Quotas far too low at Hong Kong Immigration Department for domestic helpers renewing visas

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 May, 2016, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 May, 2016, 4:05pm

Our Filipino housekeeper who has been part of our family for 40 years is at present undergoing chemotherapy after a relapse of her cancer. Recently she had to apply to renew her visa.

Her experience disturbed us greatly when she had to get up in the middle of the night to catch the quota in time to process her application.

Following renewal procedures at the Philippine consulate, she went to the Immigration Department, arriving at 5am knowing that there would be a long queue of domestic helpers. At around 8.30am, the department issued the first 70 applicants each with a number, which meant that their applications would be processed that day. Unfortunately, she and some others were not in the quota and sent away. She returned a second time, arriving even earlier at 3am. As a result, she was among the first 70 applicants and was luckily issued a number for the day’s quota.

The processing of her application was completed and she left Immigration Tower at 2.30pm, nearly 12 hours after she arrived.

There are many things that work exceptionally well in Hong Kong, from our modern and efficient transport system to public hospitals that provide a world-class medical service at an affordable price.

Sadly, our bureaucracy has not moved with the times.

How can the Immigration Department limit the number of applications processed each day to such a low amount when the demand is obviously so much greater? Is it right to subject hard-working domestic helpers to get up in the middle of the night to queue for a slot and hopefully be lucky to get in the initial quota?

There are many in the Hong Kong community who are aware of the need to pay more attention to the humanitarian aspects of everyday life. It is high time government departments reviewed their priorities and procedures to reflect the beliefs of Hong Kong people.

Robert Lo, co-chairman, Hong Kong Cancer Fund