An Overview of the Current International Situation and How It Impacts and Drives Forced Migration
Keynote speech to the 4th General Assembly of the International Migrants Alliance in Mexico City on November 5, 2018
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
Dear Fellow Activists and Friends,
Thank you for inviting me to give the keynote speech to the 4th General Assembly of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA). I convey warmest greetings of solidarity from the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) to the IMA and the representatives of grass roots organizations of migrants, immigrants and refugees, as well as advocates of their rights and well being from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Pacific, the United States. Canada, and Europe.
We in the ILPS welcome the assembly’s highlighting of the 10 years of the IMA’s bannering of unity and solidarity among peoples displaced internationally by imperialist neoliberal globalization policies and war. The theme of the assembly is highly significant and timely: “March onwards to a world without forced migration: Migrants, refugees and peoples of the world unite and fight capitalist exploitation, plunder and war! Forge the strongest solidarity with the host people in effectively fighting imperialism!”
In consonance with your theme. I wish to discuss my assigned topic “Crisis, Plunder and War: Imperialist Agenda on Migration” as an overview of the current international situation and how it impacts and drives forced migration. I intend to be descriptive and provide you with the framework and some insights for your own discussion and planning.
I appreciate that you provide me as major points of reference such terms as “crisis, plunder and war¨”. These terms refer clearly to social disasters for which the imperialists and their local reactionary allies in the underdeveloped countries are responsible. I shall deal with these terms to define the causes and driving factors of forced migration. But I shall also refer to the natural disasters that are induced and whose effects are aggravated by the imperialists and the local reactionaries because they do not care about the exploited and impoverished people who are vulnerable to such disasters.
The International Organization of Migration defines forced migration as “a migratory movement in which an element of coercion exists, including threats to life and and livelihood, whether arising from natural or man-made causes (e.g. movements of refugees and internally displaced persons as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects)”. According to UN DESA, two thirds of global refugees and in similar situations live in the Global South and only one-third find their way to the Global North.
The report of the UN Refugee Agency in its annual Global Trends study is shocking enough that 68.5 million people had been driven from their homes across the world as of the end of 2017. But the figure is easily much larger if the internally displaced people and the people who have sought refuge in neighboring countries are fully counted. Nevertheless, Global Trends reports that fully 85 per cent of displaced people in developing countries remain in neighboring countries. They are desperately poor and receive little or no assistance from any government or international agency.
Crisis in Underdeveloped Countries
The general run of so-called developing countries are actually underdeveloped, agrarian, semifeudal and preindustrial. They are impoverished, have high rates of unemployment and are in chronic crisis. They are dependent on the production of raw materials and some semi-manufactures for export, whose earnings are never enough to pay for the manufactured imports. They suffer from chronic trade and budgetary deficits. They have to resort to local and foreign borrowing to keep government running, pay for the amortization of the accumulated debt and finance the capital repatriation and profit remittances of the transnational corporations.
The chronic economic and financial crisis, which has been aggravated by the neoliberal policy regime, drives the growing surplus population to run after dwindling farm jobs in the rural areas and odd jobs in the urban areas. This is the kind of internal displacement of people from their homes that is not covered by the surveys of UN agencies and the NGOs. The unemployed who have finished at least high school education and have a viable amount of English can seek overseas migrant work. But even the unemployed who belong to the middle class and have some years or degrees at university level also apply for overseas contract work.
The lack of industrial development and the export of raw materials are the basic cause of the high rate of unemployment causing domestic migration from one part of the countryside to another part or to city slums as well as the export of cheap labor as contract workers or undocumented workers. The element of coercion is not apparent as in the case of refugees due to political persecution, internal armed conflict and wars of aggression. But certainly there is the element of compulsion due to the need for economic survival.
The Philippines is an outstanding case in which more than ten percent (10 to 12 million) of its 107 million population are compelled to take employment abroad. This is more than 25 percent of the Philippine labor force of 44.1 million. The export of cheap Philippine labor, with a high proportion of women is subject to the high psychological and social costs of separation from families, unjust exactions by government and recruitment agencies, over-qualification for menial, dirty and dangerous jobs and lack or insufficiency of legal protection for their basic democratic rights and welfare.
The chronic crisis of the domestic semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system is always prone to aggravation by the ever worsening crisis of the world capitalist system. Since the Asian financial crisis of 1977, the Philippines has suffered sharp falls in the prices of raw materials and semimanufactures and has thereby been further driven to export cheap labor in order to augment foreign loans and foreign direct investments and cope with the perennial balance of payments problem. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the demand for the types of products the Philippines exports has lessened drastically in the course of the stagnation and depression of the world market.
Like the rest of migrant workers from various developing countries, the Filipino migrant workers face the worsening economic and political crisis in the host countries. Most host countries are afflicted by stagnant economies and high levels of public debt. The reactionary currents of fascism, chauvinism, racism and religious bigotry are rising to prejudice the rights and welfare of migrant workers. But there are also progressive forces among the host people that are in solidarity with such organizations as IMA and its component organizations..
