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UN report reminds of rights of people on the move

First Posted 13:29:00 11/03/2009

MANILA, Philippines?Former Dubai-based bus driver Lisandro feels less awkward despite having been on the road on a passenger seat for over 10 hours. He and 136 male bus drivers have grown accustomed away from the steering wheel since having been stranded in Dubai for three months before coming home April.

They have been on the move ever since, going to and from a non-government group?s office here to the courts, where they filed a class suit against a local recruiter and a lending company.

The latter two, they claimed, stepped on the brake in their income and lives.

The drivers? story speaks of what a recently released UNDP Human Development Report said about human mobility: It expands human freedom sans guaranteeing a direct positive impact on the well-being of peoples.

All the more, the United Nations Development Programme report said, the rights of these migrants must be ensured.

Not everyone can gain from human movement and ?movers can end up worse off,? said the report titled ?Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development.?

While the report recognized that international and internal migration (within a country) provided gains and losses for people who have moved, it admonished that such must be backed by human rights.

Realizing the larger gains of human mobility for human development also calls forth ensuring the basic rights of movers, the UNDP report said.

These include the following rights: to equal remuneration for work, to organize and to collective bargaining, to not be subjected to arbitrary detention and miss out due process in the event of deportation, not to suffer cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and to return to countries of origin.

There is no sound reason for any government to deny basic migrants? rights, the UNDP said in its report.

Of nearly one billion movers, or people on the move, worldwide, 740 million are internal migrants and the rest are international migrants. Among the over-200 million international movers, only two-fifths of them move from developing to developed countries.

Given higher incomes received from newer places of settlement, movers have much higher incomes than stayers?from $2,480 in countries with ?very high? human development indices (HDI) to $13,736 to countries with low HDI.

The Philippines is among 75 countries with ?medium human development.?

Ironically, the United Arab Emirates, where Lisandro and his comrades were sent to, is one of 38 countries with ?very high human development.?

Wheels on a bus

Lisandro, a native of Ilocos Sur, which is 6,742 kilometers away from Dubai, was promised a monthly pay of $1,500 (P70,500 at $1=P47).

He and his fellow bus drivers were recruited by licensed local recruiter CYM International Services for jobs at Dubai?s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

Based on the documents they submitted to the court, the workers each paid P150,000 ($3,191.50) as one-time placement fee each.

All the workers secured a loan from lending company RJJ Lacaba Financing Corp. to pay the fee in installments.

The documents said the drivers arrived in Dubai last January but no jobs from RTA were available to them.

They alleged that CYM?s Dubai foreign counterpart, Al Tomo, held the drivers? passports to prevent the drivers from applying for new jobs.

Filipino journalists working for Dubai local newspaper Xpress exposed the case, as concerned Filipinos pitched in food and cash.

Because of their number, the case caught the attention of Philippine media and several groups including non-government Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute.

Still, it took nearly four months for the Philippine government to repatriate them in batches from April to July.

The Ople Center took point and, with the drivers, filed a class suit against both CYM International Services and RJJ Lacaba.

Ironically, both firms sued 21 drivers in local courts for estafa after allegedly issuing unsupported checks collectively worth P1.9 million.

It has since been a waiting game for these drivers since court hearings began nearly seven months ago.

While others have found local jobs, some like Lisandro remained jobless. He said he?s bracing for the long haul such a case requires in the Philippines, the home of families of some four million temporary migrants in more than 120 countries.

Lisandro slings the backpack, nearly as black as his skin, on his shoulder: He must go back to his hometown of Sta. Barbara?a 400-km, half-day road trek, to refurbish a supply of clothes and update his family.

It?s a long bus ride home, he said.

Written by Jeremiah M. Opiniano of the OFW Journalism Consortium. Comments are welcome at editor@ofwjournalism.net

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