|¡§Showing Concern to Migrants and Itinerant People¡¨|
|Pastoral Letter, May 16, 2007|
I. Migration: A Sign of the Times
In the history of man, migration has always been one way of deciding to change and improve the condition of livelihood. Due to progress in communications and transportation, people migrating to other places has increased. For reasons of economy, society, politics or religions in their own country, countless people either change residence or migrate to other countries. At the same time, migration affects the whole world, the whole society and the Church. For this reason, Pope Benedict XVI in his message for the migrants and itinerant people in 2005 wrote: ¡§Migration: A Sign of the Times¡¨. At present, there are about 200 million migrants all over the world.
Migration in Asia began in 1970. At that time, it was clear that oil exporter Arab countries lack laborers. This was the reason why the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries started to send laborers to the Middle East. After 1980, from the Arab countries, workers directed to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and other newly developed industrial countries in Asia. The International Labor Organizations showed that more and more foreign laborers were attracted to the Asian regions. Asia has the most population among all the countries in the world such as China, India and Indonesia. They are also both poor and rich countries. At the same time, there is the phenomenon in many Asian countries of `importing¡¦ and `exporting¡¦ migrant workers.
The Asian migration phenomenon has its specific characteristics: migrants can only work for a short period of time. They are not encouraged to stay for a long period. This becomes a kind of human rights violation phenomenon. Due to lack of social networking and resources by countries exporting and importing migrants, it became necessary to pass through government or private broker system to hire labor force. As a result, the serious problem of ¡§exorbitant broker fee¡¨ came about. For this reason, the International Labor Organization continuously appeals to Asian countries to pay much attention to the increasingly numerous labor migration phenomenon and to have the foresight to formulate corresponding policies and measures. The United Nations International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families agreed protection of the rights of legal and illegal immigrants emphasizing the right to have a reunion with their families.
Taiwan has become a destination country in Asia for migrants from Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Presently, there are more than 340,000 foreign workers and more than 380,000 new immigrants (foreign spouses) from these countries. The migrant workers and new immigrants through their hard work and sacrifice have benefited economically, sociologically and culturally both their countries of origin and Taiwan. It is appropriate for us to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to them.
II. The Catholic Church in Asia Cares for Migrants in Taiwan
In order to respond to the needs of the time, the Episcopal Commission for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples (ECMI) of the Chinese Regional Bishops Conference (CRBC) invited representatives from the migrants¡¦ Churches of origin (Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam), together with representatives from NGO¡¦s providing assistance to migrant workers and new immigrants (foreign spouses) throughout the whole island and interested individuals to an International Conference on ¡§The Catholic Church in Asia Cares for the Migrants in Taiwan¡¨ that was held from March 16 to 19, 2007 at the Wencui Center, in Taipei County. The distinguished guest from the Holy See, His Eminence RENATO RAFFAELE CARDINAL MARTINO, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People reminded us that: ¡§Human mobility has always been a concern of the Church in the ongoing endeavor to promote and protect human rights and the fundamental dignity of the human person.¡¨
The Most Venerable Hsin Ting, Abbot Emeritus of Fo Guang Shan, in presenting the Dharma teaching said : ¡§It is a fundamental Buddhist principle that we should respect and treat one another equally, regardless of nationality, race, social class, gender or age.¡¨
The reports of those directly ministering to migrant workers and new immigrants in Taiwan made us become aware of the depressing situation of the migrant workers and the new immigrants, their pains and difficulties and their sufferings from exploitation. We feel one with their plight; we hope to reinforce their call for help; we want to help in improving their situation.
The reports of the sending Churches informed us of the different plans and programs to care for migrant workers and new immigrants in their respective Churches.
With these insights, we would like to present the following recommendations:
A. TO THE SENDING GOVERNMENTS:
1. Improve economic conditions of the country by providing and assuring sufficient job opportunities for their people that will offer alternatives to migration.
2. Review and revise government policies that makes exportation of human labor a mere commodity and an essential part of the economic development strategy.
