and at a minimum of $400 a month.

The Committee for Importing Foreign Workers of the Gulf Cooperation Council(GCC) unanimously agreed in a meeting on Thursday to stop importing Filipinos until Philippine labor laws are clarified, Dylan Bowman of Kuwait New Agency reported.

GCC, also known as the Cooperation Council of the Arab States in the Gulf, is a trade bloc involving six Arab Gulf states with many economic and social objectives, including the formulation of similar regulations in various fields such as economy, finance, trade, customs, tourism, legislation, and administration.

The report acknowledged that the Philippine government raised the minimum salary of its workers overseas was intended to improve the standard of living of its citizens.

“Participants agreed to submit this recommendation [to stop importing Filipinos] to the decision-makers in the GCC and expressed hope that this recommendation would be implemented as soon as possible," Abdel-Aziz Al-Ali, head of Kuwait's domestic labor offices, told the Kuwait News Agency.

“We understand the important international implications of this issue and we are dealing with it accordingly," Al-Ali said.

Based on POEA data, the six GCC member-states employ 435, 190 Filipinos as of December-2006, and this is broken down into: Saudi Arabia – 223, 459; UAE – 99, 212; Kuwait – 47, 917; Qatar – 45, 795; Bahrain – 11, 736; and Oman – 7, 071.
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar are among the top 10 popular destinations of OFWs.

The new regulations issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) partially took effect on December 15, 2006, was fully implemented beginning March 1, 2007 pegged the minimum salary for Filipino domestic workers, including stay-in care givers, at $400, up from $200.

Foreign employers are also required to sign a declaration stipulating they would pay a fine of around $13 a day if they do not pay their Filipino workers on time, and at the prescribed rate spelled out in the labor contract.

The minimum salary regulations are not binding on any of the GCC’s six member states, but if employers do not agree to them then the Filipino government will not process their staff’s contracts, Kuwait News Agency said.

Asaad Derbas, head of the Kuwaiti delegation to the meeting of the GCC Committee, said the decision to stop importing Filipinos was taken because the Philippine government “used the issue as a political tool in its recent general election."

He said the issue had a negative impact on the countries importing Filipino workers. - GMANews.TV

UAE gives illegal workers 90 days to regularize stay or leave

06/05/2007 | 04:08 PM

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After Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates has also tightened its rules on illegal workers by declaring a three-month amnesty beginning June 4 to allow them to regularize their status or leave the country without paying heavy penalties or being jailed.

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Libran Cabactulan said the embassy was encouraging the illegal Filipinos working in the Gulf state to come out and benefit from the amnesty. The offer, he said, is “with good intentions."

Consul General Antonio Curameng in Dubai said he is convening a meeting with consulate officials, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to discuss arrangements, draft necessary guidelines and facilitate the repatriation of the illegal workers.

Curameng said the consulate is just awaiting official communication from UAE authorities before disseminating the information to the Filipino community.

Undocumented foreign workers in the UAE, including Filipinos, are expected to flock to their embassies and consulates following the decision of the UAE Cabinet to adopt the amnesty program.

Saudi Arabia has implemented a two-month amnesty for illegal workers that ended May 31. Kuwait has also followed suit.

Corollary to the amnesty program, the UAE Ministry of Justice was also reported to be preparing strict rules that would impose heavy fines on people who shelter illegal immigrants or hire absconding workers.

After the UAE government’s announcement of three-month amnesty for illegal residents, airlines are gearing up to meet the possible rush on outbound flights from Dubai.

During the last general amnesty in UAE from January 1 to June 30, 2003, nearly 100,000 illegal residents had benefited, according to a report in Khaleej Times.

UAE ranks second to Saudi Arabia

Laborers to Be Informed of Their Rights Through HRC Pamphlets

Raid Qusti, Arab News

RIYADH, 6 June 2007 — The government-funded Human Rights Commission (HRC) announced here yesterday that it was working with the Labor Ministry to publish pamphlets that would inform laborers of their rights under Saudi law.

