29 September 2006
Our attitude towards migrant workers
We celebrated Migrant Sunday on 24 September 2006.Special masses were offered in churches all over the country. Special prayers, intentions, offertory and cultural performances were organized. In many places these were followed by fellowship and other forms of celebrations.
We feel very happy that our Church attaches so much importance and shows so much concern for these migrant workers in our country. We must be very grateful to all those who sacrificed so much time and energy for the welfare of our foreign brethren.
These celebrations alone are not enough to overcome the numerous problems faced by these migrant workers in our country. From the time of recruitment in their own country till they leave after their contract expires, they are subjected to inhumane treatment by the employment agencies and the employers themselves. I do not say all these agencies are evil but many of them are. Most of us employ such workers at home and factories and we do appreciate their problems.
The majority of these workers are promised the heavens but when in fact they are given hell. Inspired with the rewards promised, they mortgage their houses, sell their properties to pay for greener pastures in a foreign land. They leave their spouse, children and parents behind to earn extra for the well being of their future.
Only when they reach the Promised Land do they realize that they have been cheated. Some of them are smuggled into the country to become the fashionably called illegal immigrants. Many are left stranded in the airports and in some unknown places without food, shelter or money until some good soul comes to their aid. Others find themselves in police lockups where they are verbally and physically abused. I have the personal experience in helping to send such illegal immigrants back to their homeland.
Those who manage to finally reach the place of their work, new problems await them. Many domestic helpers were not even told the nature of their duties although we were assured they are fully trained in the tasks we require of them. Many of them were promised factory jobs but ended up with us as domestic helpers and this may explain their rebellious behaviour. Can we blame them totally for that?
Those lucky ones end up with considerate employers who treat with kindness and consideration but enlarge the majority of them are not treated well. For the first 4 months or so they are not paid as their salary is used to offset the exorbitant administrative charges incurred in bringing them over.
They are overworked, without proper food and place to rest. Some of them are asked to work in a number of households .They are not given adequate clothes and the expenses on basic amenities like soap, tooth paste, shampoo and sanitary pads are deducted from their already meager pay.
The other major problem is medical expenses. No proper arrangements are made to cater for medical treatment. Our Health system, both government and private, is not at all compassionate to these workers. We have known of workers who spend huge sums on unwarranted medical investigations and treatment.
As an individual it will be impossible to overcome this monumental problem that has become rooted deeply in our society. Man is prepared to anything at any cost for the accumulation of wealth in this misguided culture that is becoming a norm in our country.
As Christians it is important to reflect our own attitude to migrant and our own workers. Are we treating them in a humane way? Do we treat them with dignity and love? Are we sensitive to their feelings and needs? To put it simply in a nutshell, do we see Christ in them?
As a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday fell on October 2nd,it would be appropriate to reflect on his words regarding our attitude towards others, “Man, for instance cannot be untruthful, cruel or incontinent and claim to have God on his side."
If we profess to really love God and want Him on our side, there is no other way then to love fellow men, especially those less privileged than us.