Hong Kong ruling on maids residency overturned


Foreign maids gather in Central, business district in Hong Kong. AP photo/Kin Cheung

HONG KONG—The hopes of thousands of foreign maids, including Filipinos, to claim residency here were dashed after the Court of Appeal overturned on Wednesday a landmark ruling.

“It must be up to the sovereign authority to decide the extent to which the status of permanent resident should be conceded to foreign nationals,” Judge Andrew Cheung wrote in a 66-page judgment accepting the government’s appeal.

The High Court ruled on September 30 last year that domestic worker Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a Filipino, had the right to request permanent residency status, something that had been denied to foreign maids until then.

But the government argued that the authorities had discretionary power to decide who was eligible for residency, rejecting arguments that restrictions on maids were unconstitutional and discriminatory.

The three-judge panel on the Court of Appeal unanimously accepted that argument, saying the High Court could not override the government’s authority to decide who can live in the city and who cannot.

The decision will come as a major blow to tens of thousands of maids who could have been eligible for residency status if the Vallejos case had been established in law.

“It is a fundamental principle in international law that a sovereign state has the power to admit, exclude and expel aliens,” Cheung wrote.

Vallejos to appeal

Vallejos’ lawyers said they would take the case—the first of its kind in Asia—all the way to the Court of Final Appeal, Hong Kong’s highest court.

“The interpretation of the law creates a second-class citizen,” lawyer Mark Daly said. “We will continue on to the Court of Final Appeal until we get justice.”

Rights advocates said the Court of Appeal ruling sent the wrong message to other Asian nations that relied on poorly paid maids from less wealthy countries to toil at jobs locals no longer wanted to do.

“It’s not just about staying in Hong Kong—we don’t want to be excluded,” Eni Lestari, spokesperson of the Asian Migrants’ coordinating body,  said outside the court.

The group represents over 10,000 foreign maids in Hong Kong, a glittering financial and banking center of some 7 million people, including almost 300,000 foreign domestic helpers mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Lestari said foreign maids should not be treated any differently from other foreigners who flock to the semi-autonomous former British colony to find work as lawyers, bankers, accountants and managers.

Access to services

Most are eligible to apply for permanent residency, granting them additional rights and access to government services, once they have lived in the city for at least seven years.

“What makes us different from others? We work very hard, we support our families too,” Lestari said.

“We are bound by Hong Kong immigration policies and yet they use it to exclude us, this is clear discrimination.”

Some officials have warned of a deluge of permanent residency requests if the Vallejos precedent is allowed to stand. But government figures of applications from 1998 to 2011 show no significant increase since September.

Foreign maids in Hong Kong earn a minimum wage of HK$3,740 ($480) a month and receive other benefits such as one guaranteed day off a week.

Rights groups say, however, that the maids still face discrimination and a lack of legal protection from abusive employers.

Many live with their employers for years and send portions of their pay back to relatives at home, providing a huge source of foreign remittances to the Philippine and Indonesian economies.  AFP

Originally posted at 11:42 am | Thursday, March 28,  2012

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  • BURADOR—Phil. Voice

    HONGKONG welfare system is CREATED partly through Pilipino Domectic helpers BLOOD—-
    But Besides of pilipino CONTRIBUTION pilipino MAIDs are MARGINALIZED—–
    Hongkong institutions ARE very RACIST that those MAIDs from Philippines and Indonesia ARE FIGHTING for EQUALITY—–
    Philippine government HAVE to be VERY ASSERTIVE on HOW this hongkongers are so RACIST agaist Pilipino——
    Instead of PROTECTING the WEAKEST group in HONGKONG they MALTREATED them—-

    • eyepoor

      Burador, kung ako pupunta sa bahay mo sino ba ang masusunod ikaw o ako?…Yung pagiging DH ay ginusto nila yan. Yan ang totoo… Kahit sa pinas marginalized nga din ang mga katulong e.. kasi katulong nga lang sila e.. Kaya nga ayaw ko sa lahi ko na maging katulong… Wake up call yan sa mga pinoy para mag sikap… Alisin na ang ugaling alipin.

      • BURADOR—Phil. Voice

        To eyepoor—-Yes you are RIGHT—punta ka sa bahay ko bibigyan kita ng BATAS——-ito and rights mo——–Pero dahil matagal ka na sa bahay ko at pinaginhawa mo ang pamilya ko——bibigyan kita ng RIGHTS na —–you a PART of my Family—–and you have the RIGHT in our family—-
        Pero puede mong sabihen ang NO thanks——dahil meron kang sariling pamilya—Pero you are very thankfull at NA-RECOGNIZE ang RIGHTS mo–
        That is the WHAT happening for PILIPINO MAID in Hongkong—-

      • DarkJustice

        May point ka.  PERO nasa may-ari pa din ng bahay yan kung i-rereward nya ang katulong o hindi,kasi wala naman sa batas yan. Ganun din ang nangyari sa HK,sana ay maisabatas yun at maka-apply ang mga maids doon.Kung hindi maisabatas,wala silang magagawa para maging PR doon,yan ang masaklap dyan!

      • eyepoor

        That is the problem burador… hindi mo ma recognized ang ugali ng taga Hongkong…Tingin nga nila sa mga DH ay katulong lang…hindi part of the family… yan ang katotohanan… Ugali nila ay iba sa pinoy. Wala silang utang na loob kasi bayad naman… Sa tingin ko kung itong mga pinoy sa Hongkong ay mga bankero, doctor, teacher or IT engineers, baka iba ang tingin ng mga taga HK dyan.

      • BURADOR—Phil. Voice

        eyepoor—-Yes, IT engineers, Domestic helper or bankers, they are ALL foreign workers in Hongkong—–And it is UNACCEPTABLE that this foreign workers OBTAIN residency after 7 years of STAY—-
        Iyan ang PINAG-LALABAN ng mga DH sa Hongkong—–THEY are  DEMANDING for  EQUAL RIGHTS—
        Especially NOW where EDUCATED pilipinos are very ASSERTIVE, they will DEMAND for EQUAL rights wherever they be—–

      • BURADOR—Phil. Voice

        soory eyepoor—–one more thing—
        It has nothing to DO on UGALI ng mga Hongkongers–It is a POLITICAL will—-

  • anony mous

    Bottom line is its the HK government sole right to chose who will be granted permanent residency, even if you have stayed for 7years or longer, yes you might be eligible to apply however your qualification is still bound for approval. Most countries grant permanent residency based on salary, profession, education, technical expertise, industry relevant experience and etc. They have this criteria to know which skill sets they needed to move forward as a country notably in areas like banking, education, technology, research & development, medicine and etc. 

    I don’t think that its racist, discrimination or whatever you may called it. Its just that the profession as domestic helper doesn’t fall inline with their needs and goals, as simple as that and to be honest that is just fair in my opinion. Lets be realistic here always remember they have their rights too, forget about your rights, you are living in their country hence you must respect and abide their rules.

    Stop this humiliating non sense, stop humiliating the Philippines! You just added a wound to an injury we already have (laughing stock in Asia), instead, why just do your job, do sensible things and make us proud! 


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