Jul 26, 2018 Human Rights Comments Off on Lack of day off for migrants is ‘denial of human rights’: scholar
Taipei, Denying migrant caregivers one day off a week is a violation of basic human rights and labor rights, for which the culture of the destination country is partly to blame and "that needs to be reformed," a visiting Filipino scholar said in Taipei Thursday.
One reason why migrant caregivers are not entitled to a day off by right in many countries is that those societies "consider it a privilege, not a right," Jorge Villamor Tigno, professor of political science at the University of the Philippines Diliman, said at an international workshop on strategies to combat human trafficking.
Migrants working as domestic helpers deserve a minimum of one day's rest every seven days, said Tigno, who also serves as secretary-general of the Philippine Migration Research Network, a Filipino network focused on migrants rights, "but in many countries, people don't value their work very much."
The recent case of Sondos Alqattan, a Kuwaiti social media star, objecting to new laws giving Filipino workers one day off per week and preventing employers from confiscating their passports, reflects a common attitude in many destination countries, he said.
Tigno noted that this very basic human right has not yet been enshrined in law in Taiwan, but he observed that Taiwan "has improved a lot" in terms of the public attitude toward migrant workers.
It takes a combination of different programs to facilitate such a change in public mentality, including in school teachers and the government bureaucracy, Tigno said.
Taiwan is the seventh largest destination for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), accounting for 5 percent in 2016, according to Tigno.
According to Taiwan's labor rights organizations, 60 percent of migrant caregivers in Taiwan do not have a fixed one day off a week; while most of those who do are given a rest period of no longer than 12 hours, or just five or six hours in some cases.
The international standard of 24 hours of uninterrupted rest every 7 days is a right migrant domestic caretakers in Hong Kong are entitled to, said Jade Anderson, research director of Justice Center in Hong Kong.
"I am just starting to learn about the situation in Taiwan. In some respects, there is much less regulation around working conditions," she said when commenting on the lack of legal protections in Taiwan.
In her presentation, Anderson shared the findings of a study conducted in 2016 that covered more than 1,000 migrant domestic workers, saying that generating evidence and engaging in evidence-based dialogue when advocating for legislative and policy reform are among her organization's tasks.
"Every time there are cases of egregious abuses and exploitation that come to light in the media, the Hong Kong government's response is that 'this is just a bad employer, this is a bad employment agency'," she said, but nongovernmental organizations have found those to be pervasive problems.
"Effective prevention of trafficking requires evidence. We need evidence of not just what is happening but how it is happening and why it is happening," she said, adding that her organization is interested in working with organizations in Taiwan to conduct research into those issues in Taiwan.
The widespread problem of forced labor in the fishing industry was another major issue discussed at the workshop, which was hosted by the National Immigration Agency.
Ismail Situmeang, chief executive of the Indonesia Fishermen Foundation, shared harrowing stories of Indonesian crew members being physically abused or forfeiting their salaries working for Taiwanese, Chinese and South Korea, fishing companies.
"I think the situation in Taiwan's fishing industry is changing. I hope it will improve more," he said. "If there are no fisherman from Indonesia or the Philippines, there will be a problem in the supply of seafood."
In a presentation, Liu Chi-chao (???), a senior official from Taiwan's Fisheries Agency, said Taiwan's government will continue to review relevant laws and regulations, in consultation with experts and scholars, to ensure the rights and benefits of migrant crew members are protected.
In response, Max Schmid, deputy director of the Environmental Justice Foundation's office in Taiwan, said that while he welcomes Liu's remarks, there is no need to spend years developing new laws and standards for fishing vessels because the international organization has already done so.
Taiwan's laws in fisheries fall short of the standards under the International Labor Organization's (ILO's) Work in Fishing Convention in 10 key areas, he noted, calling for the ratification of the convention to make it easier to prevent crew members from being forced by brokers into debt bondage.
The recent case of a Taiwanese vessel being detained in South Africa for violating the ILO's basic standards of decent work in the fishing industry demonstrated the urgent need to ratify the convention, he added.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel
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