TRADE IN HUMAN MISERY
By Jeremy Seabrook
Third World Network Features
The anger directed by Western governments against the traffickers and
smugglers who bring illegal immigrants into Europe in the trade in human
misery comes as a surprise to observers in the Third World, who cannot help
wondering why the same passion is not expended to stop the creation of human misery
itself; for without it, there would be little economic opportunity for miscreants to make
it the object of their business.
But that would not do, because it would illuminate too clearly the mechanisms whereby poor
people stay poor and rich people stay rich. Hence, the outrage against rings, networks and
conspiracies of ruthless people who have added the traffic in human beings to their list
of crimes. Now worth an estimated US$7 billion a year, this new slave trade
has suddenly become an affront to the West, which is now the recipient of new cargoes of
At the very heart of Globalisation lies the universalising of values of mobility,
enterprise and inventiveness of people in their search for wealth. The disavowal of
economic migrants in this world-wide process is the most glaring contradiction
in the ideology of global integration. Again it demonstrates the serene
prioritising of money and goods over human beings by the controllers and manipulators of
falsely free markets.
Their humanitarian sorrow over the death of 58 people of Chinese origin in a container
truck arriving in Dover on 19 June cannot be taken seriously. Politicians referred to
this appalling episode, this cruel tragedy, and spat their venom
at the phantom gangs and organisers of such inhuman deals. But the very next minute they
are talking of ways of excluding illegal immigrants, refugees, seekers of asylum from both
political and economic oppression, closing borders even more firmly against the
wretchedness and misery in which they want no trade, but to the perpetuation of which they
have contributed so tirelessly.
To arrive at the real story behind this gruesome event, it is necessary to follow, not so
much the trails of traffickers across the globe, and the networks of criminal gangs back
to their source - although to do so is also a necessary task - but to follow the
labyrinthine contortions of the ideology and morality of privilege, to unravel its tangled
and contradictory skeins.
Tough on the trade in human misery, mild on the causes of human misery, might be their
slogan. This dramatic event occurred in a context in which the debate over
asylum-seekers, refugees and illegal immigrants had
begun to shift in Britain.
There has emerged a more or less open discussion of renewed specialised immigration into
Britain for the sake of the contribution such people might make to the economy. Not only
have words like labour shortage and skills deficit been heard for the
first time in a generation, but it is also being suggested that we need new
blood in order to help look after the ageing populations of the West.
According to the Observer (11/06/00), a recent UN study said that the EU will
require 159 million immigrants [in the next 25 years] to maintain the current ratio of
people of working age to the retired population.
This has already surfaced in the efforts to recruit workers qualified in IT (information
technology) and computer technology, as has occurred in the US and Germany; while there is
a perennial need to attract medical personnel from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, South
Africa, Bangladesh and others which have such a surfeit of skills; I think I even read
somewhere that social workers were being sought in China.
The idea has gained ground that qualified personnel might be imported from the Third World
into the rich countries to look after us in our old age (not only in the guise of carers,
but also to give a boost to our flagging pensions funds).
This tentative liberalisation towards international mobility of labour is partly a
recognition of the impossibility of insulating national entities against the exigencies of
globalisation. Such selective economic migrants, however, represent a
particular class of people. It is emphasised that these are not to be the unskilled,
uprooted peasantry, those displaced from subsistence farms, the developmental refUgees and
slum-dwellers in the carceral cities of Asia and Africa. Europe is not going to open its
doors to them. At least, not officially.
Those required, it is stated, are the highly-trained, educated, the labour elite of the
South, educated at great expense by their hard-pressed governments. The loss of their
skills to their own countries is not an issue, even though such skills may be desperately
needed There. The transfer of competent people from the South to the rich countries is
only one of the conduits that serve to widen the gulf between global rich and poor. It is
the brain drain in action.
It is justified by IMF estimates that remittances from such workers are worth US$65
billion a year: what this neat calculation cannot measure is the costs of this splendid
sum to the most wretched - the severing of relationships, the breaking of families, the
absence of fathers, the separations of loved flesh and blood - such sentimental losses are
not measured by the refined instruments of economic advantage.
