Symposium/Round Table

Temporary Migrations – Liminality, Vulnerability and Labor

Rijeka, 18.3.2017

Participants: Centre for Peace Studies, Young Antifascists of Zagreb, Base for Workers Initiative and Democratization, Irena Bekić and Duga Mavrinac – exhibition curators.

Authors:  Dajana Kosanović and Suzana Pošmuga

On Saturday, March 18th 2017, in the premises of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, during the exhibition Between there and there: Anatomy of Temporary Migrations wich is part of the European project about migration – Risk Change, was held a round table/lecture about temporary migration. 

During round table named Temporary migrations – Liminality, vulnerability and labor participants discussed about not only legal, but also socially invisible migrant groups. Round table was attended by representatives of the Center for Peace Studies – Iva Zenzerović and Julija Kranjec, Group 484 – Robert Kozma, BRID (Base for Workers’ Initiative and Democracy) – Branimir Šloser and Iva Ivšić (BRID and MAZ – Young Antifascist Zagreb)cultural anthropologist Duga Mavrinac (Association IPAK – Research projects and authorial concepts) and moderator Irena Bekić (IPAK).

During two-hour debate the issues of migrant labor were represented and participants suggested possible solutions that could protect the rights of migrant workers. Lack of organization and lack of informed workers abroad were accentuate as the biggest issues, as well as lack of educated employers and other government bodies in field of migrant labor. Participants also discussed about legal frameworks that currently exist and are related to migrant social groups. They also mentioned the laws that should exist in order to protect migrant workers from labor exploitation. Every participant gave his/hers views on the above mentioned problem and its possible solutions.

The discussion began with Duga Mavrinac introduction, where she mentioned how statistical data on the number of migrant workers is unreliable because the large number of workers leave illegally what makes statistics between countries vary significantly. In spite of that one thing, we can say with certainty is that number of employed man in household as a caretakers is increasing. Furthermore, a conclusion is drawn that it’s interesting how difficult is to talk about labor rights when they are not that well-known except for working time which is 24 hours / 15 days. The problem that occurs here is not just the fact that women who work as caretakers in such labor conditions are greatly exploited but also the fact that those working hours often do not count as years of service.

Robert Kozma from the Group 484 speaks up about reasons why people are leaving from their own country to another one for work and he explains it on examples of Serbian migrants and asylum seekers who are mostly members of the Roma community. Although the media representation of these people is negative and shows them as “bogus asylum seekers” who just want to escape to another country and live from social benefits, conducted research showed that these same workers leave only because they need to earn more money, which is for some reason nearly impossible for them in their own country. Kozma states that workers agree to be exploited in order to ensure existence for them and their families.

As the debate continues participants come to the conclusion that migrant workers do not know their rights, they are not organized and that is precisely why they are not complaining about the fact that they are being exploited. Branimir Šloser from BRID association said that workers should fight for their rights in order to make their work experiences better:

„The real change can happen only when people organize themselves to fight for their rights“! Šloser believes that the best way to improve the current situation is to inform and educate workers about their rights, as well as the creation of trade unions which would then fight for migrant workers rights.

The round table ended with the testimonies of women who themselves have experienced this kind of work (caretakers), and whose stories further confirmed the existence of stated problems.

In conclusion participants agreed that there is a need for further work in this area in order to improve working conditions so that  forms of labor exploitation abroad could be minimized . As it was already mentioned in the previous section, the best possible solution to improve labor conditions abroad is for workers to fight for their rights. Because, if worker does not know or even has any rights, he/she stops being a worker and becomes – slave.