World Social Forum 2009: Migration and workers' rights

31 January 2009 - 10:34am

A speaker representing migrant workers in Hong Kong talked about the conditions faced by the 200,000 migrants who are domestic workers in Hong Kong. She explained that a forum of 33 unions met in December to discuss the creation of a federation. They presented a statement to the International Labor Organisation (ILO), and by 2010 there should be an ILO convention for domestic workers.

The discussion which followed was really challenging. A representative of a South African coal mining union made a very powerful speech about the reasons for migration. She made clear that this is a political issue and we should be dealing with the root causes, not just the symptoms. She pointed out that African migrants did not leave because of the continent's poverty or lack of resources. They migrate because of the flight of capital and resources. If wealth were fairly distributed people would stay. She also raised the issue of the West's history of fuelling conflict in Africa. This discussion certainly resonates with the work we do at War on Want. One of the speaker summed it when he said 'the economy is a tool for us! No to expulsion!'


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