OFW group lauds Pinoy journalist; Aquino called on to ensure protection, “regularization, not criminalization” of undocumented migrants

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers and families Migrante International lauded Filipino Pulitzer Prize winner and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas for his courageous article depicting his plight and struggle as an undocumented immigrant.

Vargas’ article has recently been published in The New York Times and has drawn appreciation and praise from OFWs and families worldwide.

“Millions of undocumented Filipino migrants worldwide can relate to Vargas’ predicament. We thank him for bravely speaking out and lending his voice to the nameless and countless undocumented migrants who live in constant fear of being found out in countries where they are viewed as ‘illegal’ and most of time discriminated upon,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez, himself an undocumented OFW in South Korea for 12 years before he was deported to the Philippines, commended Vargas for his bravery. “It is not easy to come out and say that you are undocumented, especially during these times. The present global economic crisis has unleashed so-called ‘protectionist measures’ characterized by crackdown operations and harsher immigration policies that bear down on irregular or undocumented workers, at the expense of their human rights.”

He added, “Undocumented migrants, who inevitably provide the solution to labor shortages or the clamor for cheap labor in host countries, are marginalized and exploited. They are less able to assert their claims and are more vulnerable to abuses because of their ‘illegitimacy’.”

“Being undocumented is never reason to be stripped of one’s fundamental human rights,” he said.

In the Middle East and Asia Pacific, for instance, undocumented migrant workers endure slave-like conditions and are paid far below the living wage. “But they tolerate these because for them working abroad is still a better option than to go back to the Philippines where no job opportunities and livelihood are available to them.”

According to records of Migrante International, the number of undocumented Filipino workers deployed in different countries has reached approximately 900,000 in 2007. “This number has continued to increase over the years, especially in light of continued unemployment and landlessness here in the Philippines. The growing number of undocumented OFWs worldwide is indicative of the ongoing crisis of forced migration and systemic economic crisis in the country.”

Martinez called on the Aquino administration to ensure the protection of undocumented OFWs and to work for their legalization. “Our call is for regularization, not criminalization. Human rights, regardless of status, should not be violated. Undocumented migrants worldwide contribute greatly to the economies of their host nations and to the domestic economy as well in terms of their remittances.” ###