September ruling in residency fight

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2011, 12:00am


Any judgment on a judicial review by a domestic helper fighting for her right of abode should take into account its potential effect on all foreign helpers, lawyers for Evangeline Banao Vallejos said yesterday.

Wrapping up her argument, Gladys Li, SC, also rejected government lawyers' suggestion that domestic helpers' residence was 'extraordinary' because they were subject to conditions of stay, like prisoners, refugees and asylum seekers.

After three days of hearing, Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon said yesterday he aimed to hand down a decision in the maid's abode-rights challenge by the end of next month before he starts hearing two similar judicial reviews in October.

Central to Vallejos' case is the question of whether an Immigration Ordinance provision that says foreign domestic helpers cannot be treated as an 'ordinarily resident' - a requirement for permanent residency - is constitutional.

It is the first of three cases launched by domestic helpers. Still to come are one from a couple and another by a mother and son.

Lawyers for Vallejos and the government agreed to adjourn their arguments on what remedy should be granted to the maid if she won the case until after the judgment was handed down. Possibilities include a ruling that Vallejos is entitled to right of abode or an order for the government to reconsider the case.

David Pannick, QC, for the government, said there were substantial restrictions on the ability of domestic helpers to stay in the city, which rendered their residency extraordinary.

'I don't suggest that foreign domestic helpers involve as many restrictions as prisoners,' he said. 'But restrictions are still substantial.'

Li said the Immigration Ordinance should never supersede the Basic Law in excluding domestic helpers from becoming permanent residents. The government could always adopt administrative measures to control people's stay, Li said.