Helper couple join abode fight

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 December, 2010, 12:00am

A Filipino couple who have been working in Hong Kong as domestic workers since the 1980s and who have had three children in the city are seeking a judicial review of the government's decision to deny them right of abode.

The application, filed in the Court of First Instance by human rights law firm Barnes and Daly, comes on the heels of a similar constitutional challenge filed by the firm on Friday. The lawyers argue that a provision in the Immigration Ordinance, which effectively prevents domestic helpers from becoming permanent residents even if they satisfy requirements in the Basic Law, is unconstitutional.

Applicants Daniel Domingo and Irene Raboy Domingo started working in the city in 1985 and 1982, respectively. Lawyer Mark Daly said their case was unique. 'The parents were here for over 20 years and the children have been found to be permanent residents.' The elder two of the three children, who are aged six to 18, have right of abode.

The application last Friday was filed on behalf of Filipino domestic helper Evangeline Banao Vallejos, who has worked in the city for 24 years.

The couple first applied for verification of their eligibility for permanent identity cards in April 2006. After they were turned down, they appealed to the Registration of Persons Tribunal, which dismissed the appeal on June 4 this year.

The Domingos are seeking an order to quash the tribunal's decision.

'We recognise that these are perhaps very good cases,' Daly said. The test cases addressed a systematic problem by challenging the lawfulness of particular provisions, he said.

'When people otherwise meet the requirement of the Basic Law, why should they be treated differently?'

The Basic Law provides that non-Chinese who have satisfied certain entry and length-of-stay requirements are entitled to right of abode. But the Immigration Ordinance excludes foreign helpers from being 'treated as ordinarily resident'.