Step inside the world of a migrant worker in Hong Kong who finds herself pregnant, deserted, jobless, homeless, and penniless.
I accompanied a migrant mother who overstayed her visa to immigration today. With the baby wrapped snugly around her body, she paced back and forth gently silencing the cries of her innocent child. I sensed her nervousness as we waited to be called by the officer.
It starts with a chance encounter with a man. Either willingly or unwillingly. Then she finds herself pregnant. The father rarely stays around once he finds out about the child. Afraid, she may attempt self-induced abortion, pay for illegal abortion or end her own life. If she decides to keep the baby, she will likely hide it from her employer. When the employers find out, they may unlawfully fire her or force her to quit. If she quits, she’ll either go into hiding by living with a friend or end up in the streets; as prey to predators. She finds a job working illegally or ends up selling her body. How else can she afford to feed her child? While she works, her child is left to the care of strangers. Some are even sold or abandoned. A child without a birth certificate. No identification. What does the future hold? Attending school is certainly not an option and forget about medical care. If caught by the police, the result is likely jail time and deportation. It is a life of hiding and running.
Some may wonder why she doesn’t just go back home? Well, many of these women come from religiously conservative societies where mixed-race children, sometimes born out of wedlock, are socially stigmatized and also excluded from education and social welfare safety nets. The fear is overwhelming. So they choose to live behind the dark shadows.
With the guidance of PathFinders, she was encouraged to surrender her visa. Immigration might grant her a recognizance paper (ID) and allow her to stay in HK while her papers are being processed. She may now receive temporary government assistance. PF will help the child become legalized by first obtaining a birth certificate. Both mother and child will be able to receive much needed services from PF such as food, shelter, clothes, medical care, and skills training to prepare them for their return home.
At PathFinders, we believe in a fair start for every migrant child born in Hong Kong. A fair community for migrant women. Driven by the shared vision where every migrant child born in Hong Kong has a fair start in life, we empower their mothers to make informed life decisions and find a dignified path toward a safe and legal future.
To support the work we do at PathFinders, please join us in attending a special charity concert on June 23, 2014 at 7pm.