Strenthen our ranks and struggle”, with these words echoing, more than 100 migrants and refugees representing mass organizations from several European countries gathered to convene the founding assembly of the Europe section of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) in Rome, Italy last April 29. The migrants and refugees at the IMA Europe launching came from the Philippines, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Nigeria, Senegal, Romania, Ukraine, Albania, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Tunisia.
Rome, May 8, 2012 – “With the theme, “Strengthen the unity of migrants to advance the struggle for rights and welfare in the midst of the worsening economic crisis, deportations and the criminalization of migrants in Europe”, the delegates militantly vowed to raise to a higher level their organized strength, voice and visibility, including their advocates in Europe, according to Grace Punongbayan of Migrante Europe, a member of the IMA International Coordinating Body, and one of the convenors of the IMA Europe founding assembly.
The IMA is a broad anti-imperialist alliance which defends and promotes the rights of migrants, immigrants and refugees in all parts of the globe. It has a membership of 108 organizations of various nationalities in 25 countries and was founded in June 2008 in Hong Kong. Since then, it has spearheaded various international campaigns advancing migrant and refugee rights and welfare, and the convening of the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), in Manila in 2008, in Athens in 2009, and in Mexico in 2010, as counter to the government-led Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).
The migrants and refugees, who assembled at the Casa per Ferie Sacro Cuore in the Italian capital, unfurled a mural crafted by a young Filipino refugee in the Netherlands, offered candles, flowers and a one-minute silence for migrants and refugees who died in detention, deportation and on the borders of Europe. There are now 14,000 recorded deaths of people trying to cross Europe’s borders, particularly those crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, according to the Amsterdam-based anti-racist group United for Inter-cultural Action. In 2011 alone, there were 1,500 deaths.
“We are holding this assembly to fight for justice – against the anti-migrant policies of the US and EU governments, we fight for justice for the working people, the unemployed, the pensioners and the poor. In our home countries, we fight for a social system that creates jobs, where family members are not forced to migrate and look for work abroad as a means of survival. In so doing, we fight for a world where there are jobs for the jobless, homes for the homeless, food for the hungry, and justice for all,” stressed Punongbayan in her keynote speech to the assembly.
The whole-day assembly was highlighted by animated and passionate discussions on the general situation of migrants and refugees in Europe, which is host to some 72.6 million migrants, and the particular situation in several European countries such as Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Belgium and Germany.
The delegates talked about their exploitation, threats of expulsion, loss of jobs, the denial of their right to access social services, the isolation of refugees in camps and asylum centers denying them social contact with the local people, denial of their right to free movement, deportations, tragic deaths of relatives, co-migrants and refugees,missing loved ones, the imperialist-instigated wars they suffered from, and racism and discrimination.
The delegates adopted the IMA constitution, bases of unity, general program of action, and resolved – to break the silence on the inhuman treatment of refugees, particularly in Germany; to call on the Italian state to locate Karim Mbarki, a missing son of Tunisian parents, while attempting to seek safe refuge in Italy; to call for democratic reforms in Ukraine; and, to actively engage other migrants and advocates during the upcoming Alternative Forum being organized by the IMA parallel to the World Social Forum on Migration to be held in Manila in November this year.
The delegates also vowed to launch this year a vigorous campaign against the European Union “Return Directive” that seeks to criminalize some 12 million undocumented migrant workers in Europe and deport them back to their home countries.
To lead the IMA Europe is a 7-person committee that will ensure that the program of the alliance adopted at the assembly is advanced, and that this international movement of migrants and refugees reaches out to more migrants across the continent.
The IMA Europe committee is composed of the following: Luz Miriam Jaramillo (Colombia) of Comitato Immigrati-Italy, chairperson; Teddy Dalisay (Philippines) of Umangat Migrante-Rome, vice chairperson; Grace Punongbayan (Philippines) of Migrante Europe-Netherlands, secretary general; Manuel Sarmiento (Philippines) of Migrante-Austria, treasurer; Bye Uba (Senegal) of DIOUF-Milan, member; Marcia Quizpi (Ecuador) of Frente Unido de Inmigrantes en Espana-Spain, member; and, Osaren Igbinoba (Nigeria) of the Voice Refugee Forum- Germany, member.
IMA Europe section secretariat
Amsterdam, The Netherlands