The aim of the pamphlet is to address concerns that laborers are unaware of the legal mechanisms that are afforded to them in the Kingdom. The pamphlet also aims to spread awareness among employers, informing them of penalties for breaking labor laws and violating workers’ rights.

“We are working hard on the issue with the Labor Ministry,” said Muhammad Al-Khunaizan, HRC board member.

The official did not mention when the pamphlets would be released, but stated that they were being processed.

The Saudi labor sector has seen numerous violations of guest-worker rights, including non-payment of salaries for months or failure of sponsors to provide room and board as agreed upon.

A report published by the National Society for Human Rights, another rights body in the Kingdom, suggested that the sponsorship law in the Kingdom be eradicated altogether and the government should step in to fill the role currently held by individual Saudi sponsors.

In another development, HRC officials requested the US State Department to publish a booklet or pamphlet printed in Arabic to be given to all Saudi travelers, including students, to the United States.

According to HRC officials, the aim of the proposed pamphlet is to “specify the rights of Saudi travelers that would avoid harassment.”

The request was made to Erica Barks-Ruggles, deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor. The US official and her accompanying delegation met Turki Al-Sudairi, president of HRC, and several members of the board. This is her fourth visit to the Kingdom and her second this year.

Board members also brought to the attention of the visiting official the matter of a Saudi student, Mishaal Al-Rabeah, whose visa was canceled by US immigration authorities on arrival in the US recently.

“This is just one of the problems Saudi students face when arriving in the United States. The visa, issued by the US Embassy in Riyadh, was canceled. The error was not on his part,” a board member told the US official.

The US official said she was not aware of the incident but would investigate.
HRC also announced that Saudi women would be appointed for the first time in its next board reshuffle after three years.

“God willing, the next board will have Saudi women,” said Al-Sudairi. “We are currently studying it. And there is a big possibility that it will take place.”
He said that as with all new board members, the appointment would come from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

The current board consists of 24 members — 18 full-time members and six part-time members. The president is appointed by the king and has a rank of minister.

Al-Sudairi also said that a Saudi woman, a former civil service employee, was hired by HRC to deal with issues related to women in Riyadh.

He said part of HRC’s support of Saudi women has recently included the establishment of two women’s sections in HRC offices in the Eastern Province.

Among the issues discussed at the meeting between the HRC and the US officials were ways to identify areas of cooperation in the judicial system and commercial sector.
The US delegation evinced keen interest in the progress of HRC regarding its human rights awareness campaigns targeted at the people living in the Kingdom. HRC officials, on their part, said that they were doing so “gradually” in the Kingdom, bearing in mind the conservative nature of its people and trying carefully not to make moves that would backfire.

The US officials said they were seeking to specify common areas of cooperation in the judicial system.

They specified their interest in the development of commercial law in Saudi Arabia, especially after the Kingdom joined the World Trade Organization. They also proposed that a curriculum be established in Saudi universities that would educate students on commercial law.

HRC officials and the US delegation also discussed the subject of human trafficking

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sri Lanka Places Restrictions on Recruitment of Maids

Mohammed Rasooldeen, Arab News


Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama addressing reporters in Riyadh.

RIYADH, 26 April 2007 Sri Lanka has imposed restrictions on the recruitment of housemaids, which includes a total ban on hiring women who have children less than five years of age.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, who wrapped up a three-day visit to the Kingdom, told reporters yesterday that female domestic workers who have children below five would not be sent abroad as housemaids. his is not only because of their discontented life here but it also creates social problems back home,?he said.
Homesickness has been identified as one of the primary causes of labor problems among housemaids working in the Kingdom.  housemaid who came here leaving a five-month-old baby ran away from her workplace because she desperately wanted to see her child,he added.

The Sri Lankan government has initiated programs to look after the families of housemaids, by providing scholarships for their children in government schools, but infants still need to be with their mothers, the minister said, stressing that in future only women who are above 25 years of age would be granted permission for overseas deployment.

Speaking about the problems of runaway housemaids, Bogollagama said this is only a fraction of the housemaid population in the Kingdom. he problems are mainly due to misunderstandings between the employer and their employee, non-payment of wages and ignorance about the cultural environment in the host country,he said.

