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Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Two Filipino mothers pin last hopes on final appeal to stay in Hong Kong as separation from families loom

  • Both have been battling for their residency rights since 2011 and 2014, and their ruling will affect outcome of other similar cases
  • Lawyer says immigration decisions should not be given a blanket exemption from fundamental human rights norms
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 November, 2018, 10:04am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 November, 2018, 3:33pm

Two mothers who face separation from their families after being refused the right to remain in Hong Kong have expressed fear and anxiety as they pin their last hopes on the city’s highest court overturning the Immigration Department’s decisions.

The cases of Filipino women Milagros Tecson Comilang and Desiree Rante Luis will be heard before the Appeal Committee on Wednesday, which will decide whether their applications will be formally heard before the full bench of the Court of Final Appeal.

Comilang and Luis have been battling for the right to remain in Hong Kong since 2011 and 2014, respectively.

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The judgment will also have an impact on at least a dozen ethnic Chinese Hong Kong women whose spouses have been refused residency in the city and are seeking court reviews.

Mark Daly, a human rights lawyer who is representing these families, said: “Immigration decisions should not be given a blanket exemption from fundamental human rights norms, particularly children’s and family rights.”

Comilang, a former domestic worker, was left to raise her daughter – who was born in the city – after she and her husband “Ahmed”, a permanent resident, divorced and he withdrew his support for her dependency status.

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Luis came to Hong Kong as a domestic helper in 1991. She married her husband, also from the Philippines and a domestic helper in the city, in 1997.

She gave birth to three children, and at least one of them, now 16, became a permanent resident in 2010. Two other sons, aged 14 and seven, suffer from medical conditions such as heart disease, so Luis was granted an extension of stay to look after them. Her extension ended in 2012 and immigration authorities concluded the children could depend on their father.

I have mixed feelings – there’s frustration, fear and anxiety
Milagros Tecson Comilang

“I have mixed feelings – there’s frustration, fear and anxiety as we do not know what will be the result,” Comilang said, adding that she however remained “positive” about her case.

“I feel calm that they would give me the opportunity to remain with my daughter.”

Her daughter, 12, said: “I have positive thoughts that my mom will win the case.”

Comilang said: “I told her that I might not be allowed to stay. But she said, ‘it won’t happen, you will be by my side.’ She always tells me ‘mom you will not go anywhere, I need you here, nobody can take care of me. Why will anyone ask you to leave?’ She’s very supportive, she does not want negative thoughts.”

Luis said: “I am so nervous, I do not know what will be the decision.”

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Her worry is that her two younger sons have medical conditions and need regular check-ups.

I don’t know what will happen if I am not with them as all their lives, I’ve been with them
Desiree Rante Luis

“I don’t know what will happen if I am not with them as all their lives, I’ve been with them. My husband works. We don’t know what to do. We can survive, by the grace of God, so long as we’re together.”

If the Court of Final Appeal refuses the applications, it will mean the families of Luis and Comilang will be separated, potentially splitting parents and children apart.

Separately, in another case, a Hong Kong-Chinese woman whose Pakistani husband has been refused a dependent visa and is appealing a Court of First Instance ruling, has written to the Immigration Department on compassionate grounds.

“My husband and I have been hoping that we can have a normal family life just like all other ordinary families in Hong Kong. Sadly, however, I suffered from great emotional and mental hardships in this long application process,” said the woman, who cannot be named.