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.
RM, a 41-year-old woman from Ponorogo, was trafficked into domestic work in Hong Kong.
When I was in Indonesia, my broker and the agency in Surabaya promised me a monthly salary of HK$3,900 [US$500], but I found out from the Hong Kong placement agency that I would only receive HK$2,000 [US$260].
My employer kept my passport and contract. When I asked for them, she told me that it was forbidden for me to hold on to them.
At Surabaya airport, I was met by the recruitment agency staff who took my passport and said that I had to return with him to the training centre, but I refused and went home by taxi. My broker later told me that if I wanted my passport back, I would have to pay the agency IDR 1,000,000 [US$100]. As I don’t have that kind of money, the recruitment agency still has my passport today.
Narrative provided by Amnesty International