Ministry with Young Migrant Workers

The Term “Migrants”

The term “migration” or “migrants” refers to a phenomenon, arguably as old as humanity, which lends itself to a wide range of meanings and interpretations. We use the term here, though not excluding others, mostly in the sense of “short-term” “internal migration” – movement of persons within national borders - within the state or from one state to another – moving back and forth between source and destination areas rather than re-locating on a permanent or semi-permanent manner.

The Context

The magnitude and variety of internal migration in India as well as the distresses associated with it are enormous. Though migrants form the largest part of India's vast unorganized work sector, they work under the burden of several disadvantages. Devoid of critical skills, information and bargaining power, migrant workers often get caught in arrangements that force them to work in low-end, low-value, hazardous work. Lack of identity and legal protection accentuates this problem.

Migrants and Salesians

The National YaR Seminar on the theme “Migrant Youth/Children in the Unorganized Sector” held at Guwahati, Assam, in March 2012 was probably the first country-wide effort of the Salesians to focus our attention on this disadvantaged group. The same theme was selected in February 2015 as part of the larger theme “Reaching the Unreached - the 18+ Young at Risk” for the YaR National Seminar of 2016.
The call for all Salesian Family to join hands and hearts to reach out and address the concerns of migrants in India was raised at the Don Bosco Bicentennial Salesian Family Congress in September 2015. In late 2015, DB YaR Forum was asked by SPCSA to take the lead in conceptualizing and drawing up a plan of action for Salesian ministry with migrants in India.
A “framework” outlining key concepts and a basic, preliminary approach was drawn up and adopted by DB YaR Forum in September 2016 which was subsequently approved by the SPCSA

Migrant Young at Risk

We understand “Migrant Young at Risk” as children and young adults, who for lack of better options are forced to move from their native places in search of basic livelihood, due to poverty, communal and/or socio political disturbances, violence, family distress, natural calamities, or due to being trafficked.

Migrant YaR most often live in circumstances beneath their dignity as human persons and children of God, in life situations characterized by a variety of constraints and deprivations:

With the heart of Don Bosco, we recognize these young persons as the primary constituency of Salesian ministry with migrants in India and as an integral part of Salesian youth ministry in this country.

Migrant young persons engaged as labourers at construction sites, in brick kilns and quarries, in manufacturing, in restaurants and eateries, in stores and workshops, in market places, in bus and train stations, in farming and agriculture, young domestic “helps”, migrant young persons in search of work are among the priority groups we reach out to.

Attentive to the plight of every young person in any form of need – physical, psycho-social, spiritual - Salesian ministry with migrants extends also to the rapidly increasing number of young persons away from homes in pursuit of academic or professional qualification, and young persons employed in the organized sector.

The Migrants Desk:

As a first-step for Salesian ministry with migrants, “Migrants’ Desks” have been set up in nine cities across India, and more are in the processes of being made operational. Each “Desk”, manned by two or more social work professionals under the supervision of a Salesian, has the following key objectives:
  1. Give migrants the confidence that they have competent persons at hand, who care for them and will assist them.
  2. Make the Don Bosco institutions in the region places where migrants can come in for any emergency or for urgent services and support.
  3. Build a network of persons and organizations committed to supporting the rights of migrants and empowering them to access them.
  4. Motivate, accompany and empower migrants to overcome the constraints and deprivations they face: denial of rights and entitlements, lack of access to state provided services, exclusion from legal rights, banking, protection and social security systems, vulnerability to ethnic, religious, caste, class and gender discrimination, vulnerability to abuse, trafficking and exploitation at the work place and emotional and spiritual crises.
  5. Promote positive political discourse for “inclusion” of migrants in society and contribute to changing the negative perception and prejudiced portrayal of migrants.
  6. Advocate with the state and others for the rights of migrants, and for creation of better options at the source areas in order to reduce “forced” migration.
A survey across these nine cities, which tries to understand the situation of migrant workers in three key sectors of work in each city, is currently under way and is expected to be completed by February 2017. It is expected that the survey report will contribute to a deeper understanding and assist in strategizing longer term interventions.