While stressing on his government stance to blacklist job agents in Colombo that send unskilled women as domestic aides, Bogollagama requested the Saudi National Recruiting Committee to check on local recruiting agents who are behind such nefarious activities.

Saudi Ambassador in Colombo Muhammad Mahmud Al-Ali and Sri Lankan Ambassador A.M.J. Sadiq were present at the press briefing held at the Royal Conference Palace.
Bogollagama said a second Sri Lankan airline would start services to the Kingdom. esides SriLankan Airlines, the government is keen on introducing Mihin Air to the Kingdom to serve the Sri Lankan expatriates here,the minister said, pointing out that the new airline, which began operations early this year, is a government-owned budget airline. e are negotiating to modify our bilateral aviation agreement with the Kingdom to accommodate this new airline,he said.

Mihin Air, which is fully funded by the state treasury, will cater not only to migrant workers but also to the tourism industry as a low cost carrier. his will be a great boon to low-income migrant workers who would like to save money on their travel. It would also provide customers with an opportunity to travel at prices 50 percent cheaper,he said.

The minister described his talks with Saudi officials as successful and said that his government is interested in strengthening political, economic and cultural relations with the Kingdom.

Bogollagama said they had agreed to negotiate and finalize bilateral agreements on avoidance of double taxation, combating terrorism, extradition, prisoner exchange and investment protection. Earlier at a meeting at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the minister said the country offers an attractive package to foreign investors.

Sri Lanka, an investment hub in Asia, has attracted a large clientele of investors from all parts of the world since the country has abundant natural resources and cost-effective labor for viable projects,he stressed.

He pointed out that the Free Trade Agreement with India would give free access to a larger market in the sub-continent to products manufactured in the island.

Ministry Acts to Stop Problem of Runaway Maids

P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News


JEDDAH, 26 April 2007

The Labor Ministry has taken tough actions to prevent maids from running away from their Saudi sponsors in search of better salaries and facilities. Saudis employing these runaway maids will be fined SR20,000 and banned from recruitment, said Muhammed Al-Dowaish, a legal consultant at the ministry.

He said recruitment offices involved in sheltering the illegal maids and hiring them out to Saudi families would be closed down and their licenses withdrawn.

The maids will be deported and will not be allowed to come back to the Kingdom, Dowaish said, spelling out the new measures taken by the ministry. Runaway maids have become a difficult problem facing Saudi families. Many maids run away from their sponsors as a result of torture, nonpayment of salaries and difficult working conditions.

Employment offered by some recruitment offices and Saudi families will encourage maids to run away from their legal sponsors,?Dowaish said, adding that the new measures would put an end to this negative phenomenon.

f they have any problem with sponsors, maids should approach the police or the labor office or the governorate for a solution,?the official said. hey would not run away if they didn expect somebody to shelter them or provide them jobs,?he added. Last year the ministry announced new regulations for recruiting household workers. Ahmad Al-Zamil, deputy minister for labor affairs, stressed that the ministry would deny the right to employ domestic servants to any household that mistreats its workers in any way and would force employers to pay their dues.

Not all maids who disappear, however, are runaways. A number are regularly kidnapped and forced into prostitution by gangs. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice recently raided two apartments in Dammam where two Asian maids had been imprisoned and forced to work as prostitutes.

One of the maids said she was living with her Saudi sponsor and had popped out to get something from a nearby shop when she was kidnapped by a taxi driver who raped her and then sold her to another expatriate for SR7,000,?said a commission member in Dammam.

A Bangladeshi taxi driver was arrested in Riyadh recently in connection with the kidnapping of several maids. Police said the driver had been kidnapping maids and then forcing them into prostitution for a long time. He would tell maids that he could get them better jobs and would ask them to run away from their sponsors. Then he would imprison them in an apartment and charge people SR300 to sleep with them,?said a police officer in Riyadh.

An Indonesian Embassy source said they received about 10 complaints from maids every day. Most of them involve abuse and include severe beatings, suicide, kidnapping, rape, withholding of salary for months and years, sexual harassment and impregnation.

