Filipino mother challenges refusal to extend her stay

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2012, 12:00am

Immigration chiefs have 'tolerated' a Filipino woman's presence in Hong Kong for the last five years but have refused to officially extend her stay despite her daughter being a permanent resident, a court heard.

Former domestic helper Milagros Tecson Comilang yesterday officially challenged the Immigration Department's repeated refusal to formally extend her stay in the city.

Her counsel told the Court of First Instance that, while her stay has been 'tolerated' by the Director of Immigration, she fears she could be forced to leave at any time.

Comilang, who came to Hong Kong in 1997 as a domestic helper, married a Hong Kong resident in 2005. Her application to change her immigration status to allow her to remain in Hong Kong was rejected in 2007, and she is allowed to remain only on condition that she reports to immigration every two weeks.

Gladys Li SC told the judicial review hearing it would be in the best interests of Comilang's six-year-old daughter, Zahrah Ahmed, if her mother was allowed to stay in Hong Kong.

'[In this case] the daughter can't possibly enjoy her right of abode without her mother being [here as] the carer ... It is the right of the child to be taken care of by her mother,' Li said. She added that having a family life was a right, and the girl would suffer hardship if she was forced to go to the Philippines with her mother.

'The girl was born in Hong Kong and studies in Hong Kong. She has no close family in the Philippines and her roots are in Hong Kong,' Li, who represented both the mother and the daughter, said.

She said the Director of Immigration should take into account the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law. Otherwise those rights exist 'only on paper, and work theoretically'.

People who come to Hong Kong as domestic helpers are not eligible to become permanent residents after seven years, unlike most workers.

The rule was upheld by the Court of Appeal last year

Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon reserved judgment in the case.