Plight of migrant workers


Do we see Jesus in them?


In a fast moving global world, migration in search of better opportunities has become not only easier but necessary as well. But this migration brings with it a lot of problems for the host country and the migrants themselves, especially unskilled workers. Our country too has been hit with such problems. What are the some of the problems faced by these poor 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 the meager salary for the well being of their future and that of their loved ones.

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 and detention centres where they are verbally and physically abused. At many of these detention centres their living condition is atrocious. They are denied proper food, water and medical facilities and they lack proper sanitation.


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 them with kindness and consideration but by 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, almost depleting all that they have earned.


We, Malaysians often claim that we are generous, compassionate and friendly. It is time to demonstrate these in our actions, especially when dealing with those more unfortunate than us.


I do not deny the migrant workers also create numerous problems for us. Increase crime is without doubt a real problem for us all.All these social problems can definitely be minimized by our right attitude towards them and if a proper screening system is used to recruit these workers. We must change our attitude of exploitation to one of service.


As Christians especially Catholics, how do we treat our own domestic maids and other migrant workers whom we employ? We set aside one day in a year for them – Migrant Sunday, when we offer mass and hold banquets and celebrations. Definitely as Christians, our treatment of migrant workers should be much more than these.


It is important to reflect our own attitude towards these 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? Do we treat them in the way Jesus would have liked as to. To put it simply, do we see Christ in them?


This brings to mind the words of Mahatma Gandhi,“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. It is left to us, and us alone, to decide if we want God to be on our side.


Dr.Chris Anthony



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