About the Tribunal

The International Migrant Tribunal on the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) put on trial the GFMD for its neoliberal design on migration that posits that sustained and orderly migration leads development. This event particularly highlighted the resistance of grassroots migrants against such machinations.

The tribunal heard testimonies from witnesses from migrant grassroots organizations that actively oppose the GFMD. These organizations coordinated and planned the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) in Manila (2008), Athens (2009), and Mexico City (2010). Judges heard testimony from three expert witnesses and six issue based witnesses.

The organizers prepared an indictment and served the indictment to the accused. The accused was the various national governments who have played key roles in the GFMD, in particular members of the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee includes Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Migrant Tribunal invite

The Verdict

The judges of the International Migrants’ Tribunal found the GFMD guilty of all charges.

Excerpts from the Verdict shown below:

“The Complainants have indeed taken a significant historical step in their continuing efforts to chronicle and document the long-running abuses and unbridled violations of the human rights of migrants all over the world.  They had come together as one before this political Tribunal in a bold move to utilize another alternative forum to make accountable the forces and institutions that perpetuate their exploitation, misery and plight.

Complainants have established with clear, convincing and credible evidence that the neoliberal globalization design on migration that meets the needs of imperialist countries and maintains the supply of cheap and skilled contractual workers from developing and underdeveloped countries is crystallized in Defendant GFMD.

Several years after its inception, Defendant GFMD continues to disseminate the notion that migration leads to development. It has been pushing harder for the alignment of migration policies to complement neo-liberal policies. The intent is to regulate the flow of cheap labor, keeping in mind the economic benefits from migrant labor. Whatever economic gains derived from migration benefit a small minority (e.g. big business, bureaucrats) especially in countries of origin.

Defendant GFMD’s ostensible thrust is to promote “migration for development.” In reality, Defendants are complicit in the crimes of commodification, criminalization of the undocumented and death on the borders, modern-day slavery, and criminal neglect and abuse of the rights and welfare of migrants.

The Defendant GFMD thereby helps prop up and perpetuate States’ socio-economic systems that oppress and exploit not only migrants and migrant families but the broad majority of toiling people.”

The Verdict includes the following recommendations from the judges:

  1. The abolition of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) and the abrogation of its policies.
  2. The adoption by sending States of genuine national economic development policies that will curb forced migration. States are enjoined to adopt policies that will develop local economy, promote employment opportunities for its people and discourage migration;
  3. The adoption and implementation by the States of national policies that are in line with international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrants and Their Families. Existing policies that do not accord with such international instruments should be rescinded;
  4. Defendants should investigate, prosecute, institute effective mechanisms, compensate and indemnify the migrant victims and their families for the damage they have sustained as a result of the violations, crimes, and offenses herein charged
  5. Defendants should give restitution to the migrants of the material, personal, and moral damages that resulted from the implementation of the immoral, unjust, and inhumane policies of Defendant GFMD like EU Return Directive;
  6. Scrap globalization policy of receiving and sending States as it was proven detrimental to rights of the peoples of the world to life, dignity, liberty, livelihood, and self determination, among others
  7. Scrap the labor export policy and institute a rights-based policy approach on migration.

To read the full verdict of the International Migrant Tribunal on the GFMD please see the link below:

Verdict

The Indictment

The Indictment accused the GFMD as represented by the heads of states and various agencies of the following charges:

  1. Violation of the Complainants’ human rights. At the pretext of protecting Complainants’ human rights, the Defendants prescribe migration policies in furtherance of their neoliberal agenda of commodification of labor and modern-day slavery.
  2. Criminal neglect of Complainants’ economic rights and violation of their political, economic, social and cultural rights by the Sending States.
  3. Violation of the Complainants’ political, economic, social and cultural rights by the Receiving States.

Other excerpts from the Indictment:

“Since its first meeting in Brussels in 2007, Defendant GFMD’s agenda, through and represented by the heads of governments and relevant agencies of the States forming its Steering Committee, and all other similar formations or other entities acting for or on its behalf, name and stead, has been to intensify the commodification of migrant workers by enforcing neo-liberal globalization policies even further through various schemes. The flexibilization of labor in a global scale is one of the major components of the neoliberal policy.

While it professes to pursue migration to lead to genuine development, it has become obvious that Defendant GFMD aims only to “manage migration” and not to solve the roots of forced migration. In its second meeting in Manila, it talked about the rights of migrants but only insofar as these do not deter in the alignment of migration to national development policies dictated by neoliberal globalization…

Several years after its inception, Defendant GFMD, through and represented by the heads of governments and relevant agencies of the States forming its Steering Committee, and all other similar formations or other entities acting for or on its behalf, name and stead, continues to disseminate the notion that migration leads to development. It has been pushing harder for the alignment of migration policies to complement neo-liberal policies. Simply put, the intent is to regulate the flow of cheap labor, keeping in mind the economic benefits from migrant labor…

Many destination countries have established more stringent labor and immigration laws and enforcing tighter border controls. Immigration agencies have conducted more raids which have become harsher. There is also an increasing trend in criminalizing migrants without appropriate papers. Under these laws, migrant workers are treated as criminals…Defendants  are complicit in the crimes of commodification, criminalization of the undocumented and death on the borders,  modern-day slavery, as well as criminal neglect and abuse of the rights and welfare of migrants.”

