Migrants care about society as a whole
2019-07-01 16:09:41 -

Mariaam Bhatti: Tales of a Domestic Worker


I started this piece sitting at Dublin Airport, feeling half asleep and half awake, waiting for my boarding gate to open. It has been a busy few weeks but in particular, the last two were the busiest. It has been even busier for many migrants who work as carers in Ireland as there has been a strike by healthcare workers. That would make carers de-facto health professionals.


In the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), activists who are also migrant carers have been extremely busy lately, too. It’s been one thing after the other, but I take heart in their energy and enthusiasm.


Firstly, I had heard at the very last minute that My Fair Home were planning a ‘flash mob’ on the day they were formally launching their campaign — International Domestic Workers Day, Sunday 16 June.


My Fair Home is a group within the MRCI who are campaigning for better working conditions, and for the General Skills work permit to be made a priority, for many people who care for and look after the elderly or those with disabilities in Ireland.


When I heard this exciting news, I immediately got my fingers busy on my keyboard, contacting the organisers letting them know I wanted to take part, too, and that I couldn’t be left out.


In no time at all, I was the newest member of the flash mob, which was a huge success because many migrant workers showed up in droves and danced their hearts out for rights and recognition as valuable workers. Wearing similar T-shirts with the same message while we danced gave us all a great sense of belonging, one voice and solidarity.


The following week was equally busy. A group of the MRCI’s care workers, who are setting up a social enterprise, spent a week long, full-on summer school at DCU with students and professors from Felician University in New Jersey, USA. The course was mainly focussed on developing a business plan and how to develop a business idea or proposal and pitch it in a compelling manner to potential funders. The group even won a monetary price for having an idea that is well developed and is ready to take off.


The same week, a number of migrant carers also took part in the Pride march in Dublin on 29 June. It was the first time that a group of migrant carers, including those undocumented and/or gay, took part in one of the biggest marches in the world. It gives a sense of belonging to take part in citywide or countrywide social activities that highlight a very important issue.


One of the final highlights of the week was training we did with the Migrants Against Exploitation group. On the day after Pride, around 15 migrant leaders — people who are very much involved in their community on different levels and doing a variety of things on a voluntary basis — met to do a workshop, which equipped participants with skills that will enable them to provide information to fellow migrants in their community, or refer them to organisations with expertise.


The diversity of the group was incredible. It is always exciting to meet people from countries that I knew no one from before. The workshop itself was enlightening and covered a number of issues that are an everyday encounter for many migrants.


Overall, migrants care for others, but also care about issues affecting their wider society. It is always heartening to see migrants so involved in devising solutions to issues that affect the society. And this piece was finished while at the airport in Brussels waiting to collect my bag from the luggage belt. It was also attempted mid-air during the flight. It travelled countries, like migrants do.


Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

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