HK businessman's trafficking sentence in Canada 'a warning to employers of domestic helpers'

HK man's jail term in Canada shows danger of allowing helpers to overstay, say agencies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 4:04am

Hong Kong employers who take their domestic helpers with them to Canada face a high risk of prosecution if the helper overstays in the country.

The warning from helper agencies came after the sentencing on Tuesday of a Hong Kong businessman in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Franco Orr Yiu-kwan, who took his Filipino helper with his family when they moved to Canada, was jailed for 18 months for human trafficking.

The court heard Orr forced the woman, Leticia Sarmiento, to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for almost two years - long after her six-month tourist visa had expired.

Prosecutors said they hoped the sentence would deter other would-be traffickers.

Richard Lam Kwok-chuen, owner of Metro Asia Recruitment Services, said it was common for employers to take their helpers to Canada when they emigrated or went on holiday.

Immigrants are required to seek a work visa for their helpers. If one was granted, they have to pay the hourly minimum wage of C$10.25 (HK$76), Lam said.

But some employers sought only a tourist visa and then continued to pay their helpers at the much lower Hong Kong rate, which was recently raised to HK$4,010 a month.

Lam said the problem was that employers were required to sign a guarantee to the Canadian government that their helpers would not break the law.

"This means if the maids overstay in Canada, the employers can be prosecuted," Lam said.

Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of Technic Employment Service Centre, also warned that employers could be in danger of prosecution if they allowed their helpers to overstay.

She said Filipinos liked to work in Canada because they can apply for permanent residency.

Lam and Liu believed the case of Sarmiento was rare, but would deter employers from letting helpers overstay in Canada.