Cardinal Dew

To mark Human Rights Day, the archbishop of Wellington Cardinal John has written a letter about the exploitation of temporary migrant workers in New Zealand, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment(MBIE) review of the problem.

He mentions such exploited migrants raising their problems at churches in Wellington, and urges people to listen, watch out for and respond with kindness and welcome to such people.

Human Rights Day December 10 is always an opportunity to consider how we as a community are doing when looking after our most vulnerable members. Saint Pope John Paul II described international agreements around human rights as “the universal law written on the human heart”, an international moral logic which finds expression in different forms but can unite all social groups.

Dew emphasises that New Zealanders ought to be grateful to migrant workers, who come to New Zealand to fill labour shortages and gaps not able to be covered by New Zealand citizens.

They should ensure they are protected, he says, but that’s not always the case.

Workers sometimes being asked:

  • To pay exorbitant rents for accommodation organised by their employer
  •  To work beyond their rostered hours
  •  To work as volunteers without pay

They are also on occasions subject to physical and psychological abuse at work.

Workers are unable to speak up about exploitation because if they do, they fear they will lose not just their jobs, but also their homes and their right to remain in the country.

“Those are examples of mistreatment happening to workers within the Archdiocese of Wellington, told by members of the Filipino chaplaincy. We’d like to think that New Zealand is a place where these things don’t happen. But unfortunately, they do”, said Dew.

“In 2014 I attended the Santa Marta Conference on human trafficking, held in London. It opened my eyes to the reality of people who experience labour exploitation, human trafficking and other modern forms of slavery”.

“It also opened my eyes to the fact that for many people experiencing bad working conditions or restrained movement, sometimes (the) church is one of the few places they are able to go”.

“Pope Francis made an appeal to us for all people to be aware in churches, temples and mosques of people working very long hours, or who don’t seem to have freedom of movement, or may have their passports withheld.”

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December – the day the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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News category: New Zealand.