CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Taizé participants learn about the migrants in their midst

HONG KONG (SE): Participants at the workshop, Strangers in our midst?, called on people to treat migrants as their neighbours. The event, addressing the situations of the migrants in the city, was organised as part of the Taizé International Meeting of Young Adults in Hong Kong, and held at Kowloon Union Church, Jordan Road, on August 9.
 
Shoaib Hussain, assistant programme officer of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Workers, shared about the difficulties encountered by migrants from South East Asian countries and pointed to the language barrier as the biggest challenge for children who are receiving education in Hong Kong as Chinese is the medium of instruction in most schools. 
 
According to him, 70 per cent of undergraduate programmes are taught in Chinese, leaving few options for those who do not know the language. Accessing public services is also a problem because documentation is often not translated into their own languages.
 
Hussain observed that the unemployment rate tends to be higher among ethnic minorities because employers are reluctant to hire them due to misconceptions about their religions or culture. 
 
Two Pakistani women spoke about the problems they encountered with employment and housing. One recounted that her employer did not sign an employment contract with her even though local Chinese colleagues had contracts. 
 
The other related her rent is higher compared to other local tenants and that her contract had to be renewed annually as opposed to every two years as spelled out in the standard tenancy agreement.
 
However, despite the many difficulties of living in Hong Kong, Hussain still believes there is hope and opportunity as some non-profit organisations have offered good services showing the government that something more can actually be done to help ethnic minorities.
 
Sringatin, co-ordinator of Indonesian Migrant Network, who has worked in Hong Kong for 15 years, then spoke about the problems faced by foreign domestic workers, such as the long working hours, sometimes dangerous working conditions, extortionate agency fees and the excessively short two-week limit of stay that is imposed at the end of a contract; a problematic limitation when trying to find a new employer, tidy up loose ends or sort out legal and financial issues.
 
During the question and answer session, participants discussed their views, including the importance of treating everyone as neighbours, the negative light in which ethnic minorities are cast by the media as well as the perseverance shown by ethnic minority students at local schools. 
 
At the end of the workshop, CICM Missionary Father Dominique Mukonda Kananga urged participants to be more aware of the situation of migrants in their own home countries, to try to understand them and treat them as neighbours.
 
One participant, Anna-Luisa Bormann from the diocese of Essen in Germany, said she had been to Hong Kong as part of youth exchange programmes in 2015 and 2016. She said she met many Filipino migrants in local parishes and was impressed by their friendliness. 
 
On the other hand, she remembered that when her Chinese friends were invited to share about their foreign domestic workers at home, many of them did not go into detail. 
 
She believed their cold response showed a lack of care or an unsatisfactory employment relationship. Since Germany does not import foreign domestic workers, she joined the workshop to gain more knowledge of the lives of migrants in Hong Kong. 
 
Rosangela Teixeira, who was born in the Cape Verde Islands off the western coast of Africa, told the Sunday Examiner that she once lived in Portugal and has now moved to France. She recounted that being a migrant herself, she has felt the discrimination and hoped to find more positive messages from the speakers of the workshop. 
 
She admitted that she was a bit disappointed as the workshop focused more on the difficulties of the migrants living in Hong Kong. 
 
However, she was encouraged by the concluding message of Father Mukonda and the friendliness of the participants and felt that she was respected in the group.
 
Participants were also invited to the same venue on August 10 to meet people who are in Hong Kong as refugees and come to know about those who have been forced to flee their home country to ensure their safety or for a better life. 
 
The Taizé International Meeting of Young Adults in Hong Kong ran from August 8 to 12 and drew some 2,700 participants from around the world, including Hong Kong.

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