Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Hong Kong must act to curb human trafficking

The city’s reputation is at stake if officials do not heed calls to plug legal loopholes that allow vulnerable domestic helpers to be tricked into working in places such as Russia, Brazil and Turkey

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 November, 2017, 1:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 November, 2017, 1:02am

The Hong Kong government steadfastly rejects claims the city has become a hub for the trade in human misery of people and drug trafficking. In the case of drugs, major seizures and joint interception operations with foreign law enforcement agencies suggest otherwise. In the case of human trafficking, new revelations suggest the city’s reputation is at stake if officials do not heed calls to plug legal loopholes.

A senior Philippine official has told the Post the city is a base for job recruitment fraud in which thousands of Filipino domestic helpers have been trafficked to Russia, Turkey and Brazil for bogus employment. He claimed that more than 4,000 undocumented Filipinos are working in Russia alone, most formerly from Hong Kong. These revelations came to light after the Philippine government slapped a three-week ban on foreign recruitment of its citizens by suspending the processing of overseas employment certificates. Manila cited reports of illegal recruitment and “pernicious activities of individuals preying on Filipinos”.

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Confirming the concerns, Philippine consulate labour attaché, Jalilo Dela Torre, said some Hong Kong-registered recruitment agencies had promised helpers high-paying jobs in Moscow, lured them into breaking their contracts here and arranged flights, pocketing agency fees of up to HK$43,000. One of four maids who told of being tricked in this way said the job in Russia paid only the same as in Hong Kong and she was left in more debt.

Trafficking of people for forced labour or the sex trade is a serious violation of human rights. The US State Department has complained in the past that the city is not doing enough about it. Hong Kong urgently needs comprehensive laws, as advocated by lawyers, Amnesty International and trade unions. A vow by legal sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok to introduce his own bill if the government does not move first should prod it into action. It needs to consider legislating and also tightening enforcement of laws already at its disposal. It is naive to think of it as just a helper issue when Hong Kong is potentially a hub for all sorts of illegal trafficking.