Helpers fear exploitation, bias in new travel plan

A migrant workers’ group on Saturday called on the government to be mindful of the potential for foreign domestic helpers to exploited and discriminated against in a new plan to open the border to new helpers who have been fully inoculated in their home countries.

Officials revealed that discussions with the Philippines and Indonesia on the verification of local vaccination records have been going well and details of the proposal could come as soon as next week.

The chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance, Eni Lestari, said this was good news, but she expressed concern that extra procedures could subject helpers to unscrupulous practices.

“Last year, we received reports, many reports actually, some of the domestic workers who were supposed to come here and they were not able to fill up all the required forms by the Hong Kong government online, and some of the were cheated at the airport because some people were offering their services to fill up all these forms in English and they didn’t even read and speak English,” she told RTHK.

She said authorities should also set clear guidelines in their respective languages to reduce the risk of helpers being scammed.

She also criticised a proposal to designate one or two hotels for helpers to spend their 21-day quarantine.

“Why should they create designated hotels for domestic workers [when] it is not even free? For us, for me, it will create another kind of discrimination,” she said.

Thomas Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies, said he was concerned that two hotels may not be enough to take up thousands of helpers waiting to come to work in Hong Kong.

He pointed out that some helpers had been hired as long ago as last year and had waited a long time to start their employment here.

According to Chan, there are up to 8,000 helpers who have received visas to work in Hong Kong, and more than half of them will be eligible to come immediately as they have received two coronavirus jabs.