To read the full Indictment served on the member countries of the GFMD please click below:

The Indictment

Summation of the Prosecution

In a closing statement, the prosecution provided a summary of its arguments against the GFMD.

  1. On the First Charge: We have established that Defendants have violated Complainant’s human rights by prescribing migration policies in furtherance of their neoliberal agenda of commodification of labor and modern-day slavery.
  2.  On the Second Charge: We have demonstrated the criminal neglect of Complainants’ economic rights and violation of their political, economic, social and cultural rights by the Sending States.
  3. On the Third Charge: We have shown the violation of the Complainants’ political, economic, social and cultural rights by the Receiving States.

The prosecution provided evidence on the following issues to proving that the Defendants a) promote measures violating the rights of migrants; b) remain silent about systemic violations; and c) habitually fail to alleviate the plight of migrants. The testimonies describe abuses and violations as a result of the following policies or conditions:

  1. European Return Directive (Luz Miriam Jaramillo)
  2. Refugees (Rex Osa)
  3. Domestic Workers (Eni Lestari)
  4. Women Migrant Workers (Viviana Medina)
  5. Seafarers (Gregario Cagod)
  6. Labor Export Policy (Gerry Martinez) 

Please see link below for the full summation of the prosecution:

IMT Prosecution’s Closing Summation

Testimony and Affidavit of Garry Martinez

Gerry Martinez is a former undocumented worker in South Korea and the incoming chairperson of Migrante International. Migrante International is a worldwide alliance of Filipino workers in 90 countries around the world. He testified before the Tribunal about the effects of Labor Export Policy (LEP) on the Philippine economy. LEP, promoted by the GFMD, does not contribute to real economic development but contributes to further economic regression and results in abuse of migrant workers.

“The phenomenon of labor migration is the result of the increasing under-development of nations caused by the imposition of neoliberal policies. Contrary to what the GFMD claims and promotes, it does not facilitate development. Migration as a tool for development is a myth. The truth is, labor migration has resulted in the further commodification of the labor force and service sectors of underdeveloped nations at the expense of genuine national development.” (Testimony of Gerry Martinez)

“The GFMD is promoting the Philippine model of labor export to other countries in the South advocating this system as a means to achieve development through migration. However, it is glossing over the fact that after four decades of labor export policies, the Philippines has not experienced real development from migration and labor export policies are taking place at great expense to the migrant laborers especially from the working classes.” (Testimony of Gerry Martinez)

Please see link below for full testimony:

Garry Martinez affidavit

Gerry Martinez testifying before judges

Gerry Martinez testifying before judges

Testimony and Affidavit of Gregorio Cagod

Gregario Cagod testified before the Tribunal on the issue of seafarers. Mr. Cagod is the vice president of the National Union of Seafarers Crewing Danish Ships (FILDAN) and a board member of the International Seafarers Action Center in the Philippines (ISAC).

Mr. Cagod discussed the conditions of seafarers around the world. Seafaring remains one of the most dangerous professions. According to the International Maritime Health Association, “it has been established that seafaring is one of the most physically demanding professions in one of the most dangerous work environments: the sea.” The global maritime trade accounts for 5 percent of the total global economy and employees more than one million seafarers from around the world. Seafarers suffer from exploitation, discrimination, poor working conditions, and neglect. Mr. Cagod received a severe brain injury while abroad a vessel after falling from a ladder. After surgery, the company denied him disability benefits until he filed a case before the NLRC.

For the full testimony of Mr. Cagod, please see the link below.

Gregorio Cagod affidavit

Testimony and Affidavit of Viviana Medina

Viviana Medina testified via video before the Tribunal on the issue of female migrant workers. Born in Mexico, Ms. Medina first traveled to Canada in 2006 as a refugee. The Canadian government denied her application for refugee status, so she returned to Mexico, but returned to Canada in 2009 through the sponsorship of her husband. She currently works with the Immigrant Workers’ Center.

Ms. Medina shared her experience as an undocumented, female migrant worker in Canada. She expressed the vulnerability she felt while working in Canada. She worked “in all jobs from the countryside, picking apples, in textiles, in cleaning, in the kitchen.” According to Canadian law, a person waiting for sponsorship may not seek a work permit which forced Ms. Medina to work “under the table.” She received less than minimum wage  frequently worked extremely long hours. As an undocumented worker, she could not seek redress which her employers knew very well. “They know you have no documents. Where will you go? Where does a person go? Where do we go to complain? Who will protect us?”

In addition to discussing the challenges she faced as an undocumented worker, Ms. Median described the effect of her gender on her ability to provide for her family. “Women do no earn as much money as men in the country where we migrate. For example, here [Canada], women earn less, at these agencies at least we get paid less because we are women. “

“So I ask that more protection be given to women, better access. We should not be judged by our status, whether we have status or not, you have to have access. It is a matter of dignity and critical for the life of any human being.”

To read to full transcript of Ms. Medina’s testimony, please click the link below. To watch her testimony, see the link to the right of the page.

Viviana Medina transcript