In the impoverishment of the Third World, this movement of labour scarcely has the same
impact as debt bondage, internal pricing mechanisms within the transnationals, terms of
trade that disadvantage providers of raw materials and so on. But a process that
encourages academics, researchers, scientists, technologists, engineers, intellectuals,
artists and skilled workers to enrich the societies that attract them, nevertheless
represents a significant loss to their places of origin.
In any case, it is argued, Third World skills ultimately benefit all humanity. Their
contribution to the world cannot be quantified in terms of money - one of the rare
instances when market values are briefly suspended. In this context, humanity becomes an
abstraction of convenience to set against poor perishing flesh and blood.
But there is another story, which, in the recent feverish discussion about refugees and
asylum-seekers, may not be publicly told. Waves of economic migrants have always been
necessary to dampen inflationary pressures; a tendency which the United States
is always more prepared to recognise than Europe.
The six million or so illegal immigrants in the USA, many working at levels of bare
survival, serve to lower wages and check inflation. Their illegal status is redeemed by
economic legitimacy - an equation as yet, apparently, too advanced for a Europe
preoccupied with racisms old and new.
So the official ideology remains that money and goods - and some vital personnel - are
unstoppable in the perpetium mobile of globalisation, but poor people must stay at home.
Only the cream of the skilled may be filtered through imporous barriers to sustain the
growing GDP (gross domestic product) of Europe.
What cannot be uttered here, and what is illuminated with brutal clarity by this
weeks events in Dover, is that those who manage to evade the restrictions and
disincentives to cross closed frontiers - whether in leaky boats that do not sink off Ban
or Brindisi, in suffocating container trucks from Romania or Hungary, stowed away in
ships, aircraft or trains - may be absorbed into an industrial anonymity which will permit
them to do their bit for inflationary pressures here. They may find employment in ill-paid
gangs plucking chickens, digging potatoes, picking fruits or serving as cleaners, security
guards, domestics and providers of personal services, for derisory rewards that make a
mockery of the minimum wage.
We may be sure that only the most determined and most persistent will actually evade the
obstacles in place to enter the forbidden lands. Their energy and ingenuity can only add
value to the countries into which they find a path. In other words, the prohibition on
economic migrants is actually a form of triage which will ensure a passage only to the
Audacious liberals who now openly declare that skilled people should be welcomed to our
booming economy are doubly disingenuous. Not only are they illiberal in the extreme to the
poor and destitute of the world from which the highly qualified individuals will be
plucked, but they also suppress the darker story of the perpetual need for a stream of
miserable and despairing newcomers, whose willingness to do anything for a kind of living
maintains the rich in the style to which we have become addicted.
'New blood indeed; transfused from the needy in this way, when it does not perish in
sealed metal coffins, it is food for vampires.
North's Kim 'consents to US forces'
North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il has reportedly agreed to allow
US troops to keep the peace in Korea even after reunification.
Mr Kim made the statement during the summit in June with South Korean President Kim
Dae-jung in Pyongyang, Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper said yesterday.
"The US forces need not withdraw now. The US forces had better stay on to maintain
peace even after the two Koreas are unified," the North Korean leader was quoted as
If confirmed, the remarks mark a major concession after decades of North Korean opposition
to the 37,000 US troops stationed in South Korea.
"This change in North Korean policy has been rumoured in South Korea as being the
real intention of Kim Jong-il," North Korea expert Pyon Jin-ilo said. "But North
Korea demands two things be done before allowing the US military, which Asahi Shimbun did
not mention. The first is striking a US-North Korea peace treaty and second is that the US
military changes its position and plays a more neutral role on the peninsula."
South Korea's President Kim broached the subject on June 14 in the summit talks, the Asahi
"The US forces stationed in South Korea are playing a key role in maintaining
regional peace and stability in Asia. What will become of the regional balance of power if
US forces withdraw?" the South Korean President was quoted as saying.
