There are an estimated 10,000 people living in modern slavery in Hong Kong (GSI 2018). Approximately 370,000 foreign domestic workers, primarily from Indonesia and the Philippines, work in Hong Kong; some become victims of forced labour in the private homes in which they are employed. An NGO report released in 2016 estimated as many as one in six foreign domestic workers is a victim of labour exploitation. Employment agencies often charge job placement fees in excess of legal limits, and sometimes withhold identity documents, which may lead to situations of debt bondage of workers in Hong Kong. The accumulated debts sometimes amount to a significant portion of the worker’s first year salary. Some employers or employment agencies illegally withhold passports, employment contracts, or other possessions until the debt is paid. Some workers are required to work up to 17 hours per day, experience verbal, sexual or physical abuse in the home, and/or are not granted a legally required weekly day off.
GH, a 29-year-old woman from Cilacap, Indonesia was trafficked to Hong Kong for domestic work.
When I arrived at the training centre in Surabaya, I had to get my hair cut short like a boy. No trainee could leave the centre without depositing more than IDR 1 million [US$100] or a property certificate with the broker’s guarantee. The recruitment agency owner also kept our mobile phone. We could only call our family once a week. Aside from the training, we had to do housework – like laundry and cleaning – for the owner and staff, as well as baby-sit their children. We had very little to eat. Once the owner told all the trainees that he was purposely feeding us very little food so that we could get used to life as a migrant domestic worker in Hong Kong, as we would surely be underfed by our employers.
I had to give the recruitment agency my junior school diploma, family certificate, husband’s permission, marriage certificate and Indonesian ID card. After the seven- month deduction period in Hong Kong, my family was allowed to retrieve them from the agency.
The placement agency took my passport and contract when I arrived in Hong Kong. After seven months, the agency returned the documents when I had finished paying back my recruitment fees. But then my employer confiscated them.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International