Brussels, Belgium July 10, 2007

Parallel to the governmental Global Forum on Migration & Development was the Global Community Forum on Migration, Development, and Human Rights organized by prominent NGOs. Especially since NGOs are marginalized in the government process, the need for NGOs, trade unions, migrant associations and church organizations to organize themselves on this issue is urgent. The inclusion of human rights in the conference title was deliberate. One can not discuss migration without human rights.

One concern Global Workers raised (in addition to portable justice) was the alarming increase of temporary labor migration programs without any thorough analysis of the impact on all the players. What is emerging is a two-tiered worker class. Today’s global work force is being divided into “higher skilled” and “lower skilled” (or unskilled) workers. In general, higher skilled are considered to have professional degrees, while lower skilled do not. Many have expressed concern over the categories, rightly indicating that “lower skilled” professions include many highly skilled manual labor jobs such as masonry and carpentry, amongst others. So the question is how to categorize the two sets of workers in a way that dignifies both? There is no easy answer. For simplicity sake, these titles will be used until more appropriate ones emerge.

Terminology is perhaps the least of our concerns, although representative of the more troubling aspect of the worker segregation—disparate treatment in the receiving countries. In general, higher skilled workers are admitted rather easily anywhere in the world and for the most part have access to permanent residency and eventual citizenship. Lower skilled workers are being increasingly relegated to a temporary status with no mechanism to obtain residency or citizenship. This relegates the lower skilled workers to an unfortunate status analogous to slavery—a group of persons who fill the hardest manual labor jobs but have no access to equal rights or citizenship. For the global economies to increasingly promote a segregated labor regime is an alarming shift backwards for a civilized society.

Due to these and many other issues raised at the Global Community Forum, it was apparent that migrant advocates must build a movement independent of the government process. Although the advocates will be present at the next Global Forum on Migration and Development in Manila, Philippines in 2008 it is important to build our own agenda and movement to ensure that the human rights of migrants is front and center on the world stage.

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