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NGO helps collect $3m in illegal agency fees charged migrant workers

06 April 2017

by The SUN team
Mission volunteer confers with clients
More than $3 million in illegal placement fees has been collected from employment agencies by non-government organization, Mission for Migrant Workers, on behalf of foreign domestic workers last year.
This was revealed in the Service Report 2016 released by the Mission yesterday, Apr. 5.
According to the report, the number of FDWs who approached the NGO for help in recovering fees illegally collected from them by the agencies rose by 36% compared to the same period last year. Of the number of claims pursued, 85% led to the recovery of the illicit fees, amounting to $3.07 million.
The dramatic rise in the number of claims could be directly correlated to the relatively high recovery rate, or greater awareness of the problem among migrant workers.
Only 4% paid legal fee
Statistics on agency-related complaints
Yet, the issue over the high placement fees remains. Of the 5,039 FDWs who sought help from the Mission last year, only 4% said they paid the legal fee, which under Hong Kong law, should not be more than $431, or 10% of their first monthly salary.
Nearly half, or 45%, said they paid between $5,000 to $10,000; 17% paid between $10,001 to $15,000; and an alarming 21% were charged more than $15,000.
“It should be noted that recruitment fee collection relates closely to fraudulent loans as FDWs are deceived to take out loans to cover the fees resulting also to debt bondage,” said a press statement issued by the Mission.
Another agency malpractice pointed out in the report was the fraudulent recruitment for inexistent jobs abroad, such as the one carried out by Mike’s Secretarial Services/Emry’s Employment Agency, which face refund claims from migrant workers in Hong Kong and Macau amounting to about $3 million.
Apart from the persistent problem with illegal fee collection and other agency malpractice, the FDWs remained beset with major concerns regarding their working and living conditions.
9 out of 10 work long hours
Graph on work-related complaints
As in years past, an overwhelming number, or 90%, complained of excessively long working hours. Of these, 38% reported working for more than 16 hours per day, while 62% worked from between 11 to 16 hours daily.
The other complaints were on contract violations. About 43% of the workers said they were not given private accommodation; about 29% said they were made to work before taking their day off; while 26% complained about not being given enough food.
More than half, or 56%, sought the Mission’s help over labour-related problems, while 44% had their contracts prematurely terminated, leaving them with no means to support themselves while their complaints were bring processed. A significant increase, at 17%, was also recorded in the number of workers complaining of fraud and illegal recruitment.
The Mission has, for more than 30 years, provided emergency, legal, and psycho-social assistance to FDWs in distress, and also promotes social advocacy in support of the more than 300,000 migrant workers in Hong Kong. The NGO also administers the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, which provides temporary shelter for FDWs in need.

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