Unfortunately, people here are very cruel to maids. They treat them with suspicion and abuse them in many ways,?he said. The rate of domestic servants fleeing their sponsors in the Kingdom is as high as 70 percent, one report said. When they flee, to find jobs with higher salaries, their sponsors lose large amounts of money which were spent in recruiting them and paying for their visas. People who hire maids illegally say that the recruiting system is too complicated and has too much unnecessary red tape.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Illegal migrants' right to work wins support of public in poll

Illegal migrants' right to work wins support of public in poll
By Colin Brown
Published: 25 April 2007

A campaign for an estimated 500,000 illegal workers in Britain to be given the official right to earn a living would have popular support, according to findings in an opinion poll.

The plight of illegal immigrants who are denied any right to work has been called "modern-day slavery". It is said to be flourishing in Britain while we avert our eyes to the scandal under our noses.

Liam Byrne, the Immigration minister, said mass migration had enriched Britain but left UK society so "unsettled" that the issue could cost Labour the next general election. But an opinion poll commissioned by Strangers into Citizens - a campaign to give employment rights to illegal immigrants -shows that 66 per cent of people in the would accept refused asylum-seekers and those who had overstayed their visas if they worked and paid taxes. The poll was conducted last weekend by ORB with a sample of 1,004 adults across the

"This poll makes clear that just talking tough will not be enough to fob off the UK public on immigration, " said Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. "They want the political parties to get real and respond in a way that is workable and fair to migrants who are living as members of our society."

"Strangers into Citizens" is calling for the Government to allow a pathway for long-term illegal workers in this country to earn a living legally. They will hold a rally at Trafalgar Square on Monday 7 May to call for all immigrants who have been in this country for four years to be allowed a work permit for two years. It would become a route to "leave to remain" indefinitely while they work and pay taxes.

The campaign challenges the Home Office policy of stepping up the removal of illegal immigrants, who have either overstayed their visas or been refused asylum.

Mr Byrne is introducing a points-based managed migration system, with tighter border controls and a crackdown on employers who recruit illegal immigrants. Austin Ivereigh, the co-ordinator of the campaign, said: "We are not calling for a general 'amnesty' but a six-year pathway to citizenship for long-term migrants. It is certainly not issuing a 'green light for unprecedented migration'." He said one-off naturalisation programmes had been introduced in Spain, Germany and the US as part of a wider strategy of border enforcement. "It may not stop illegal immigration - that is a matter for border controls - but they do bring thousands out of limbo, recognise realities, clear asylum logjams, bring huge benefits to the state and shrink the underground economy on which people-trafficking and exploitative employers thrive," said Mr Ivereigh.

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, said: "Migrants contribute hugely to the economic, civic and cultural life of London. To have a substantial number of them living here without regular status - because of deep-rooted failings in the immigration system - is deeply damaging to London as well as to them."

The Labour deputy leadership candidate Jon Cruddas said: "We must deal with those who no one wants to talk about - the 500,000 or so who have no status. Regularisation is about providing a solution to the problem everyone knows exist but which everyone runs from."

Jack Dromey, the deputy general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said the economic and moral case for an "earned amnesty" for migrants was overwhelming. "

'Denis', 32, doctor: 'I would have gone home a long time ago if it was safe'

He is secretive and deeply troubled by the threat of being returned to his native Zimbabwe
Denis - not his real name - will not show his face and insists on anonymity. But the 32-year-old is a qualified doctor. "It is very difficult and it is humiliating, " he said. "I am a professional person, but I am living on handouts from my friends."

He speaks good English and was trained as a doctor before he fled Zimbabwe in 2002 after threats to his life. Since settling in this country he has got a girlfriend, also a Zimbabwean illegal immigrant, and they have a daughter, aged 18 months.

"I am crashing down at a flat," he said. "I am not supposed to be here. We are staying with a friend who has a council flat, but she is not supposed to have us here. She is afraid she will be evicted if they find us." Denis is adamant he will not work illegally. "I want to be a professional doctor. I am afraid of taking any other work that will undermine my career. I am so scared for my life. I would have gone home a long time ago if I felt it was safe. I came to Britain because I just wanted somewhere safe and better to work. I cannot go anywhere else because my documents are with the Home Office."

