An Asia regional consultation organized by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) on Labour Migration, Human Trafficking and Asian Diaspora emphasized the need for a renewal and resourcing of healing ministries to serve the needs of traumatized migrant workers and trafficked persons must be considered as a priority.
The Consultation was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 11 to 15 November 2018.
A Communique adopted at the end of the Consultation, the participants urged “the Churches in Asia should not forget their commitment to articulate a “Theology of the Human Family,” and remember the ecumenical affirmation that “the Church is a sign of the coming unity of the whole human family”.
The Communique further reminded the churches that “being a faith community in various parts of the world, we need to revisit the theme hospitality towards the stranger as it is a command of God from God’s community. Jesus who lived both as an international and internal migrant teaches the importance of hospitality”.
The deliberations of the second days of the consultation were focused on the situation of the plight of Asian Diaspora in various Arabian Gulf countries.
More than fifty participants attended the consultation including 15 representatives of Asian Diaspora congregations belong to CCA member churches and ecumenical organizations in the Arabian Gulf states such as Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, Rassel Khaima, Saudi Arabia, and Sharjah, shared information about the situation of labour migration and human trafficking.
While sharing their experiences the representatives from the Arabian Gulf states highlighted the issues pertinent to Asian migrant Diaspora and observed that the Arabian Gulf region is one of the main destinations globally for migrant workers. The proportion of overseas labour force to local workers is amongst the highest in the world.
“Many of these migrant workers are manual labourers or domestic workers, and face a number of decent work challenges”, according to the standards of the International Labour Organisation.
Soman Baby, a senior journalist belongs to the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church in Bahrain shared information about the positive developments in Bahrain where the government is committed to combat discrimination in the labour market.
“The Constitution of Bahrain affirms the equality and fair treatment of all people regardless of their sex, origin, language, religion or creed. Expatriate workers have free mobility in Bahrain, eligible to change their employer, flexible work permit scheme as well as guaranteeing the worker’s right to access to all forms of care and legal protection”, said Soman Baby who has been working in Bahrain for more than forty years.
Rev. Sambithini Sudhakar of the Telugu Congregation of the Church of South India in Muscat said that South and Southeast Asian migrants travel willingly to Oman with the expectation of getting employment in domestic service or work as unskilled workers in the country’s construction, or service sectors. Some of them subsequently end up in forced labour as well as physical or sexual abuse.
Jiji Varghese reported that Saudi Arabia hosts the largest number of migrants in the Gulf region, where the number of domestic workers is about 3 million. Several overseas workers are illegally recruited and brought to Saudi Arabia and subsequently forced into domestic servitude and debt bondage.
Asmita Adhikari of the National Christian Council in Nepal (NCCN) said that at least 1600 Nepalese leave the country every day in search of a job and more than 80 percent of them go to Arabian Gulf countries; many of them are trafficked by middlemen.
Janaki Raj Sharma who works among the Nepalese Migrant workers and the Nepali Unity Network in the United Arab Emirates said it is important to “provide appropriate and cross-cultural orientation in culture, language, customs, geography and other important areas to those who are planning to go abroad for work”.
John Thomas of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church in Kuwait said that the Kafala system, by which every worker is bound to a specific employer as a sponsor, is often negatively affecting the migrant workers in Kuwait as they are deprived of their official documents.
Solomon David, who has been living and working in different Arabian Gulf countries for more than four decades, stated that “The kafala, systems in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and a few other Arab states, has for long been the subject of harsh criticism and labour rights defenders. More recently, it has also become a much-debated issue in GCC economic and political spheres. Introducing certain reforms in the kafala system is now on the agenda of governments across the region.
In a session on an overview on ‘Labour Migration in the Arabian Gulf’, Maria Angela Villalba of the Asia Migrant Forum in the Philippines suggested that many overseas workers have to return home without proper plan or adequate preparation for their future, it is important to communicate with the migrant workers about better models of schemes that help people for a “Save and Invest “plan that would help people build a more secure future”.
Various panel discussion sessions on ‘Labour Migration in the Arabian Gulf: Responses by Asian Diaspora Churches in the Arabian Gulf, and ‘Mission to Asian Diaspora in Arabian Gulf: Responses by Asian Churches in Home Countries’ were led by Laorence Castillo (Philippines), Rev. G. Roland (Dubai), Sudeep Cherian (Sharjah), Rev. Nelson Fernandez (Rassel Khaima), Israel Paulraj (Sri Lanka), Rev. Dr. Abraham Mathew (India), John Izaac Minotty Pattiwael (Indonesia), Rev. Alvaro Senturias (Philippines), Rev. Margie Ririhena-Dewana (Indonesia), Rev. Ronny Varghese (India) and Nandita Biswas (Bangladesh).
In response to the appeal by the participants from the Arabian Gulf countries to initiate an ecumenical platform of Asian Diaspora Churches in the Arabian Gulf Region, CCA General Secretary Dr. Mathews George Chunakara said that CCA is committed to accompany the Asian Diaspora in the Arabian Gulf region and the proposal will be presented to the next meeting of the CCA Executive Committee for necessary action.
A Task Group was formed for liaison among Asian Diaspora congregations in the Arabian Gulf Region and CCA.
Please click here to read the Communique_Migration-Trafficking-in-Persons-and-the-Asian-Diaspora.pdf
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