The IOM in Spain and Latin America

The IOM and the recruitment of workers in Ecuador for Spain

04.Nov.02 - On 12 July 2002, the IOM announced that the first group of migrants were sent from Ecuador to Spain - 131 individuals to work on building sites or farms. In their announcement the IOM describes the selection procedure: The organisation selects suitable candidates from the pool of applicants and guarantees for their particulars as well as their working competence. The only thing the Spanish companies have to do is to confirm the respective contract of employment. The IOM then organises the flight to Spain. In addition the IOM trains Ecuadorian government personnel for the future co-operation in that area and supplies the technical structures.

The Ecuadorian labour contingents for Spain are stipulated in the agreement signed by Spain and Ecuador in May 2001. On that basis 1,500 workers will be send away per year.

The IOM points out that this agreement serves to fight illegal immigration. According to Spanish statistics, the number of Ecuadorians legally staying in Spain has increased from 3,000 to 135,000 between 1996 and 2002. The number of illegal Ecuadorians is estimated at 100,000.

The role of the IOM in South America

(Extracts from the preface of the materials for a new anti-imperialism No. 7)

Besides the United States, Spain has become a long-term goal of Latin-American migration. On plantations in Andalusia and in the area of Valencia and in the Catalan low-wage industries they have become indispensable. At the beginning of 2001, when the first ‘Sans_Papier’ movement shattered Spain, the Spanish government in co-operation with the IOM used the Ecuadorians as guinea-pigs for the new EU migration policy: Overnight the Spanish government decided that all ‘Sans-Papier’ originating from Ecuador should register, then they would be flown out and finally apply in Quito (Ecuador) for the recently established contingent of official working migrants and – now legal - reach Spain again. This Spanish-Ecuadorian agreement (‘Convenio de Flujos Migratorios’) is not only the model for the Spanish migration policy but also the international model. The authorities needed almost a year to put the Spanish-Ecuadorian agreement into operation. After the attacks in New York and Washington, the Spanish government used the ‘world-wide threat of terrorism’ and the ‘dangerous state of security’ to pass a raid decree which is unique in Europe after 1945:

Under the acronym Operación LUDECO the government ordered all police units – whether criminal investigation department, border guards, or special units – to record all Ecuadorians and Colombians whose existence could be proven in a central computer. By means of targeted raids, vast searches without any suspicion, denunciations, film recordings and fingerprints, data of possibly all Ecuadorians and Colombians staying legal or illegal in Spain are to be recorded in a central data bank. According to Operación LUCEDO the recorded data of Ecuadorians and Colombians is to be entered into the Spanish peripheral of the SIS – the Schengen Information System – and made available to interested international offices. Within a few days only, this decree lead to a sheer hunt for people who could, by their looks, be indigenous. When the migration agreement was signed by the Spanish and Ecuadorian government, Ecuador was under the state of emergency. Mostly the rural indigenous population protested against new conditions from the IMF, mainly against the 75% price increase for transport. For weeks, they blocked all the main roads in the whole country. 5,000 indigenous activists from the interior occupied the university of Quito. By order of the Ecuadorian government the army moved in, three activists were shot and dozens injured. In that climate the Spanish immigration official arrived in Quito to sign the agreement. For several days approximately 1,000 relatives of Ecuadorian ‘Sans Papier’ migrants lead a demonstration against the migration agreement. In times of imposed IMF saving programmes, the relatives in Ecuador rely even more upon the remittances of the migrants. Hence, parallel demonstrations took place in Quito and Spain: Here and there, they demanded the right for migration without a passport, without a visa, and without controls. They criticised the new Spanish law for foreigners and the mass deportation to be expected.

It is not only the money, the migrants send to their relatives. According to a study of the Banco Central de Ecuador (BCE), the remittances of more than 1.2 billion dollars per year are meanwhile the second biggest currency source of the country. Nor only the consumer goods and the know-how, how to operate these devices, which bring back the migrants. It is the knowledge that a beginning is possible even tough the future is totally insecure and the present consists of rough police attacks, racism, and the exploitation in the industrialised countries.

Even tough we cannot explain in detail the simultaneity of movements, we should, however, keep an eye on the following example: the vegetables sold in our supermarkets coming from the south of Spain refer to a social correlation where migrants are the link between the absolute periphery of the world economy and the European farming centres. The migration movements are the suitable basis for this antagonism. On the other hand, how does the knowledge of the ruling authorities gathered in fighting uncontrolled migration and rebellions spread and in what way does that help to form a general political and economical system?

Who advises the Argentine government and the governments of the neighbouring countries concerning arming the borders, training the authorities dealing with foreigners and drafting the new laws for foreigners? Obviously it is the same world-wide operating organisation which already made a name for itself in the East European buffer zones of the Schengen countries: the IOM (International Organisation for Migration).

Under the abbreviations PLACMI (Programa latinoamericano de cooperación técnica en migraciones) and SIMICA (Proyecto Sistema de Información sobre Migración Internacional en los países de la Comunidad Andina), the border and migration security authorities developping in various South American countries are brought together by the IOM in conferences and teams since 1995. First and foremost, these projects are financed by the US State Department.

Police and army, high-tech companies and private security organisations of different provenance are so to speak assembled around one table in projects to arm the borders. The migration policy serves not only as a vehicle to form new repression methods but also for the belligerent population control. This is explained using Ecuador as one of the regions of origin for the indigenous transnational migration.

It is the IOM who currently organises the issuing of Ecuadorian passports using the most advanced security standards. In co-operation with the Ecuadorian residents’ registration office (Instituto Nacional de Estadístice y Censos – INEC) the IOM records the Ecuadorian immigrants abroad. From an enormous pool of applicants, the IOM - by order of the Spanish government - selects these Ecuadorian workers which Spain requires to work on the plantations during the season, see above. But the most dubious IOM project in Ecuador is in the north of the country next to the Colombian border: Under the command of the Pentagon, Ecuadorian troops and police forces are transferred to the northern districts of Esmeraldas, Carchi, and Sucumbios. They build new bases at the motorway Sucumbios-Quito and the through roads to Colombia. For the construction of highways, gaps are cut into the protected areas of the Awa-Indians and the Afro-Ecuadorians. The IOM and USAID co-operate in a project to maintain the infrastructure, especially bridges, and to link the local ruling classes. The reason given for this surprising interest in this spacious, so far remote, region is: preventive measures against drug smuggling and imminent mass migrations. The context: the US plan Colombia, the counterinsurgency measures in Colombia. What catches the eye is, that borders, residents’ registration offices, issuing passports, and migration controls have a special role in this recent deployment of army, police, and international organisations in South America. Their authorities are tied together in concepts of threat by police and army. Hence, it seems reasonable to suspect this formation of population policy and racism as characteristics of Cóndor II and its fundamental structures in the international organisations?

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