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Ombudsman probes govt regulation of FDH boarding houses

14 January 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The Ombudsman says there is no law that regulates FDH boarding houses such as this

The Office of the Ombudsman is seeking the views and suggestions of the public, including foreign domestic helpers, as it begins an investigation into FDH boarding houses and government measures to regulate these facilities
 
Ombudsman Winnie Chiu launched the probe today, Jan 14, citing extensive media reports last year on FDHs being infected with Covid-19 as they were forced to stay in boarding facilities while waiting for their new employment visas.

Problems relating to FDH boarding facilities, such as over-crowding, poor hygiene and suspected violations of building usage, were also uncovered due to the infections, said a statement issued by Ombudsman.

Some media reports brought to light the issue of possible illegal operations, as licensees of employment agencies had allegedly failed to obtain a relevant license or waiver before leasing out their premises as FDH boarding facilities.

Chiu said as FDHs are permitted to remain in Hong Kong for two weeks upon completion or premature termination of their contract, they need to stay in boarding facilities during this period.  Other FDHs also end up staying in boarding houses while waiting for the resolution of labor claims or other cases they file against their employers.

But Chiu said there is no legislation that regulates FDH boarding houses, and no relevant government department has established any mechanism for inspecting such facilities to check on their compliance with fire and building safety measures. 

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“Since the government permitted the importation of FDHs into Hong Kong in the 1970s, (they) have enjoyed statutory rights and have been protected by the standard employment contract prescribed by the government, including their entitlement to proper accommodation,” Chiu said.

She said many of these facilities are said to be in overcrowded commercial or residential buildings.

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“Whether such facilities comply with public safety requirements has aroused much concern. The government has a duty to ensure a reasonable living environment for FDHs working in Hong Kong as well as public safety,” the Ombudsman said.

“Against this background, I have decided to initiate a direct investigation to examine the regulation of boarding facilities for FDHs by relevant government departments, including the Labour Department, the Home Affairs Department and the Immigration Department, and make recommendations for improvements where warranted,” she said.

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Chiu invited the public, FDHs, concern groups and organizations to provide information and views on this topic. She said written submissions should reach her office by Feb 14.

They can send their submissions to:

Office of The Ombudsman
30/F, China Merchants Tower, Shun Tak Centre
168-200 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong
Fax: 2882 8149
Email: complaints@ombudsman.hk

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