21st Century Challenges to Cross Border Movements was an excellent side event at CSW59. It was organized by the Philippine Commission on Women. The speakers at this panel were: Ms. Jean Enriquez - CATW-AP (Coalition Against Trafficking in Women - Asia Pacific), Secretary Imelda Nicolas (Commission on Filipinos Overseas), Ms. May-I Fabros (Philippine Commission of Women), Professor Aurora de Dios (Miriam College), and Ms. Emmeline Verzosa (Philippine Commission of Women).
There was a gender focus on migration in the context of natural disasters, climate change, and armed conflict. There was a particular focus on the Philippines. The panelists also discussed refugees that fled from the Gulf War, the Asian Tsunami, and the Libyan crisis to name a few. Overall, these conflicts and natural disasters have left millions displaced and seeking refuge.
The migration and refugee issue is quite pressing in the Philippines due to the typhoon that devastated their country in 2013. Over 4 million people have been displaced and 48% of those displaced are women. This displacement leads to the vulnerability of women and a need to protect and promote the human rights of women.
These conflicts and natural disasters have created long term impacts for many individuals and affected communities. Due to the crisis, many refugees and asylum seekers are smuggled and trafficked for labour and/or sex. Many women are forced into prostitution in order to help their families due to the desperate and terrible conditions that they are facing.
In 2013, there were 4.5 million refugees from Syria and many of these refugees get caught in the crossfire, are raped, suffer from starvation, and are isolated, The refugees are also unable to receive aid if they are not registered in the country which they are seeking aid. This poses other problems such as children not being able to attend school and thus this continues the cycle of poverty.
The main problem is that there is no international legal framework that protects these asylum seekers, despite the fact that it is a major issue affecting the lives of millions. Movement is a sign of life and there needs to be more help available to those in need.