Successful Interfaith Meet on Labor Trafficking

Statements 18 Sep 2018
Successful Interfaith Meet on Labor Trafficking

Migrants, service providers, faith leaders reach high unity to fight trafficking

Article by the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants on the Interfaith Mission for Solidarity and Support with Migrants, Refugees and Uprooted People held in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 12-13, 2018

Combat labor trafficking and all forms of human trafficking.

This was the unity reached by 52 participants who participated in the conference section of the Interfaith Mission for Solidarity and Support with Migrants, Refugees and Uprooted People held in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 12-13, 2018.

Co-organized by the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, Persekutuan Gereja-gereja di Indonesia (PGI, or Council of Churches in Indonesia), National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Keluarga Besar Buruh Migran Indonesia (KABAR BUMI), and Migrante International, the Interfaith Mission has three components: a conference on labor and all forms of human trafficking that will run for one and a half days, a public forum with Indonesian government officials on the issue of labor migration, and a jail visit to Mary Jane Veloso in Yogyakarta.

Held in Grha Oikumene, the main office of the PGI, the conference gathered 52 participants coming from 38 organizations and institutions in 11 countries and country regions (i.e. Australia, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand). The participants represented faith leaders and workers, migrants and their families, service providers and migrants rights advocates, lawyers, women and youth.

In a two-page communiqué of the conference, the participants denounced the “systematic and structural exploitation of migrants” and committed to strengthen cooperation and coordination in assisting trafficked victims and all migrants in distress as well as end labor trafficking and all forms of human trafficking.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, representing KABAR BUMI, led the panel of speakers in providing resource on worsening conditions confronting migrants, refugees and uprooted people. Erwiana, an Indonesian who has won a much-celebrated case against her abusive Hong Kong employer, detailed not only the current conditions confronting migrant workers in destination countries but also how migrant-sending governments like Indonesia contribute to the perpetuation of forced labor migration.

Arman Hernando of Migrante International, a global alliance of Filipino migrant organizations, shared about the worsening state of Filipino migrant workers, who compose a major part of more than 10 million Filipino nationals living and working overseas. He stated how labor trafficking remains to be the most pervasive form of human trafficking and how governments should work together in fighting and preventing it, instead of allowing it to happen.

Mandeep Bela of Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG) shared about education trafficking in New Zealand and how it continues to exploit international students while Glorene Das of Tenaganita, a migrant-serving institution in Malaysia, explained the intricacy of trafficking and exploitation of migrants and refugees in Malaysia.

Following the panel were three workshops that focused on service provisions to trafficking victims, conducting advocacy on the issue of trafficking, and importance of strengthening regional cooperation and coordination among the participating organizations in the conference. To quote the communiqué:

“Through the workshops, we became more aware of the array of services in the region made available to migrants, refugees and uprooted people – orientation and awareness, rescue, shelter, legal counseling and assistance, repatriation, reunification and advocacy. Many of us join them in their struggle as well as provide solace to families who have lost their loved ones overseas. We underscored the importance of collaboration and coordination – as the problems of trafficking, exploitation and forced migration go beyond borders, so should our unity and cooperation. In all this work, we put value in the empowerment of migrants, refugees, uprooted people and their families. They bear the right to speak for themselves and the power to change the situation they are in. We do not only work for them, we work with them.”

Some of the workshop recommendations approved during the conference were: (a) building and expanding a system of referral among faith institutions, migrant serving institutions and advocates, and organizations of migrants, refugees, uprooted people and their families; (b) conducting research on labor and other forms of human trafficking with the documentation of cases and for the purpose of advocacy; (c) updating and expanding a directory of institutions and organizations that assist and work with the migrant sector; (d) networking with peoples’ lawyers and other partners; and (e) reinforcing networking and cooperation through platforms like the Interfaith Network for the Rights of Migrants (INFORM) and Churches Witnessing With Migrants (CWWM).

The conference also accepted the recommendation from Migrante International’s urgent action alert to allow trafficking victim Mary Jane Veloso to testify while in jail as part of the ongoing case in the Philippines against her traffickers. This is part of the ongoing campaign to save the life and eventually free Mary Jane Veloso from the jail so she can be reunited with her family in the Philippines.

After the conference, a public forum ensued with a representative from the Indonesian Ministry of Labor as well as a representative from the Catholic Bishop Conference of Indonesia shared input on migration and engaged in an open forum with both the international and local participants.

The following day, September 14, 12 participants from the Interfaith Mission flew to Yogyakarta to visit Mary Jane Veloso in jail. Part of the 12 participants are Mary Jane’s father Cesar and her two children Mark Danielle and Mark Darren.

The Interfaith Mission was a successful endeavor among various faiths, service providers, institutions, advocates, and the migrants themselves in the campaign to end labor trafficking and all forms of human trafficking. Participants looked forward to realizing the recommendations as a continuation of the unity they have reached during the conference.

Indeed, our solidarity and service have gone beyond color, race, age, creed and faith. By accompanying migrants, refugees and uprooted people and their families in upholding their human dignity, their rights and welfare, we commit ourselves to journeying with them towards an abundant life for all.#

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Michelle Lado

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