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Jul 27, 2007
Speech for the Rights and Welfare of Migrant workers in Europe
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Estrella del Pais of Migrante Europe delivered this speech of Estrella del Pais of Migrante at the conference "In Solidarity against deportation, exclusion and exploitation" during the stop of the CARAVAN-Tour 2007 in Düsseldorf held on May 25, 2007.

 

Good morning to all of you, brothers and sisters in the struggle for the rights and welfare of migrants and refugees, against racism and discrimination and against imperialism.

 

We from MIGRANTE-Europe salute you in KARAWANE for the militant actions you are taking in this KARAWANE Tour to expose and oppose the gross injustices committed against migrants and refugees by agencies of the German government. We stand together in our common fight against their exclusion, deportation and oppression.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Estrella and I am representing MIGRANTE-Europe. MIGRANTE-Europe is a network of progressive Filipino organizations of migrants and refugees. We stand for the rights and welfare of this sector. In the long term, we are working for a Philippine society where Filipinos do not have to be separated from their families because of forced migration and we are for a sovereign and democratic
Philippines.

Today I would like to focus on the issue of undocumented migrant workers and refugees in
Europe. The reasons - first, they make up a very vulnerable sector and second, because they constitute a sizeable number with hundreds of thousands of undocumented throughout Europe. In the Netherlands, the amnesty campaign for the "out-of-procedure" 26,000 asylum seekers is still going on.

Undocumented workers are workers without rights! They are deprived of their employment rights such as pension, unemployment, sickness and maternity benefits. Moreover, they do not have social rights like the rights to housing, education for the children and health care. They are exploited and are easily exploited by their bosses because they do not have any legal rights. In cases when they are abused, they cannot stand up to their bosses to complain. If they do there is only one way to go- that is to get fired. They are thrown into a very vulnerable situation.

In the
Netherlands, there are 70,000 undocumented workers. They are mostly employed in the greenhouses (greenhouse agriculture) where they grow vegetables and in flower fields. One district with a lot of greenhouses is in Westland near Den Haag. There the number of undocumented workers has grown rapidly. In recent years, there are more Bulgarians, Polish and Ukrainians. The bosses no longer want Turkish and Moroccan undocumented workers because they ask for 6-7 Euros/hour while the East Europeans are given only 3-4 Euros/hour.

Undocumented workers in
Westland work 12 hours/day, 7 days a week. They pick flowers, tomatoes, paprika, cucumber. According to OKIA (Support Committee for Illegal Workers), a greenhouse owner saves 20,000 Euros per worker per year.

The exploitation of these workers has aggravated with the entry of uitzendbureaus. It used to be that workers were hired directly by the bosses. Now they are employed by the uitzendbureaus. These employment agencies earn 5 Euros/ hour/worker. As a result, the migrant workers are exploited twice. First by the boss and next by the uitzendbureau.

Mustafa Agyun in an interview said: "If I can work legally with a work permit, I don't have to be exploited by an uitzendbureau. But now I cannot fight back because I do not exist juridically. Who wants to work for 5 Euros an hour? ... I always have to follow what my boss says. We are the modern slaves of the
Netherlands."

Undocumented Filipino workers also belong to this category. Filipino migrant workers in
Europe has increased significantly since the 70's to an estimate of 800,000 Filipinos. They are spread out in big European cities like Rome, Milan, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, London , Athens. 85% are women. A large majority work as domestic helpers and at the least 50% are undocumented.

Under the Koppelings Wet which took effect in the
Netherlands in 1998, all undocumented including Filipino domestic helpers lost their social rights, and their employment rights. With no medical insurance, they cannot afford to get sick while young adults cannot afford to build a family.


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