'Lucas', shop assistant: 'I always try to stay away from trouble'

A young Venezuelan with a big smile and a gentle manner, "Lucas" has been living in the UK for 10 years, first studying English and working part time, and then working full time.

He has done a variety of jobs - as a cleaner, working in a hotel and teaching Spanish on a freelance basis. For the past two years he has worked in a shop, and is well-liked by his colleagues and customers. His employers are not aware of his immigration status. He has a national insurance number and has paid taxes and national insurance contributions in all of his jobs.

He has survived as an undocumented worker by working hard and keeping a low profile. "I am very careful, and always try to stay away from trouble," he says. He avoids the authorities as much as possible - he would be very wary of reporting a crime to the police, and does not have a GP. If he were to fall ill he would go to A&E, where he could be treated anonymously.

He arrived in London in 1998. "I came to the UK on a tourist visa and then enrolled as an English student for two-and-a-half years," he says. When he tried to renew his visa a third time, however, he was told that he had been in the country for too long.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Skilled Filipino Immigrants Stonewalled

Leah Diana
Special to the Sun
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Re: B.C is busy helping skilled immigrants find right jobs, Feb. 12

Contrary to Minister of Economic Development Colin Hansen's claim about inaccuracies in reporting of his government's programs, it is the minister himself who is making inaccurate statements.

While Hansen claims his government is doing a lot to help skilled immigrants find jobs, many Filipino immigrants (despite being highly educated and skilled) continue to be marginalized and economically segregated into low-paying jobs. Many find the costly and long processes required by professional regulatory bodies as impossible barriers to their recognition and accreditation.

For example, hundreds of Filipino nurses in British Columbia are trapped working under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), because nursing is not given any occupational points under the Canadian immigration system. They are forced to work as private nurses and caregivers for the elderly and sick for minimum wage or below for two years despite a dire nursing shortage in the province.

We met with the minister in 2000 to bring up this issue, but our recommendations have not been implemented.

While we agree that professional regulatory bodies have the responsibility to ensure the public's health and safety, we question the minister's rigid view on English language skills and equivalency standards. Philippine educational institutions are at par with many other countries and Filipino immigrants to Canada are already required to be competent in one of two official languages before they are admitted into Canada.

Hansen should put the money where his mouth is. While he touts increasing budgets for so-called solutions to the problem of professional accreditation, we haven't seen any of that money flowing to community-based organizations such as ours that are helping facilitate the recognition and accreditation of Filipino and other foreign-trained nurses. To date, the Filipino Nurses Support Group has conducted review classes and assisted more than 300 nurses working under the LCP to obtain accreditation devoid of any help from the provincial government.

Without the political will to recognize foreign-trained professionals, the promises of Hansen and other politicians remain empty.

Leah Diana is vice-chair of the Philippine Women Centre of B.C.

Indonesia, Malaysia: Overhaul Labor Agreement on Domestic Workers

Indonesia, Malaysia: Overhaul Labor Agreement on Domestic Workers
Proposed Malaysian Migrants Bill Would Violate Basic Freedoms

(New York, February 21, 2007) – At their meeting this week, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyuno should commit to stronger protections for Indonesian migrants working in Malaysia, Human Rights Watch said today. Abdullah is in Jakarta to receive an Indonesian award for heads of state, the Bintang Republik Indonesia Adipradana.

Approximately 2.5 million migrants work in Malaysia, and the majority are Indonesians working in plantations, construction and domestic service. Gaps in labor laws and punitive immigration policies have left many migrants at risk of abuse and labor exploitation by employers and recruitment agencies.

Malaysia recently announced plans to introduce new legislation that would restrict migrants to their workplace or living quarters. Such measures violate workers’ right to freedom of movement. The resulting isolation would also put them at risk of other abuses, as demonstrated in the case of the approximately 300,000 migrant domestic workers in Malaysia. Many domestic workers already confront restrictions on their movement and communication.

