CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Labour Commission pushes for more facilities for migrant workers

HONG KONG (SE): Law Pui-shan, policy research officer for the Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs, urged Hong Kong people to show more understanding about the activities of foreign domestic workers in public places. 
Law said the Hong Kong government had a responsibility to allocate more space or more centres where foreign domestic workers can go on holidays and their days off. She said Hong Kong relies heavily on foreign domestic workers to provide care for children and the elderly as the government has failed to set up enough day care centres for them. At the same time, it has a responsibility to consider where to accommodate them on public holidays.
She believes that, given a choice, foreign domestic workers would rather not spend their days off on footbridges or pavements—especially under the present hot weather.
Law pointed out that foreign domestic workers sleep, dance or cook in public places because they may not be allowed to do so when they stay at their employer’s home. She called on Hong Kong people to be more understanding and said that the government should nurture a more emphathetic attitude through education campaigns. 
Law said that while the efforts of parishes and other Churches in Hong Kong in organising activities for foreign domestic workers at their premises are appreciated, the responsibility to offer facilities should not be off-loaded to non-government organisations.
The commission made the suggestions after New People’s Party legislator, Eunice Yung Hoi-yan, claimed at a Legislative Council meeting on May 23 that the large number of migrant workers who sit, eat and sleep on the ground in public places, such as parks, footbridge passages and places under flyovers during holidays, have affected the daily lives of the public, the operation of shops and the environmental hygiene in public places. 
Yung said the problem has persisted for many years and isn’t getting any better. She urged the government to address the matter. 
The Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) viewed Yung’s statement as discriminatory and offensive, saying in a May 24 statement that it “smacks of ignorance of reality and lack of compassion.” 
They believed she did not show genuine concern for foreign domestic workers who have to nowhere else to go on their holidays and instead presented their predicament as an inconvenience.
They pointed out that according to government data, there were only 22 complaints about the problems caused by the gatherings of foreign domestic workers in public place last year. The group said the number of complaints represents a low ratio given that as many as 380,000 workers spend their holidays in public spaces.
On May 27, around one hundred migrant workers marched from Central to the headquarters of New People’s Party in Wan Chai urging Yung to apologise. 
The Ming Pao newspaper reported that Yung herself accepted the letter at 12.00pm, apologised and said she would raise the concerns of migrant workers in the Legislative Council. 
On May 23, the Sing Tao Daily quoted Law Chi-kwong, the secretary for labour and welfare, as saying that the government has no plan to set up centres for foreign domestic workers in different districts. 
He said that the Banyanihan Centre in Kennedy Town can, at present, accommodate as many as 1,800 migrant workers on holidays and the organisation can apply for the use of six schools to conduct its activities if necessary.

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