Kim Yong-sun, secretary of North Korea's Workers Party of Korea, responded by saying US
troops must withdraw from the peninsula, the newspaper said. But Kim Jong-il reportedly
stepped in, asking the party secretary what problems he envisaged and telling him to stop
repeating the demand for withdrawal.
"Like this, the men under me oppose whatever I try to do. Our military probably
thinks the same as secretary Kim," the North's leader was quoted as telling Kim
Dae-jung. "The US forces must not attack us. I agree with some aspects of President
Kim's explanation," he reportedly said, adding US forces could remain after a future
The newspaper account was credible, Mr Pyon said. "What Asahi quotes Kim Jong-il as
saying during the inter-Korean summit is realistic and has credibility," he said.
"But this is all based on information from the South Korean side."
If North Korea either confirmed the report or indicated its acquiescence by ignoring it
altogether, "it would show the North is changing its stance strategically", he
Kim Jong-il's remarks reflected concern over a possible attack by the South, as well as
over Japan's and China's military build-up, according to a South Korean official.
South Korea's Mr Kim noted Pyongyang's repeated demands via its media for the withdrawal
of US troops. Kim Jong-il reportedly said such rhetoric was for domestic consumption.
"It is for domestic purposes," he was quoted as saying. "Our military
functions well partly due to tension [with US forces]. Therefore, I do not want you to
worry too much about it."
15,000 Papuan separatists protest '69
At least 15,000 separatists staged a peaceful protest in the Irian Jaya
town of Manokwari to mark the 1969 referendum that turned western New Guinea island into
an Indonesian province, a report said yesterday.
The Papuans covered a monument commemorating the referendum with black cloth, saying it
was a monument to a historical lie.
The ceremony at the People's Referendum Monument was led by the chairman of the Manokwari
Tribal Institute, Barnabas Mandacan, the state Antara news agency said.
The separatist Morning Star flag was raised, along with the Indonesian red-and-white
emblem. For years, raising the Morning Star flag was outlawed in Irian Jaya, now
officially known as West Papua. Early this year Jakarta said it could be raised if it were
not higher than the Indonesian national flag.
"The (Indonesian) government needs to see this because the people of Papua want to
have their rights back,'' Mandacan told the gathering.
Formerly Dutch New Guinea, Irian Jaya declared independence in 1961 while the Dutch were
still in power there.
But under an interim arrangement with the United Nations, it was ruled by Indonesia after
1963 and incorporated into the republic in 1969 following a controversial limited
referendum under UN supervision.--AFP
THE SOCIO-POLITICAL DIMENSION OF THE
While Mindanao in the Philippines boasts of rich natural resources, its
minority Muslim population continue to languish in poverty and maldevelopment, and to
struggle for self-determination.
By Jun Anave
Manila: The Bangsantoro regard it as their historical
homeland. Non-Muslims believe that it is the land of promise.
Indeed, Mindanao boasts of a very rich history, a history anchored largely on the
centuries-old struggle of its Muslim inhabitants. And it sure is promising: its 94,227 sq
km land area abounds with mineral, forest, agricultural and fishery resources.
But while the Bangsamoro should be taking pleasure in its natural wealth, they continue to
languish in poverty and maldevelopment. The Muslim population, now comprising only about
18% of The estimated 18 million people in Mindanao, is still struggling for
During the Spanish colonisation, the predominantly-Muslim Mindanao was successful in
defying the colonisers through wars financed by its economic surplus. The Muslims,
however, were not as successful against the Americans. Through the Bates Treaty signed in
1899, The US effectively put the Bangsamoro - as the Muslims now call themselves - under
The American colonial period witnessed the promulgation of several land laws that
encouraged emigration to Mindanao. According to a study by Dr Samuel K Tan of the UP
Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP-ENDS), these land laws did not only
quell anti-American sentiments, but also deprived the Moros and the natives or lumads of
the lands they regard as ancestral.
