Indonesian official wants city's maid agencies to register with consulate

Top Indonesian official says listing with consulate could help prevent the abuse of domestic workers, but officials reject proposal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 7:34pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 January, 2014, 3:05am

Indonesia says Hong Kong should consider changing its laws to force local domestic worker employment agencies to register with Jakarta's consulate in the SAR in an effort to help curb the abuse of helpers.

Top foreign ministry official Tatang Budie Utama Razak also expressed concern about the lack of support for Indonesian workers from agencies, saying they "just care about money".

Tatang, the director for legal aid and protection of Indonesian nationals overseas at the country's foreign ministry, said: "We've frequently gotten complaints that helpers would like to leave or change employers, but agencies would just ignore their complaints.

"We are concerned that some agencies in Hong Kong just care about getting money from helpers. They can't just take the money and then ignore them [when they need help]."

His comments came two days after a Hong Kong woman was charged with seven counts relating to the alleged abuse of 23-year-old Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and two other helpers.

Law Wan-tung was arrested on Monday and charged after one of the helpers alleged she had been abused by the housewife.

When asked whether he would consider a moratorium on sending helpers to Hong Kong, Tatang said: "We have placed moratoriums in the past on countries including Malaysia and Saudi Arabia where abuses were happening repeatedly in a short time and there wasn't a proper response from authorities. For Hong Kong, we are looking to see how the legal process [for Erwiana's case] goes.

"Hong Kong is one of the better places for migrant domestic helpers. There is a legal system that protects their rights and freedom of expression."

He added: "The Indonesian parliament has been in the middle of revising the law for placement and protection of Indonesian migrant workers, but the process involves many stakeholders with different views ... I don't think this law will be passed before the election in a few months."

Hong Kong officials last night rejected Tatang's calls for changes to the city's laws regarding employment agencies. A spokesman for the Labour Department said such measures would reduce options for employers and "deprive the government of its rights to issue licenses to employment agencies".

A department spokeswoman also made clear the employment ordinance did not state that agencies had to secure the recognition of any consulate before applying for licences.

Last year 1,253 agencies specialising in domestic worker employment were registered with the Hong Kong government.

But although 237 agencies have been licensed by the Indonesian consulate in the city, hundreds of others have been bringing in Indonesian workers without approval from it, according to Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, vice-chairwoman of the General Chamber of Manpower Agencies.

Indonesia's consul general in Hong Kong, Chalief Akbar, said on Monday that it would look into the claim.

Eman Villanueva, spokesman for Operation Migrants' Rescue Compatriots, said the proposed licensing measures would not solve the problems of abuse and the over-charging of agency fees.