Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Authorities raid three Hong Kong employment agencies amid Filipino trafficking scandal

Officers from the police’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau and the Immigration Department investigating suspected unlawful activities

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 7:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 10:05am

Officers from the Labour Department teamed up with police to swoop on three employment agencies on Friday amid the recent revelations that thousands of Filipino domestic helpers were reportedly trafficked to other countries for bogus jobs.

The three agencies were located in Tsim Sha Tsui, Wan Chai and Kennedy Town. Officers, including members of the police’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau and the Immigration Department, inspected the companies to determine whether they had been involved in any illegal activities, including referring foreign domestic helpers to work unlawfully outside Hong Kong and overcharging them for placement fees.

The Post understood no arrests were made and that the three agencies were referred by the Philippine consulate in the city. A diplomat recently revealed that some Hong Kong-registered recruitment agencies had promised domestic helpers high-paying jobs in Moscow and lured them into breaking their contracts with employers in the city before arranging their flights.

Swindled by Hong Kong agencies, Filipino helpers face debt, fear and broken dreams in Russia

The Post reported earlier that over 4,000 undocumented Filipinos were currently working in Russia, most of them former Hong Kong domestic helpers transiting through the city.

Jalilo Dela Torre, labour attaché at the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, confirmed the information and said intermediaries would pocket agency fees of HK28,000 to HK$43,000.

He added almost all victims would borrow the amount from financial institutions or even loan sharks.

A government spokesman said in a statement on Friday it was greatly concerned about the illegal activities of unscrupulous employment agencies.

He cited as examples helpers working outside Hong Kong with a fake vacancy, or the actual job descriptions being different from the information when making a job referral, or the helpers being charged an excessive commission for job placement.

Hong Kong, Singapore key centres of trafficking ring sending thousands of Filipino helpers to Russia

The statement added the Labour Department had been taking stringent enforcement actions to regulate the agencies under the Employment Ordinance, including the requirement to charge jobseekers no more than 10 per cent of their first month’s salary.

“The Labour Department will take follow up actions in respect of the overcharging offences upon receipt of complaints from the helpers or referrals by the consulates general in Hong Kong,” it read, adding that the cases would be referred to police and the Immigration Department for investigation in instances of suspected fraud, deception and other illegal activities.

Do they speak English in the Philippines? The key question that could scupper plans to import workers into China

The plight of trafficked domestic helpers came to light as Manila imposed a three-week ban on the export of labour by suspending the issue of overseas employment certificates, which are needed by those wishing to work overseas.

Philippine authorities announced the ban last Friday, citing “persistent reports of illegal recruitment” and “pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos.”