A landmark case that could open the way for foreign domestic helpers to seek permanent residency has prompted authorities to enforce end-of-contract vacations to break their continuity of stay, it has been claimed. Rights activists say the development emerged soon after the case of Julita Raza reached the courts. Ms Raza is seeking a judicial review of a decision by the Director of Immigration to refuse her application for permanent residency despite her having lived in Hong Kong for almost 12 years. If successful, her case will have far-reaching implications for the 210,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong. The helpers are excluded from a provision in the Immigration Ordinance that states non-Chinese nationals will ordinarily be classified as permanent residents if they have lived in the city continuously for seven years. Ms Raza has argued the exclusion is a breach of the Basic Law and other international covenants to protect against discrimination based on social origins and choice of occupation. Last month a High Court judge sent the matter back to the Registration of Persons Tribunal to eliminate all legal avenues before a judicial review could proceed. Hong Kong Human Rights Foundation chairman Aaron Nattrass said yesterday foreign helpers had noticed increased pressure on them to travel between Hong Kong and their homes since Ms Raza's case hit the headlines. 'I think that this is just a tactic to try to see if they can break the continuity of the seven years [residency qualification],' he said. 'This is a pre-emptive strike in the event they lose the review.' The Immigration Department passed on questions to the Labour Department. A Labour Department spokesman did not answer questions as to whether authorities had become more strict about helpers taking home leave after their contracts ended, even if a new employer was willing to sign them on. But the department did point out that Clause 13 of the standard employment contract for foreign domestic helpers stated that if both parties agreed to a new contract when one ended, the helper had to return home for a vacation of at least seven days before starting the new contract. 'This is to enable the helper to reunite with his/her family after a long period abroad,' the spokesman said. But Mr Nattrass said that a 'great disparity of criteria' existed where people from Britain working in a bank were not required to go home if they shifted jobs.