The Moro population in Mindanao dwindled subsequently when Christians from Luzon and the
Visayas began moving in. In the 1918 census, the Moros and lumads still made up 78% of the
Mindanao population while the Christians comprised the remaining 22%. However, the 1970
census revealed a big reversal when the Christians had outnumbered the natives, 3 to 1.
At present, Moros dominate only five provinces in Mindanao. These are Lanao del Sur,
Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan. The first four constitute the Autonomous Region
for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Alongside the massive migration of Christians was the entry of American firms that
capitalised on the regions economic potential. Dr Tan reveals that between 1900 and
1920, about 46 US firms were established in Zamboanga and Sulu. Agricultural colonies were
also said to have been established in Cotabato, Davao, Lanao and Agusan by 1930.
Despite efforts to spur development such as the creation of the Southern Philippines
Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) and the Southern Philippines Development
Authority (SPDA), poverty still pervades in Mindanao, exacerbated further by the ongoing
hostilities between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Based on the 1997 Poverty Statistics from the National Statistical Coordination Board
(NSCB), Mindanao records the highest poverty incidence among the island groups, with half
of its population mired in poverty. Of the countrys 27 million poor population,
Mindanao accounts for 32% of the figure.
ARMM has the highest poverty incidence among the countrys 15 regions, with 62.5% of
its population considered poor. It also has the lowest per capita gross regional domestic
product in the country and the second lowest average annual family income.
Moro-dominated areas still have untapped cradles of rich natural resources, raw materials
and cheap labour. In a public statement, the Davao chapter of the militant Bagong
Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) contends that these areas, especially those where camps of the
MILE are situated, are overflowing wells for super profit and veritably
an investors haven.
Moro activists see this as among the reasons for the militarys aggression.
The present administration is on a mad rampage to hold, consolidate and clear the
Moro-occupied lands to make early the rolling of the red carpet for foreign
capitalists, adds the BAYAN-Davao statement.
Around 19 corporations are currently operating in the Moro provinces of Basilan, Sulu and
Maguindanao. These include transnationals American Rubber Corporation and Sime Darby
Also, the Moroland Sugar Corporation (MSC), established as part of the previous
administrations reconciliation bid with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF),
is eyeing some 25,000 hectares of land in Maguindanao as the site of its milling facility.
Maguindanao was chosen supposedly because of its vast tracts of land, abundant labour,
absence of strikes and its typhoon-free weather.
It can be remembered that in early 1999, the military clashed with the MILF troops manning
the contested lands.
The government has reportedly begun implementing the Liguasan Marsh Development Project
through the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC). The project which involves extraction
of natural gas, will operate on the Liguasan marshland largely occupied by Moro
But while local and foreign capitalists continue to extract profits from Moro lands, Moros
are still being denied their right to economic benefits and resources and their right to
- Third World Network Features
PAK MOON DAM Update
Cabinet yields to demands Assembly of the Poor ends hunger strike
9 August: The government yesterday bowed to pressure from the Assembly
of the Poor and accepted seven out of the eight recommendations made by a neutral
committee charged with solving their problems.
Government spokesman Akapol Sorasuchart said the cabinet agreed with seven proposals made
by Banthorn On-dam's panel.
The government agreed to:
+ Allow locals and NGOs to sit on environmental impact panels.
+ Compensate villagers based on actual damage.
+ Revamp the National Environmental Committee and allow it to participate in environmental
+ Amend the 1992 Environmental Conservation Bill.
+ Allow a multilateral committee comprising state agencies, local administrations and NGOs
to manage water resources with the National Water Resource Committee.
+ Allow the panel to participate in planning and decision-making.
+ Amend forest management laws in line with the constitution.
Mr Akapol said the government disagreed with the recommendation to revoke the cabinet's
June 30, 1998 resolution on land claims verification.
The resolution effectively cancelled two earlier resolutions issued by the Chavalit
administration allowing villagers to live in the forests while their claims were verified
by witnesses. The Chuan cabinet resolution required verification by aerial photos.
