Helpers can take residency case to highest court
Two foreign domestic helpers fighting for the right to apply for permanent residency can take their case to the city's highest court, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Evangeline Banao Vallejos and Daniel Domingo were granted permission to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal because the key issue - the constitutionality of an immigration law - was of 'great general public importance', Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung said.
The top court will decide whether section 2(4)(a)(vi) of the Immigration Ordinance is inconsistent with the Basic Law and should be declared invalid. It says foreign domestic helpers - unlike other foreigners - are not 'ordinarily resident' in the city, denying their right to apply for a permanent identity card. Other foreigners can apply for right of abode after seven years of uninterrupted residence.
Vallejos has lived in Hong Kong for 25 years and Domingo for 26 years. The final appeal's result will have far-reaching implications for the 285,000 foreign domestic helpers in the city. About 125,000 have lived here for seven years or more.
Lawyer Abraham Chan, for the government, said the administration would not object to the appeal.
Cheung, Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching and Mr Justice Frank Stock granted permission for the appeal to the top court without requiring the helpers' lawyers to put forward their arguments.
In March, the Court of Appeal ruled the immigration law constitutional, finding that the government had the power to impose immigration controls and that the presence of foreign domestic helpers in the city was for a specific purpose.
'Their stays in Hong Kong are highly regulated so as to ensure that they are here to fulfil the special, limited purpose for which they have been allowed to come here in the first place, and no more,' Cheung wrote.
The appeal court judgment overturned a lower court ruling in September by Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon, who found in favour of Vallejos, who has been in Hong Kong since 1986. Domingo last year won a judicial review of the government's rejection of his application for permanent residence in 2008.
The government has argued changing the law would cause an 'influx' of immigrants, straining the medical and welfare systems.
The Security Bureau has put on hold the processing of domestic helpers' right-of-abode applications since September last year.
years of residence is required for permanent residency
-About 125,000 helpers have lived here for seven years or more