Monday, September 22, 2008

European and African Unions Meet on Immigration

Militant African and European Unions Meeting to Coordinate Struggles on Immigration

Mike Tolochko

Citing the following conditions assembled European and African trade unionist met:

The consequences of the policies of capitalist globalization, the role of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and the activities of multinationals in the African countries, which is among the root causes giving rise to migration;

The problems arising from the transfer of international capital to achieve equality and justice trade relations withing the framework of international trade;

The elimination of external debt on African countries;

The immigration policies of the European Union [EU] Tens of thousands of people remain in detention centres, in modern concentration camps;

The phenomena of racism and xenophobia reappear slowly;

The violation of trade union and democratic freedoms.

It is these conditions that a resolution was passed that which urges the following:

Work in coordination and exchange of opinions among us at the level of the ILO, UNESCO, the IOM and the other special UN agencies supporting the rights of migrant workers;

The holding of seminars and workshops to support the vital requirements of workers and labor movements including lectures and studies, scientific seminars, forums and conferences.

The host union, PAME, of Greece, committed itself to:

Organize in 2009 a campaign for the rights of African migrants in Europe;

To create text positions on the problems of immigrants and then after discussing with trade unions from Africa and Europe to submit them to the ILO, IOM and UNESCO; and, finally, to propose to the WFTU a sympolic inervention of militant unions during the next session of the ILO in 2009.

Conference Opens

George Perros, International Relations head of PAME [All Workers Militant Front], opened the conference and laid out the format for the next couple of days. He said he had to stop the normal proceedings of the meeting due to the policies of the European Union which is making it almost impossible for trade unionist to travel from Africa to Europe.

For example, for this our session, 4 representatives from Congo were denied Visas and another from Gabon was denied. Another trade unionist from Liberia was denied a visa. It is his union that is leading the struggle of agricultural workers against the repressive agricultural policies of the United States.

Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Greek Government was to deliver an opening welcome, but she could not attend due to an emergency. Her statement was read. In that statement she that this conference has their full support. She said that it was globalization that was causing people, forcing people, to find work in Europe. Their government was struggling to maintain a mutli racial and multi national society. She said that she is sure this conference will help in that process and she looks forward to hearing its results.

Opening Keynote

Perros opening the session. He said that the purpose of the conference was to help us better organize our struggles against the barbaric system of capital globalization which has created povery and wars. He cited world capitalism and the the United States as prime mover in that process.

He cited a theme that was repeated throughout the day. That was the main problem of AFRICAN DEBT. He cited the pharmaceutical industry in that debt accumulation. Cheap labor, espcially, woman workers, are being trafficked at alarming numbers. 20 million to Europe alone. 1.3 million to Greece, many from Africa. The Europen Union is considering legislation to further exacerbate the problems, he said; not solved it.

Miro of the WFTU

Abid Miro, of Syria, representing the WFTU, brought greetings from the WFTU. He also cited the huge burden of debt and the neo liberal policies the EU, the USA and other capitalist countries as the root cuase. He was looking forward to these deliberations, but was very angry about the denial of visas to African trade Unionists.

Ibrahima Sylla, Coordinator for the WFTU in AFrica and from Senegal, thanked PAME for hosting this important conference. He said that this represents an important step for the WFTU and one which will certainly grow. He said that cynical policies which bring this migration by exploiting multi national companies and countries which support these policies are the same that bring harsh immigration policies which force migrants into the hand of human traffickers. They rob of their dignity and bring fear and anxiety to that they won't join unions and fight for their worker rights.

He cited ILO resolution #143 on the Rights of Immigrants.

Abu baker Elsdigg Babiler Mohamed , the Secretary of External Relations for SWTUF of Sudan, also cited the importance of this seminar as a coordinator for future actions.

Boris Boniface, the Exec National Secretary of FESCOS-CCAM, Cameroun, also called for more such meetings to bring these immigration issues to as many trade unionists as possible. But, he also said that he had tremenous problems in obtaining a visa. He had to bring mounds of paper work to the government and the questions he had to answer were demeaning. He has to report on his every activity, including, reporting when he returns home.

Cheikh Sid' Ahmed Sidoummou, the General Secretary of UGTM from Mauritanie, focused on the debt of African countries. He also called attention to the continuing influence of the original colonizers of African countries which gained their independence. These influence must be addressed.

Portugal Transport Unions

Jose' Manuel Oliveira, national coordinator [president], Protugeuse Transport Trade Union Federation, and Fernando Mauficio, ofthe same union, spoke about the intensification of the exploitation taking place. He said that his union has seen this exploitation first hand. It is the transport unions who often work onthe boats where the migrants from across the Mediteranean Sea. He said that we have seen first hand the dying and misery of these migrants. He said that only through strengthing of the class ortiented unions would this change; and it is.

Two repesentatives of the General Union of Palestinian Workers, from Ramallah, attended and spoke: Mohammad Nayef Saleh Yahya, Member General Secreteriat; and Abdul Hadi Abdullah Dar Abu Taha, General Secreriat. They spoke about the continuing occupation by the Israeli government and the closing of over 40% of factories forcing workers to become migrants to survive. They were very please that the PAME and WFTU were taking this initiative. Other union federations are not offering the kind of assistance that can really change things for the better.

Dr. Frank Goldsmith, permanent representative for the WFTU at the UN, reported that the UN often puts forwards good words and sometimes sessions on the problems of migrants. But, these are never done with a worker and trade union focus. Kofi Anan's Millennium Development Goals helped in this process, but Ban Ki-Moon doesn't seem as interested in this kinds of economic and social issues. He needs to be pressured.

Goldsmith then focused on the NAFTA policies of the USA, enacted by Democratic Party leader Bill Clinton. These policies have just about destroyed the economy of Mexico. This has dramatically increased the migrant of Mexican nationals to the US. The "normal" migration in California and Arizona has been significantly increased. In the north,New York City, for example, well over 600,000 Mexican natinals now work where just a few years ago there were very few. The manipulation of this issue by the ultra right in the USA has caused the US Congress to vote for a 700 mile concrete wall between the US and Mexico. Both political parties leadership support this wall. Even both presidential candidates support it.

Onthe other hand, massive demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of US workers and peoples have demonstrated against these inhuman policies. These have been lead, in part, by the leadership of organized labor. The AFL-CIO, radically changing its previous xeonphobic positions, has done a good job in this struggle. But,much more needs to be done.

Clearly, coordination between unions in this room with labor unions in the US is a good next step

PAME Unionist Speak UP

Chrysoula Lamboudi, member of the PAME secreteriat and head of the Womens Secretariet, reported ont the Sunday language sessions held for immigrants in Athens. Over 150 are now attending classes and many more are expected.

Textile and leather workers are organizing migratn workers who are being hired into their industry. They are being urged to seek union office and recently one was elected president.

These sessions were translated in English, French, Arabic and Greek.

Sunday Session

At the Sunday session, George Mavrikos, head of the WFTU, spoke. More on his remarks soon.

The draft resolution as cited above, was changed a little, but the essence as said above was adopted.

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