“Instead of improving the situation, Malaysia’s proposed foreign worker bill will make it dramatically worse,” said Nisha Varia, senior researcher on women’s rights in Asia for Human Rights Watch. “It’s shocking that Malaysia is even considering a proposal that would give employers freedom to lock up workers.”

As Human Rights Watch reported in “Help Wanted: Abuses against Female Migrant Domestic Workers in Indonesia and Malaysia,” Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia often work grueling 16 to 18 hour days, seven days a week, and earn less than 25 US cents per hour. Some suffer physical or sexual abuse. These workers are excluded from key protections in Malaysia’s main labor laws, and nongovernmental organizations and the Indonesian mission in Malaysia have received thousands of complaints from domestic workers in recent years.

In Indonesia, labor agents often subject prospective workers to extortion, discriminatory hiring processes, and months-long confinement in overcrowded training centers. In Malaysia, some labor agents turn a deaf ear to women’s complaints about abusive treatment and pleas to return home.

The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in May 2006 to regulate migration of domestic workers. Positive measures included the introduction of a standard contract and protections against cutting workers’ salaries to repay fees borne by the employer. However, it allows employers to keep workers’ passports, prohibits workers from marrying, and fails to introduce clear standards on a minimum wage, a weekly day off, or monitoring mechanisms for labor agencies.

“While creating the MOU was a step in the right direction, both Indonesia and Malaysia continue to drag their feet in guaranteeing the most important protections for these women,” said Varia. “Domestic workers have to rely on the whim of employers rather than the rule of law for decent working conditions.”

Human Rights Watch said that Indonesia and Malaysia should reform the MOU to, at a minimum, include:

· A commitment to pursue legislative changes to extend equal protection under Malaysia’s labor laws to domestic workers, specifically Section XII of the Employment Act of 1955 and the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1952.
· The right of workers to hold their own passports. When employers or agents hold workers’ passports, this form of control makes it difficult for workers to escape abusive conditions or to negotiate better working conditions and full payment of their wages.
· A standard contract that ensures minimum labor protections, including: a 24-hour rest period per week; a fair minimum wage; a limitation on working hours per week; benefits; and safe working conditions.

· The creation of clear mechanisms to provide timely remedies for migrant domestic workers in cases of abuse, and to outline sanctions for employers and labor agents who commit these abuses. Migrant domestic workers with pending criminal cases or labor complaints should be allowed to work while waiting for their cases to be concluded.

· Stronger regulations governing recruitment agencies, with clear mechanisms to monitor and enforce these standards. Issues such as agency fees, standard contracts, provision of accurate information, and conditions of training centers should be addressed.
· Protection of workers’ ability to form associations and unions.
“Migration benefits both countries tremendously – by providing important services to Malaysia and needed income to Indonesian workers,” said Varia. “But, despite a long history of large migration flows, Malaysia and Indonesia have lagged behind other countries in ensuring basic protections for migrant workers.”

To view the July 2004 Human Rights Watch report “Help Wanted: Abuses against Female Migrant Domestic Workers in Indonesia and Malaysia” in English, please visit:
To view the report in Indonesian, please visit:
To listen to broadcast-quality audio commentary by Nisha Varia, senior researcher on women’s rights in Asia for Human Rights Watch, on abuse against domestic workers, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In New York, Nisha Varia: +1-917-617-1041
In London, Brad Adams: +44-20-7713-2767

Monday, April 09, 2007

The STRIVE ACT is Corporate Designed Immigration Reform

By Javier Rodriguez April 4, 2007

The debate in the nation on immigration reform is definitely on and the cards are once again stacked. The Gutierrez-Flake STRIVE ACT of 2007 is a corporate monster most of the way. It doesn't come close to meeting the human rights standards set forth by the international community for the more than 200 million migrants in the planet who, by designs of corporate globalization and its rising capitalist transnational class, have been forced to leave their home countries in search of a new life.

On the contrary the new STRIVE ACT, like last year�s failed Sensenbrenner-HR4437 and Hegel-Martinez S2611, will criminalize immigrants, allow enforcement of immigration law by police agencies, calls for more extreme border enforcement, calls for building 20 more detention centers for immigrants, will erode human rights for future deportees and future immigrants, it will impose an employer verification program, it will delay legalization for the 13 million immigrants already here for many years and not surprisingly it does not set realistic standards to resolve the immigration issue period.

