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3 agencies raided as HK cracks down on human traffickers

20 November 2017

 Officers from Labour, Immigration and Police departments jointly raided three employment agencies on Nov 17 to investigate cases of trafficking of Filipino domestic helpers to other countries, and charging them excessive fees.

However, no arrests were made and a government statement said the raiding teams, which included officers from the Anti-Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, merely "inspected” the three agencies located in Tsimshatsui, Wanchai and Kennedy Town.

Labour Department TV spot warning against job scams.
Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre, who has been waging a relentless campaign against recruiters luring their Filipino victims to Russia, Turkey and other countries, welcomed the Hong Kong government’s action.

“This is a welcome development, and brings hope and relief to the thousands of victims now toiling in Russia and Turkey, and other countries. I hope the HK authorities sustain the campaign. Some legislative initiative to ban employment agencies from recruiting and deploying to third-country destinations would strengthen and institutionalize the drive against human traffickers,” Labatt Dela Torre said in an online post.

He suggested Hong Kong lawmakers should also clamp down on individual illegal recruiters, particularly a Pakistani national he recently stopped from recruiting Filipino workers to Russia.

“How about lone wolves, or individual perpetrators, like Ahmed Sameer or Jon Meer –they have no agencies, no brick and mortar presence, and yet they victimize more, thanks to Facebook and Messenger, which are their communications and recruitment platform of choice? How about it, LegCo?” Dela Torre said in his post.

Meer has been harassing the labor attache and his family members on Facebook recently as a result of his failed recruitment drive..

The raids came three days after Chief Executive Carrie Lam promised to take “vigorous enforcement action” against any employment agencies in Hong Kong that illegally deploy helpers abroad.

Speaking on Nov 14 ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam said: “I, alongside the chief secretary and the secretary for labour and welfare, are all very concerned about the issue and have been consistently in touch with the Philippine consul-general in Hong Kong.”

“I reiterate that (the government) will take vigorous enforcement action against any agencies that conduct illegal activities in Hong Kong, such as channeling the foreign domestic helpers who are supposed to work in the city to other places.”

A police spokesperson has declined to name the three employment agencies raided.

“(The raids were) a joint operation of the police, the Labour Department and Immigration Department. We have no other details,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesman for the Labour Department did not give details of the raid, either.  

"The government is committed to safeguarding the rights and benefits of foreign domestic workers and will not tolerate their exploitation in any form," the spokesman merely said. 

He added that the Labour Department had been taking stringent enforcement actions to regulate agencies under the Employment Ordinance, including the requirement to charge job-seekers no more than 10% of their first month’s salary.

He said the department would take follow-up actions against overcharging of fees upon receipt of complaints from the helpers or referrals by the consulates in Hong Kong. 

“At the same time, the cases will also be referred to the police and Immigration for investigation in respect of the suspected fraud and deception, and other illegal activities,” the spokesman said.
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