Mr Akapol defended the government's resolution, saying the use of aerial photos would
solve the problem of forest encroachment. Copies of that resolution would be distributed
to protesters today, he said.
Assembly of the Poor adviser Wanida Tantiwittayapitak said she had yet to look into
today's proceedings in detail but it appeared the government was only acting under
"Last week we got a spoon and this week we got a plate. For everything we get, we are
forced to work extremely hard to pressure the government for it. I suppose next week we'll
get rice."Protesters yesterday ended their 12-day hunger strike but the assembly was
looking ahead to the possibility of settling down outside Government House for the long
The end of the hunger strike by some 700 protesters was marked by a ceremony by Phra
Paisarn Visalo, a strong proponent of non-violence principles.
The villagers will rest for four days to allow hunger strikers to recuperate. "After
the rest, we will decide on our next move," said Pakdi Chanthajiad, one of the
Rajani Dhongchai, principal of the Children's Village School in Kanchanaburi, will today
begin teaching 23 village children in a makeshift hut outside Government House.
The school, made from bamboo and leaves, is similar to one erected at Mae Moon Man Yuen I,
a temporary village on the banks of the Moon river.
It will have white boards and chairs, but there are no funds yet to provide lunch, books
"The unfair development policy has hurt these children. In a way, it is destroying
our nation since the children are our future. I can't let them sit idly by and do
nothing," she said.
NGO STATEMENT ON NATIONAL INSTITUITIONS
AND THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, XENOPHOPIA AND RELATED INTOLERANCE
Rotorua, New Zealand, August 2000
The NGOs gathered here welcome the World Conference Against Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The massive problems involved
in discrimination in the Asia Pacific region that needs to find expression during this
World Conference. It can build world consensus to eliminated all forms of racial
discrimination and contribute to mutual understanding and goodwill among the peoples.
In reviewing the preparations for this Conference there are several
matters of concern that the NGOs wish to bring to the notice of this conference. As you
know, the first preparatory committee meeting of the conference was held in May 2000.
Prior to that a consultative meeting was held, at Bellagio, Italy. (This was also attended
by several NGO leaders from various parts of the world.) From this meeting a statement was
issued under the title "The Bellagio Statement". This statement made a
comprehensive set of recommendations for the world conference. Unfortunately, the PrepCom
meeting ignored most of these recommendations and its own statement is one of a very
general nature. If the World Conference on racism is to produce guidelines for the
resolution of conflict related to the themes of the conference then the conference must
look in more details at the actual problems confronted by millions of people throughout
The preparatory work for the conference takes place by way of experts
meetings and regional meetings. The European experts meeting has already been held and a
set of recommendations have been developed. However, we note that although the next
experts meeting is to be held in Bangkok by the end of this month, very few preparations
have taken place. What is more disturbing is that the conference theme has been limited to
migration and the trafficking of women. While we support strongly the inclusion of these
two themes we are worried about the exclusion of many other vital issues related to racism
in the Asia Pacific region - a region in which more than half of the world's population
We specifically wish to draw attention to the following issues:
Identify specific forms of racism. This Forum should identify
specific forms of racism in the Asia Pacific region and find ways to advise the
governments of the region about these issues;
The caste system in South Asia, with specific reference to the Dalits
of India (the former "untouchables"). Two hundred million people of India belong
to a category called the Dalits who have been deprived of all basic human rights for
thousands of years. The Indian Constitution made some attempt to deal with this issue.
However, given the enormity of the problem, such redress has not gone to eradicate this
most inhuman form of discrimination. While apartheid can be considered a partial for of
exclusion, the discrimination of the Dalits constitute complete exclusion. It is time that
Asia attends to its obligation to these people;
Indigenous people's rights;
Minority people's rights;
Migration within and outside of Asia;
The representation and full involvement of NHRIs at both PrepCom
meetings (of the World Conference Against Racism) and regional meetings and seminars;
The full participation of NGOs in all PrepCom meetings (of the World
Conference Against Racism) should be ensured;
Adequate representation of minority and indigenous people;
We would like Commissions to review the adequacy or otherwise of
various forms of redress used in the past -e.g. affirmative action -- and make
recommendations for further improvements;
A much wider consultative process within Asia should take place so as
to identify a specific role for the Forum Secreatariate -- the attention given to this
conference so far has been insufficient and must be addressed;
The education section of the background paper needs to include
anti-racism programmes specifically for school so that children receive this education
from a young age, when their values and beliefs are most vulnerable to impression.
