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Saturday, March 25, 2017
Chinese chaplain appeals for protection for migrant workers
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¬†London's Chinese Catholic community prayed yesterday in St Patrick's, Soho, for the 19 migrant workers who drowned picking cockles in Morecambe Bay on Thursday. Fr Eddie Woo, Catholic Chaplain to the Chinese community told ICN this morning: "We prayed for these people and their families and for all the illegal immigrants who are really being exploited by our own people." Echoing Bishop Pat O'Donoghue's statement on Friday, Fr Woo appealed for legal protection for migrant workers. Fr Woo said at present they were completely at the mercy of ruthless Snakehead gangs, who pay them a pittance and force them to live in appalling overcrowded conditions with little food or heating. "These people pay £20,000 - £30,000 to come here," he said. "They have to pay some in advance and the rest by installment for years. They are slaves. If they are picked up by immigration authorities they are held in a detention centre for a week and then allowed to go out. They don't speak English. The gang leaders just wait to pick them up. "The government must do something about this. If they were allowed to work legally, even for low pay, it would be possible to give them some protection. "There is no point in talking about justice and peace if we allow this to continue." Geraldine Smith, Catholic MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said she would be raising the issue in the House of Commons today. Mrs Smith said:"I want to see licences for all gangmasters. This would cut out the criminal element and stop the exploitation of workers." She said: "We also need better regulation of public fisheries, with perhaps a licence of £500 before people can go cockle picking. The money raised from these licences could then pay for proper enforcement of safety at the bay. Police say 17 of the dead were men while two were women. A further 16 people survived the ordeal. In June 2002, 58 Chinese immigrants were found dead in the back of a refrigerated container truck arriving by ferry at Dover. Welfare organisations say the tragedy could happen again. While there is a shortage of workers of in Europe, weak employment and immigration laws are allowing thousands of migrants to enter the country illegally and work in slave conditions.
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