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La Via Campesina declaration on migration and rural workers

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By La Via Campesina, World Social Forum, Tunis 2015

March 25-28, 2015 -- La Via Campesina, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The migration of peoples across arbitrary barriers is an integral part of human history. Rooted in the search for better living conditions, this movement of peoples from one place to another was later transformed into a social, economic and political process that has largely served to benefit ruling elites -- the slave traders of the past and the multinationals of the present. Today, as capital demands exceptional freedoms for itself -- combined with greater restrictions on the poor -- wars, social exclusion, economic injustice and the global climate crisis are forcing millions of human beings to seek refuge across internationally imposed boundaries.

As financial capital and agribusiness concentrates its power and holdings -- diminishing opportunities for diversified and sustainable smallholder farming -- precarious livelihoods continue to aggressively push a growing number of rural people off their farms and into the city.

Neoliberal policies, free-trade agreements, the development of industrial agriculture, the concentration of production areas … all have destructive effects on the environment, biodiversity, the climate and local, especially peasant, economies.

These aggressive policies that impose a development model based on the exploitation of resources, the grabbing of the commons, the stealing of agricultural lands and the exploitation of peasants, as well as that of women and men who work the land, have a particularly harsh effect on peasant communities. Ruined people have no other option to leave family, land and community to seek the means of survival someplace else, in the big cities or in other countries.

Once urbanised, our people are unlikely to find opportunities in our countries and soon become the migrants of today, the cheap labour of the corporate interests. In the most telling of cases, peasant farmers leave family farming only to become the low-paid agricultural workers of corporate giants Monsanto, Cargill and DuPont. This occurs both internally -- within Mexico or Palestine for example -- as well as externally, as we cross borders to work for those who forced us off our lands.

We of La Via Campesina, the world's largest social movement with millions of peasants, women, youth, indigenous peoples, afro-descendants, fisherfolk and -- very often due to involuntary displacement -- migrants and rural workers, denounce the fact that we, the poor majorities, are those who suffer most as climate change provokes extreme climatic events across our territories. The term “climate refugee” is now being used to describe those of us forced from our lands by the global climate crisis, by an industrialised food and social system that blames its victims and pardons its culprits.

To advance the struggle for food sovereignty and help bring an end to the corporate control of the global food system, we declare that it is necessary to:

  1. End all violence and repression against migrants perpetrated in the context of the so-called “War on Terror”. Remove the issue of migration from the rhetoric around “threats” to national (or domestic) security since these are different questions altogether;
  2. Stop the separation of undocumented migrant families, which has provoked a crisis in childhood migration. Halt the confinement of migrant children in detention centres, in unhealthy and inhumane conditions that violate their most elementary rights. End the deportation of all unprotected children;
  3. Protect all refugees through international institutions (such as the United Nations) and NGOs of recognised moral authority (such as Amnesty International), safeguarding their rights as refugees and providing protection for all those living in refugee camps;
  4. Halt and revoke all policies that criminalise migrants, policies that increase persecution, detentions, expulsions and physical attacks. States should be obliged to respect international agreements and, if they have yet to do so, adhere to the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Modify all local and national legislation so as to comply with said agreements;
  5. Legalise “clandestine” migration so as to combat criminalisation;
  6. Allow (or guarantee) to migrants access to the labour market under conditions equivalent to "national" workers'.
  7. Oppose all temporary worker programs, which serve only to divide the working class and weaken our organisations and struggles. With respect to temporary agricultural workers (braceros, guest workers, contratados de origen, etc.), these agreements serve only to benefit industrial agricultural by providing it with cheap and docile farm labour;
  8. Organise all migrants, strengthening our rights to bargain collectively and to strike. Practice solidarity on an ongoing, permanent basis, firmly adopting the principle that “an injury to one is an injury to all”;
  9. Dismantle all free-trade agreements, especially those with the greatest impacts on collective resources, rural communities and indigenous peoples. Implement food sovereignty, in direct contrast and in dispute with the corporate-controlled food system;
  10. Challenge the capitalist model of economic growth and so-called “green” development, which does not address the causes of the climate crisis, a crisis that is exacerbating the migration crisis. The results of the climate crisis -- extensive droughts, floods, avalanches, earthquakes, tidal waves, etc., which are ever more frequent, are now responsible for 25% of all involuntary migration worldwide, now estimated at 210 million people [according to the International Organisation for Migration (www.iom.int)];
  11. Recognise the corporate causes of the global climate crisis and force transnational corporations and their governments in the industrialised nations to accept their responsibility in the surge of climate refugees. At the national level, incorporate the victims of environmental displacement into social development strategies that help to organise and empower these peoples;
  12. Develop action plans with specific timeframes into national policies of research and development, giving priority to sustainable peasant agriculture as a viable option to combat the climate crisis and reduce the impacts of environmental displacement;
  13. Bring down all walls: Mexico-USA, Melilla, Ceuta, Palestine (West Bank), Western Sahara, etc., because they not only represent a barbaric aggression against humanity, separating peoples, but also represent an affront to nature. While existing geographic borders already contribute to ecological disasters, new dividing walls only worsen the situation;
  14. End all wars of territorial occupation, the extraction of wealth and the enslavement of indigenous peoples.

We are here in the World Social Forum 2015 in Tunis to let everybody know, that this is our commitment and that we are ready to unite with all the social and popular movements to build an international alliance of peasants, migrant workers, indigenous peoples and social fighters for a more humane, dignified and better world.

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