Accompanying People on the Move (Part 1 of 2)

Accompanying People on the Move

On 19 January 2014 around five thousand people took to the street of Hong Kong outside the police headquarters. They were members of Indonesian and Filipino migrant worker unions as well as representatives of various human rights groups in the country. With loud noise they demanded justice for Erwiana, an Indonesian maid abused by her Hong Kong employer. She was found covered in cuts and burns a week earlier at the airport just before leaving the country. Barely able to walk, she was left alone at the departure hall by her employer and agent at the early hours to avoid the airport crowds. Police and immigration officers who had seen her in that condition did not raise a finger to help let alone to investigate. A fellow Indonesian worker on her way home spotted and approached her. Finding out the full story, she contacted her friends in the union and before long the news went to the airwaves and drew huge responses from many corners.

This crime took place in Hong Kong committed allegedly by a local citizen, and the victim was an Indonesian young woman. Her recruitment and placement agency had representatives in both countries. The case drew the attention of other Indonesians in Hong Kong as well as Filipino migrant groups. A number of local activists and other expatriates took part in the campaign. A few days after the protest, the Hong Kong authorities arrested the alleged torturer at the airport as she tried to flee to Bangkok. Sad as it is, this is unmistakably a twenty first century tragedy which unfolded across geographical and political boundaries.

In 2010 the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) decided to take the issue of migration as a common priority in social actions. It rightly identified the phenomenon as a defining feature of our age which is characterized by the ease of travel and promises of prosperity, but also by their respective failings and dangers. The Society of Jesus in Asia Pacific unfortunately is far from prepared to respond to this challenge in a meaningful way. At the moment there are only five very different institutions that directly work on migrant issues: Tokyo Migrants’ Desk, Yiutsari in Seoul, UGAT Foundation in Manila, Rerum Novarum Centre in Taipei and Sahabat Insan in Jakarta. Migrant workers primarily and undocumented migrants are the target groups which reflect the kind of services these organisations offer. Indeed these are all small local institutions which offer specific services to specific types of migrants. They are in addition to the Jesuit Refugee Service which have been around much longer and serve refugees and asylum seekers.

Despite the small size, they are the real building blocks of our commitment to serve migrants. In response to the call to prioritise concerns for migration, the directors of these institutions had met several times over the course of the past three years and finally on June 3rd – 6th, 2014 in Jakarta to draft this proposal.

Participating Institutions in the JCAP Migrants Network
As mentioned before, five Jesuit institutions participate in the network as programme implementers. Two other institutions i.e. Jesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific and Jesuit Social Services Australia take part in the network as partners in information exchanges. Benny Juliawan SJ acts as the network coordinator and project director for the programmes.

①The term “migrant workers” in this proposal refers to people who travel to countries other than their own in search for work in the blue collar sectors. Internal migrant workers are exempt from this definition.

Amnesty International (2013) Exploited for Profit, Failed by Governments: Indonesian Migrant Domestic Workers Trafficked to Hong Kong, Geneva.
Devadason, Evelyn S. and Chan Wai Meng (2014) “Policies and Laws Regulating Migrant Workers in Malaysia: A Critical Appraisal,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 44: 1, 19-35.
ILO (2013) Domestic Workers across the World, Geneva: ILO.
Kennedy, Jason (2012) “Female Indonesian Domestic Workers in Taiwan” Seminar in Global Health and Development 2, Taipei Medical University.
Loveband, Anne (2004) “Positioning the Product: Indonesian Migrant Women Workers in Taiwan,” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 34: 3, 336-348.


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