3. Re-enforce the implementation of policies that will ensure the protection and welfare of migrant workers and new immigrants.
4. Provide qualified, dedicated and committed personnel to effectively respond to the migrant workers¡¦ problems, including putting up organizations needed to sufficiently address the welfare of distressed migrant workers and new immigrants.
5. Organize effective reintegration programs for returning migrants.
6. Devise significant information campaigns on migrants¡¦ issues, especially on the social costs of migration.
7. Invest wholehearted efforts to prevent human trafficking, protect victims, prosecute offenders.
B. TO THE RECEIVING COUNTRY (TAIWAN GOVERNMENT):
1. Revise labor provisions in the Labor Standard Law in order to prevent the practice of contract substitution, being rampantly practiced in Taiwan.
2. Enact laws to protect household workers and care givers.
3. Enforce the implementation of direct hiring Memorandum of Agreement (MoA).
4. Supervise and monitor the brokerage system to prevent abuse and exploitation of migrant workers.
5. Formulate and implement multi-Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) with the sending countries.
6. Make every effort to prevent human trafficking, protect victims and prosecute offenders.
C. TO THE CHURCHES OF ORIGIN:
1. Renew commitment and dedication to work for migrant workers, new immigrants and their families.
2. Lobby for the ratification of the 1990 UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
D. TO THE RECEIVING CHURCH IN TAIWAN:
1. Continue cooperation with the sending churches and expand services for the migrant workers and new immigrants.
2. Promote and strengthen the awareness and knowledge of local Churches on the situation of migrant workers and new immigrants; integrate them gradually into the parish life while respecting their cultural and religious diversities.
3. If Catholic institutions or organizations need to hire migrant workers, use the way of direct hiring.
4. Give importance to the Christian and value formation of the children of new immigrants.
5. Continue lobbying the Taiwan government to implement laws and policies to further protect the human and labor rights of migrant workers and the rights of new immigrants.
E. TO THE MIGRANT WORKERS AND NEW IMMIGRANTS:
1. Avail of the services offered by the Catholic Church and other NGOs for pastoral care and social welfare activities. Encourage others to do the same.
2. Know your rights and empower yourselves by forming sharing and support groups to be able to help yourselves and others.
3. Deepen your faith, live your faith, share your faith with others.
III. Our Appeal
Migration should be regarded as one way of enriching our cultural resources. The experience of European Union tells us that if there is no appropriate plan, minority groups will not have the resources to be taken into the mainstream of society. This will make them build a wall to protect themselves and using traditional way of self recognition and self defense to resist the discrimination of society. These international families are vital forces in promoting a pluralistic society. Taking a comprehensive view of the world, countries using multi-languages are not rare anymore. A homogeneous society can no longer be seen. Pluralistic and multi-cultural groups have become a mainstream. Singapore and Malaysia are very good examples.
Migrants are not only laborers, they are at the same time members of our society. They are not strangers, they are our own brothers and sisters. Let the migrants have social rights and include them in the unemployment and retirement system to prevent them become victims of cheap labor due to their ¡§temporary residence status¡¨. Only then can we reverse their being marginalized in society. Only political strength can assist and coordinate in what is called having a country identity. In so doing, expand the right of the migrants¡¦ political participation, allow laborers to have the right to participate in local affairs. In this way, they will be able to get rid of their disadvantaged social status, they will be able to merge into the local society, enriching our culture.
We appeal to the government in Taiwan to give importance to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. We also appeal the formulation of immigration and labor policies according to human rights.
That the Church looks at the miseries and violence of the world through the eyes of Jesus, just as the time ¡§when Jesus saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd¡¨. (Mt 9:36)
The Chinese Regional Bishops¡¦ Conference and the Church throughout the world earnestly express to our government and the general public our concern for foreign workers and new immigrants. We once again affirm our willingness to do all that we can to give pastoral care and service to the laborers and new immigrants in Taiwan, to be united and one with them.
Respectfully given by all the Bishops of the