The Domestic Workers Roundtable (DWRT), a conglomeration of domestic workers NGOs and interest groups formed in 2014 (including Hong Kong Helpers Campaign), has announced a delegation to Manila to meet with counterparts to discuss illegal agency fees, loan sharks, and access to justice for abused domestic workers in Hong Kong.
The delegation, led by Legislative Councilwoman Emily Lau of the Democratic Party will arrive in Manila on August 2 for four days of talks. Supporting her are Allan Bell, Chairperson of the DWRT and David Bishop, co-founder of the Fair Employment Agency, an organisation for migrant workers in Hong Kong that charges them no fees for job placement.
In a statement, the group announced that its key initiative was to create a permanent working group between the two counties to address issues pertaining to the nearly 170,000 Filipino migrant domestic workers in the city. The delegation said that presently, complaints are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and more permanent solutions to problems are necessary.
Among the groups complaints are “victimisation by unscrupulous money lenders and employment agencies who collaborate across borders”, “insufficient monitoring of employment agencies in Hong Kong”, and “insufficient, inappropriate, and unnecessarily expensive orientation and training in both the HKSAR and Sending states”.
The announcement comes just days after the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report ranked Hong Kong Level 2 for failing to comply with minimum levels to combat trafficking, citing migrant domestic workers as a group particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Hong Kong rejected the report, citing the sentencing of Erwiana Sulistyaninsih’s employer as proof of a system that protected migrant workers. The Justice Centre, a local NGO, called the ranking “abysmal” and is planning to release preliminary findings of a report on forced labour and trafficking at the end of the year.
The Domestic Workers Roundtable is planning similar meetings in Jakarta later in the year.