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Hong Kong court favors Philippine maid again

03:20 AM October 27, 2011

HONG KONG—A Hong Kong judge has ruled that an immigration tribunal should consider the case of a Filipino maid seeking permanent residence, paving the way for her to receive the status.

Wednesday’s decision in the case of Evangeline Banao Vallejos follows an earlier High Court ruling that a government move to deny her permanent residency was unconstitutional. The government had appealed that ruling.

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Mark Daly, the lawyer of Vallejos, said the Filipino maid’s permanent residence was now “100-percent sure.”

In his ruling on Wednesday, Justice Johnson Lam rejected the government’s bid to suspend the processing of residency applications by foreign maids, after last month’s key ruling paved the way for them to settle in the city.

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Foreigners may apply to stay in Hong Kong after seven years of uninterrupted residency, gaining access to voting rights, benefits such as public housing and the right to live in the Chinese city without a work visa.

Excluded

But until the landmark High Court ruling last month, immigration laws had excluded the city’s 292,000 foreign maids from settling in the territory.

The High Court judged the law unconstitutional in a decision that has sharply divided opinion and prompted a government appeal.

Fearing the ruling would spark a flood of new applications, the government asked the High Court to allow it to suspend processing the foreign maids’ residency claims, via a stay order, until the appeal was complete.

Government counsel David Pannick had argued that the “status quo should be maintained” pending the appeal, a date for which has not been set.

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“Our concern is the general implication,” Pannick said, adding that the government did not want to be held in contempt of court for not processing the maids’ applications until the appeal.

But Justice Lam rejected Pannick’s arguments, saying it was up to the foreign maids to take their cases to court if their applications are not entertained by the immigration authorities.

Other criteria

Despite the High Court decision, foreign maids—like other expats—must still fulfill other criteria before gaining residency, including proving they planned to make Hong Kong their permanent home.

The case has prompted debate on equal treatment of foreign maids in Hong Kong, who are entitled to better working conditions than in other parts of Asia.

They are guaranteed one day off a week, paid sick leave and a minimum wage of HK$3,740 (US$480) a month, but rights groups say they still face general discrimination and a lack of legal protection

A maid’s visa is tied to a specific employer, leaving her in a difficult situation if she wants to change jobs, activists say.

The ruling could have implications for other Asian economies that rely on cheap imported labor for cooking, cleaning and care of the young and elderly, allowing the local women to join the workforce. Reports from AFP and AP

Originally posted at 08:05 pm | Wednesday, October 26, 2011

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TAGS: Hong Kong, Immigration, Judiciary, Laws, maid, Migration, Residency
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