REAL ISSUES

Global Forums Focus on Immigration Issues

Civil society organisations from around the world are revving up to highlight how governments -especially the United States and Mexico -violate the rights of immigrants. (951 Words) – By Emilio Godoy

Mexico-U.S. border wall at Mariposa point-of-entry. Photo: Jeb Sprague/IPS

Mexico is hosting the two international meets: The first is the Alternative Global Forum of Peoples in Movement, Nov. 2-5 in the Mexican capital, where participants will present the situations of migrants around the world and proposals for dealing with the problems they face.

Almost at the same time, Peoples’ Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (PGA) is meeting in the context of the 4th Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), and will take place Nov. 3-5 in the Pacific coastal city of Puerto Vallarta, 890 kilometres west of Mexico City.

“Governmental response to migrations is key. We are talking about obligations contracted under the various conventions on human rights,” said Camilo Pérez, member of the International Tribunal of Conscience organised by Peoples in Movement.

The 4th Forum, presided by Mexico, is an activity outside the purview of the United Nations, though it emerged in 2006 from a recommendation of the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, overseen by the UN General Assembly. The official delegations will meet Nov. 8-11 in Puerto Vallarta.

“We are going to make a global proposal about the need for legal reforms in the context of immigrants’ rights,” PGA organising secretary Jorge Romero told IPS.

The agenda of the 4th Forum, whose slogan is “Partnerships for Migration and Human Development: Shared Prosperity, Shared Responsibility,” focuses on related social policies and population mobility.

Meanwhile, the PGA civil society representatives will take up issues like strategic indicators on migrations, human rights, climate change, public policies, and networks and organisations.

The UN-sponsored High Level Dialogue convened the organisation of a forum in which voluntary measures could be presented for discussion by the governments. The first took place in Brussels in 2007, the following year it was held in Manila, and in Athens last year.

Worldwide there are 214 million immigrants, according to the UN. An estimated 500,000 Latin Americans pass through Mexico each year on their way to the United States, say experts and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Some 12 million undocumented, Spanish-speaking immigrants live in the United States, of which half are of Mexican origin.

“We insist on the right to migrate. We want an effective process. We must overcome the resistance of the governments receiving and expelling migrants,” Christian Ramírez, who plans to attend the 4th Forum, told IPS. He is coordinator for immigrants’ rights at the non-governmental U.S.-based American Friends Service Committee.

The massacre of 72 migrants in the eastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, discovered on Aug. 24, has heated up debate on migration. Activists want to focus on the rights of the Central and South Americans who cross Mexico without proper documents and the threats they face, such as kidnapping and beatings — and death.

Survivors of that massacre include Ecuadorean Freddy Lala, a Honduran man who remains in Mexico in government custody, and a Salvadoran man who is believed to have reached the United States. Seventy-six people were travelling in the convoy intercepted and attacked by the notorious drug cartel Los Zetas, according to testimony from Lala, who is under protection in Ecuador.

The 4th Forum is expected to draw more than 1,000 officials, scholars and NGO delegates from around the globe, while the PGA sessions will convene some 1,500 people from more than 100 organisations.

One of the main attractions will be the Peoples in Movement International Tribunal of Conscience, with symbolic trials of the controversial law SB 1070 of the southwestern U.S. state of Arizona, and of the former Mexican emigrant Elvira Arellano.

The Arizona law, which took effect in July, authorises police to inquire into the immigration status of any person based on “reasonable suspicion.” Critics say the legislation leads to racial profiling and violations of civil liberties. The law is widely rejected by Latin American governments and NGOs.

“We are going to continue fighting for the respect of migrants’ rights. We are going to continue demanding it in international forums and will take the case of the 72 massacred to the ‘tribunal of conscience’,” said Arellano, a member of the non-governmental United Latina Family Without Borders, founded in 1987.

This 34-year-old Mexican woman, who lives in the northwestern state of Michoacán, has become an icon of migration after spending a year in refuge at the Adalberto Methodist Church in the U.S. city of Chicago. In the end, she was deported to Mexico in 2007.

The first session of the Tribunal will take place in Quito, Oct. 7-9, and continue Nov. 4-6 in Mexico City.

“At the Forum we will present the situation of the Mexico-U.S. border to create better standards for migration and ensure the portability of human rights,” explained Ramírez, whose American Friends Service Committee focuses on humanitarian aid, peace, human rights and reconciliation.

Before the Tamaulipas massacre, “the Mexican government had taken up the forum’s organisation with little attention to the challenges faced by people passing through the country in conditions of insecurity and lack of access to justice. It will no longer be able to marginalise this issue from the main discussions,” said PGA organiser Romero.

An annual average of 500 people die in the border area in their attempts to reach U.S. soil, according to government and civil society groups alike. So far this year, at least 200 people have died.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Senate has already approved reforms of the General Law on Population so that immigrants, regardless of their legal status, can file complaints of abuse and have access to judicial services.

Originally published by Inter Press Service. © www.streetnewsservice.org

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