Overall, if approved, it will further set back the struggle for immigrant empowerment, make present and future immigrant workers more vulnerable to exploitation and drive them further underground.

The international criteria for immigrants set in 1987?, says migrants, within three years of living in the host country, have earned their right to legalize their status. By then, they have established roots in their adopted communities, creating family, children, culture, education, business and religion.

This is a sounder humane approach to a real earned right to legalization, to be united with their families and to the stabilization of their lives.

In 1986, through the IRCA Immigration Reform Act, several million urban and farm workers, undocumented immigrants, regularized their status through a radically different set of standards. A one year wait for their permanent residency and five more for citizenship and the right to vote without having to leave the country.

The farm worker clause was even more humane with a requirement of only three months of farm work in the previous two years to qualify. It set forth a fee of only $150.00 per applicant. That�s it. It was a family oriented law though far from perfect.

NOW COMPARE. By Cong. Luis Gutierrez own words, under the STRIVE ACT, the legalization part will not be implemented for two years until Congress confirms that the security border enforcement measures of the new law are in place, and then, only then will the legalization process begins.

Then after, the first of two three year permits for non immigrant status will be issued with the right to a social security, a drivers license and leave and return to the country. After the sixth year the immigrant will have the right to solicit permanent residency.

But instead of an automatic �Green Card� into the hands of the 13 million immigrants, all applicants will be placed in the back of the line for another 5 to 10 years wait, until the applications of 3 million plus potential immigrants now in process, which the STRIVE Bill does not address, are resolved.

It does not stop there. An added five year wait to qualify for citizenship and the right to vote, which means, approximately a total 18 to 21 years to exert full earned constitutional rights which all Americans now enjoy under the constitution.

Is this a corporate panacea or not?The proposed house bill also establishes a quota for 450,000 yearly Conditional Workers, a euphemism for the old Guest Workers Program. Conditional Workers will have the right to: two three year working permits with the right to change jobs, to organize, bring their families and children with the right to school, to a drivers license, a social security and lastly, with an existing good moral conduct and no criminal background, the right to legalize. Seductive isn�t it.

But like their 13 million immigrant counterparts already in the US, which hypothetically speaking, will be waiting in line for years for the �coveted Green Card� this sector will be highly vulnerable to small and large corporate business misconduct. Admittedly though, on par, the future undocumented sector will be several notches more exploitable.

According to leaks emanating from the Capital in the last two weeks, the Kennedy-McCain Senate proposal will use the same framework of S2611 which died last year. If so, for certain the conciliation process between the House and Senate will be a water down process for the Fable-Gutierrez Bill.

For the immigrant rights movement and allies the central question is �What is to be Done�? Already at the gate in tacit support of this concept is a powerful conglomerate of the most active wing of labor, big business, the Latino establishment, Democrats and Republicans, the church hierarchy, the Mexican and Central American governments and the moderate wing of the immigrant rights movement. And it is well financed with a war chest of $4 million dollars.

The accomplishments of the 2006 mass immigrant struggle are historic. Most notable was energizing the electorate and along with the antiwar sentiment changing the correlation of forces in Congress against the extreme right.

Without a doubt President George W. Bush and the Republicans are in a weaker position although his shock troops have launched a near fascist campaign against the country�s undocumented creating havoc and terror.

At this point, the correlation of forces is absolutely not favorable except that the country�s progressive forces and allies move from traditional lobbying towards mass mobilization in an attempt to gain the upper hand and influence the national debate for a more inclusive pro worker immigration reform.

The activists response to the governments ICE raids and deportations campaign has been toe to toe and it appears, has set the conditions for another round of mega mass mobilizations. We shall see if the people respond accordingly again on May 1st International Workers Day in defense of their dignity and humanity. The challenge is as historic as in 2006.

Javier Rodriguez is the media and political strategist for the March 25 Coalition and a co-founder of the May 1st National Movement. 323-702-6397