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Ima Chairperson

Message of Eni Lestari, IMA chairperson, at the opening session of the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants

Message of Ms. Eni Lestari
Chairperson, International Migrants Alliance (IMA)
Opening Session
UN Refugee and Migrants Summit
19 September 2016


Your Excellencies, UN Secretary General, Presidents of General Assembly, and Distinguished Guests,

I am honored to stand before you, on behalf of 244 million migrants all over the world, who cannot be here today.

After years of being voiceless and invisible, we – the migrants – are finally welcomed here to speak for ourselves.

We are the peoples who have been denied the future, the rights and the dream we used to imagine.

When I was young, I dreamt of reaching a higher education, and making a contribution to my family and society.

But the worsening crisis affected my family in Indonesia, and millions of poor people.

We wake up everyday, facing a reality of deepening poverty, unemployment, lack of chance for education, eroding social services and loss of land.

Like many others, I did not have choice, but to work abroad as migrant domestic

So that I could put food on our table, pay off the debt of my parents, bring my siblings to school.

However, for majority of us, the promise of a better future is a LIE.

We are trapped into debt bondage, trafficked and tricked into slavery, our basic rights denied, vulnerable to abuses, many disappeared and even died.

Our dream has become a nightmare.

A nightmare driven by a system that creates profits, for those in migration business, and allows companies to push down wages.

Our future is bleak.

We expect protection and services, but we are left alone to deal with our sufferings.

We are alone in a system, that does not value the rights and dignity of migrants, does not recognize us as workers or people.

We are just cheap labour or commodities.

Our vulnerability is exploited. And policies on migration reinforce our invisibility. We are perceived as security threats.

Yet we are transformed, into an industry that generates billions that some governments talk, as development opportunity.

In our experience, no matter how much we sacrifice, migration does not guarantee development that can enable us to go home with a decent life.

No matter how hard we work, we are never recognized, as workers and humans, with dignity and equality.

We wish to be seen and heard; not marginalized and excluded. We deserve respect to our humanity.

Migrants are collectively struggling and organizing to make our dreams come true.

We have a clear message: Listen to us. Do not talk about us without us.

You want us to remit, but what we need, is for you to commit – to a JUSTICE, to a DEVELOPMENT that does not tear families apart, and to a FUTURE, that relies on the strength of its own people, and NOT to the continued export and exploitation of our labour.

International conventions remain in a paper and not in action. In two years, you are set, to forge a global compact for us. Let’s make it REAL and ACTIONABLE.

Frame it as RIGHTS-BASED, and make sure its implementation will not create exploitation, displacement, forced migration, conflict and poverty.

Let’s work for a world without vulnerability, insecurity or invisibility.

As people, as workers, as women, as migrants – we are ready to make this happen.

Work with us!

Thank you.