*[This statement regarding the World Conference Against Racism
to be held in South Africa in August 2001 was drafted by 24 NGOs from Asia Pacific region
that participated in the Asia-Pacific Forum of Human Rights Institutions.]
World Conference Against
Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance South Africa, 2001
An Appeal to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Fundamental Issues Relating to Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in the Asian Region Need to Be Included in All
Preparatory and Experts' Meetings Leading to the World Conference against Racism
As the preparation for this conference is under way, it is necessary to stress a need for
an open process in which all groups and persons suffering from various forms of
discrimination will be able to bring their situations to the notice of the conference and
to the international community.
Asia is the largest continent in the world with a population amounting to more than 2.5
billion. In this context, it is only natural that there are very acute forms of
discrimination that exist in this vast continent. All preparatory meetings leading to this
conference, particularly those held in Asia, must provide sufficient opportunity for Asian
communities to bring their grievances to the notice of the conference. The two meetings to
be in held in Asia are the Experts' Seminar, 5 -7 September, 2000, in Bangkok, Thailand,
and the Asia Regional Preparatory Committee Meeting in January 2001 in Tehran, Iran.
In these circumstances it is rather disturbing to see that the themes fixed for the
Experts' Seminar to be held in Bangkok is "Migrant Workers and Trafficking of
Persons, with Particular Reference to Women and Children." This way of fixing the
theme will exclude discussion on all other fundamental issues. While the topic that has
been set is of great importance and deserves the support of everyone, it in no way
exhausts the forms of discrimination in Asia. In fact, the theme fixed in this way will
exclude the discussion of many vital issues. For this reason, the beneficiaries of fixing
the theme in this way are the perpetrators who cause such discrimination and political
systems that protect such perpetrators. To shut the door to those groups of persons
defeats the purposes of the world conference and the preparatory work done for that
As the fixing of the themes for such meetings are done by the organizing group of the
conference based in the United Nations High Commissioner's Office, it is necessary that
they take necessary steps to avoid the exclusion of any form of discrimination practiced
in the region from being discussed. This particularly applies to entrenched forms of
discrimination affecting millions of people.
In terms of the forthcoming Experts' Seminar in Asia, this means that either the theme of
the meeting should be changed or, if that is not possible for any reason, to make
allowance for discussion of all issues relevant to the world conference, despite the
narrow limits set by the theme of the seminar.
Therefore, we urge the United Nations High Commissioner to take all steps to avoid
exclusion of vital issues of discrimination in Asia from the forthcoming Experts' Seminar
in Asia. We eagerly await a positive reaction on this matter from the United Nations High
Commissioner of Human Rights.
ONLY A FEW DAYS LEFT TO SIGN THIS PETITION TO STOP ASIAN GOVERNMENTS
FROM IGNORING CRUCIAL DISCRIMINATION ISSUES SUCH AS CASTE OPPRESSION, RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE
AND POOR TREATMENT OF ABORIGINES DURING THE UN CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM!
Go Sign Now!
The Racism Conference is still a year away, but the agenda is being set
now, and government in Asia-Pacific are trying to make sure their own discriminatory
practiced will not be discussed. The appeal is available in English, Spanish and French,
so please inform anyone else who you think would like to see the caste system abolished
about this petition.
IF YOU CANNOT ACCESS THE INTERNET EASILY, the petition is pasted below
this message - to sign you can read it and send a reply to this email, ie. to <email@example.com>, with the words....
"Sign WCAR Petition"
.....in the subject line.