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HK legislator says, open holiday camps for FDWs in cramped shelters

10 August 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap
Cheung says holiday camps should be opened up for FDWs if they cannot be given suitable accommodation

Labour Party legislator Fernando Cheung has called on the government to open holiday homes to foreign domestic workers if they cannot be given suitable accommodations while waiting for new employment visas, or are unable to return home because of travel restrictions.

The lawmaker made the call during a press conference on Aug 7 organized by the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body in the wake of two Indonesian domestic workers testing positive for Covid-19 after spending time in cramped shelters run by employment agencies.

As of today, Aug 9, a third Indonesian worker who had been staying in an agency-run shelter in Tuen Wan also tested positive for the coronavirus disease.

“The Labour Department has a duty to go to these dormitories, set guidelines for them, including basic space requirement per person … and make sure that they are clean and suitable for transitional accommodation,” Cheung said.

“If there is a need to vacate some of them, or relocate some of the other migrant domestic workers to other places so as to decrease the crowding in these dormitories, then I would call for the government to open up vacation or holiday camps for such purpose.”

Alternatively, he said the migrant workers could be offered motel or hotel packages that would allow them to be housed in “more decent accommodation.”

Pindutin para sa detalye

Cheung also echoed calls by various migrant organizations to conduct mass testing in all dormitories where there are FDWs, not just those run by employment agencies; and for basic protective supplies like masks, be given to them.

Just hours earlier, the government announced it would provide free Covid-19 tests to workers living in the agency dormitories, and also give them masks. But it did not extend the benefit to those staying in agencies run by non-government organizations and churches, or private boarding houses.
Sringatin calls for equality in the campaign to stop the virus spread

Sringatin, an Indonesian spokesperson of AMCB, also called on the government to give equal protection to FDWs in its fight against the pandemic, not just in terms of providing them with protective gear, but in extending the same financial assistance it has given to other residents.
She also called on the government to “stop the discrimination”, saying FDWs are unfairly seen as  carriers of the virus, so that many are prohibited by their employers from going out on their days off when “we continue to go to the market and other public places.”

“The government must admit that there are domestic workers who were infected by the family they work with,” Sringatin said.

Even before the third wave of infections hit Hong Kong, 40% of FDWs had already been denied their rest days, said Sringatin, “and now, the number will rise significantly.””
While they welcome the government’s announcement of free masks and testing, she said the government must also regulate agency dormitories as these are “mostly crowded, unsafe and unhygienic.”

On top of these, she said the basic question of where migrant workers in-between jobs will get the money to pay for temporary accommodations and expensive visa extensions when they are not allowed to take on jobs while waiting for their new work visa to be released.

“How about those domestic helpers who are stranded in Hong Kong and cannot leave because of (lack of) flight and lockdown? Where will they stay and who will take care of them?”, she asked.
“We are vulnerable because of unfair, unequal and discriminatory policies of the Hong Kong government,” she said.

“We appeal to Hong Kong people not to ride on the paranoia and stop the discrimination.:

Cheung agreed that the government should do more to ensure employers comply with their contractual obligation to provide their helpers with a weekly time off.

“The government should make an effort to remind employers that it is unlawful to deprive FDWs of their day-off,” he said.

Johannie Tong of the Mission for Migrant Workers also took up the call against discrimination, saying the government must “stop putting the blame on migrant workers.”

Instead of treating migrant workers unfairly, Tong said the government must adopt only one anti-epidemic policy for everyone in Hong Kong, including migrant workers.

Such policy should include providing free accommodation for all stranded MDWs, and quarantine facilities for those returning or arriving in Hong Kong for the first time; adopting clear guidelines for agency dormitories; and including migrants in the cash handout.

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