Plunder by the Imperialists and their Local Reactionary Accomplices
In the era of modern imperialism or monopoly capitalism, the imperialist states and their banks and corporations have exported surplus capital in the form of loans and direct investments to the underdeveloped countries, be they colonies, semicolonies and dependent states. When the imperialists and their puppets speak of development, they mean improving the infrastructure (the roads, bridges and ports) to facilitate the trade between the raw material exports and manufactured imports. They also build hydro-electric dams to generate electricity and provide irrigation to the farms mainly of landlords and agri-corporations. They do not mean industrial development to lift the captive country from the conditions of underdevelopment, class exploitation and mass poverty.
Under the neoliberal policy regime, private construction has been favored to promote and accelerate consumption and the service sector that are dependent on manufactured imports and foreign loans. It has not led to the production of steel and other metals, machine tools and other products that spell industrialization of an underdeveloped country. In any case, the development of the infrastructure has accelerated the expansion of mining, logging and plantation operations of foreign corporations and their big comprador, landlord and bureaucrat accomplices. Their operations have resulted in the grabbing of the land from the indigenous people and the poor peasant settlers and the destruction of the environment with various disastrous consequences to agriculture, husbandry, fisheries and forestry.
Foreign-financed dam projects have resulted in the outright displacement of entire communities, their graveyards and other cultural stakes. The displaced communities usually receive token governmental compensation and assistance for the destruction of their homes and means of livelihood. Deforestation has resulted in disastrous cycles of flooding and droughts and the disappearance of water sheds and cover from typhoons. Open pit mining has permanently ruined the landscape and has produced heavy outflows of cyanide and other chemicals to poison marine life in the rivers and damage agriculture of the indigenous people and poor peasants.. The mono-crop plantations for export grab the land and the pesticides they use ruin the crops in nearby farms.
Since the 1980s under the neoliberal policy regime favoring private construction for the higher comfort of the upper classes and higher-paid salariat, the real estate firms have built shopping malls, residential subdivisions, high-rise condominiums, plush hotels, golf courses and beach resorts and have increasingly resulted in land grabbing and the eviction of both urban and rural poor. Relative to the rapid growth of population, the land devoted to the production of food staples as well as for prospective land reform synchronized with industrial development has been drastically reduced.
By the very expansion of the mining, logging and plantation operations of the foreign and local corporations and the building of hydro-electric dams, the indigenous peoples have lost their land, forest and marine resources in violation of their right to self-determination and their right to ancestral domain. So do their peasant brothers and sisters suffer from land dispossession in adjoining rural areas. In areas around or close to transportation hubs, the poor residents are also being evicted.
All the people who are forcibly evicted suffer grievously from pseudo- development, sometimes called ”development aggression”. When they protest against their dispossession of homes and land and assert their rights, they are accused of being rebels and insurgents in a vain attempt of puppet authorities to isolate and attack them brutally. It is important that the grass roots organizations of IMA in the underdeveloped countries stand and fight for the rights and welfare of the people subjected to displacement in their own countries by programs and projects of pseudo-development.
Wars as a Cause of Displacing People
In the long history of mankind, wars are the biggest cause of people´s forced migration and displacement. In recent history, inter-imperialist wars like World War I and World War II resulted in massive destruction of lives and property and forced migrations of people. In the course of the Cold War, the wars of aggression unleashed by US imperialism such as those in Korea and Indochina, were hugely deadly and destructive and caused massive forced migrations.
After the Cold War ended, the US took advantage of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union in order to carry out a series of aggressive wars in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Syria. The US, Israel and the NATO are culpable for the destruction of millions of lives and social infrastructure, religious strife , ethnic cleansing, displacement of people within and across nearby countries in Central Asia, South Asia, Middle East and Africa and the forced migration of displaced people to Western Europe. Certain governments aligned to the US like those of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar have also carried out offensives to force the migration or flight of the Palestinian, Zaidi (Houthi) and Rohinya peoples, respectively.
The forced migration of people have also been caused by repressive puppet regimes that become fascist and engage in campaigns of political persecution and wage civil wars against the people and/or against minority nationalities. Most forced migrations are within the country or across a neighboring country. Even after the peace agreement between the Philippine reactionary government and the Moro National Liberation Front, hundreds of thousands of Tausugs from Sulu remain in Sabah because they have no more land and means of livelihood to return to.
Only a relatively few displaced people manage to travel far and become asylum seekers in the developed or advanced capitalist countries, headed by US imperialism, which in fact is the biggest cause of forced migration of peoples. In recent decades, the flow of displaced people from Africa, Middle East and Central Asia to Europe have been frequent news in the Western press. But never has it been mentioned adequately that they are the victims of the wars of aggression, military intervention and plunder by the NATO countries headed by US imperialism.
We in the ILPS salute IMA for standing up and fighting for the rights and interests of the people who become displaced in their country as a result of the economic and political crisis of the ruling system, as a result of plunder and dispossession by foreign and local corporations and by wars of aggression, military intervention and domestic armed conflict or civil wars. We support all your efforts to extend moral and material assistance to all victims of forced migration and to build solidarity among them and with all peoples who adhere to the principle of national self-determination, democracy, equality, social justice and intercultural and international solidarity.
Long live the International Migrants Alliance!
Defend and promote the rights and welfare of the migrants and refugees!
Long live international solidarity of migrants, refugees and host peoples!