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Migrant leader lauds HK’s move to extend stay of terminated FDWs, but…

22 March 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

One of the Filipina domestic workers terminated last month because the travel ban stopped her returning to HK on time

The leader of one of the biggest migrant worker organizations in Hong Kong has welcomed the Immigration Department’s move to consider extending the visa of terminated foreign domestic workers for up to a month amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Dolores Balladares of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body said the visa extension announced yesterday, Mar 21, would be a big help to FDWs, especially in the wake of a significant rise in Covid-related terminations.

Last month, Immigration figures showed around 2,000 Filipino domestic workers had lost their jobs, mainly because of new travel restrictions imposed by the Philippine government because of the outbreak.

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But also significant was the number of contract terminations directly related to Covid-19, such as the employer’s relocation or loss of job, or the workers’ insistence on taking a day off against the employers’ wishes.

“This is a good move as it will give our workers more time to look for another employer, especially those whose terminations fall under exceptional cases such as relocation, since they will be allowed to process a new contract without having to leave Hong Kong.”

But Balladares says it will not mean much to those who are sacked for any other reasons, no matter how unjust, such as because they had insisted on their right to take their weekly day-off, because they will still be sent home to await a new visa.
 
Balladares says  HK should allow all terminated workers to process new contracts in HK during the visa extension period

Sana kapag ganyan ang dahilan payagan na rin na mag-process ng bagong kontrata ang worker dito kasi unfair sa kanila yun,” she said.

She noted that there had been a noticeable drop in the number of helpers allowed to take a day-off today, Mar 22, after a newly arrived Filipina domestic worker tested positive for Covid-19.
Even if the worker is allowed to extend her visa for a month, she will still have to worry about where to stay, or where she will get the money for food and other basic needs, Balladares said.

Sana, ituloy-tuloy na nila ang pagbibigay ng kunsiderasyon. Halimbawa, payagan silang magtrabaho pansamantala o kaya ay huwag nang palabasin ng Hong Kong kapag may nakuhang bagong employer.”

Balladares also said recent moves by the Hong Kong government to direct employers to to provide for the needs of their FDWs who are put under the 14-day mandatory quarantine for all arriving passengers was laudable.
She said it was good that the Labour Department had instructed the employers to put up the workers in their homes, or pay for alternative accommodation, such as in an agency’s shelter, or a hotel.

“Kaya lang, may concern pa rin kami, kasi hindi sinabi ng Labour Department na dapat ay bayad din ang suweldo ng worker sa 14 na araw na iyon. Iyun ang gusto naming linawin, kasi hindi naman kasalanan ng worker yung quarantine, at kailangan nila ang kanilang suweldo.”
According to the Immigration announcement, FDWs whose existing contracts are due to expire, or are terminated on or before Jul 31, may apply to apply to have their visitor visa extended for up a a month, “if they are unable to return to their place of origin due to the pandemic there or international travel restrictions.”
 
Thousands of OFWs were stranded in the Phl because of a travel ban last month
A further extension can be granted if the helper is still unable to return to her place of origin for home leave by the end of the extended period. However, the extension period should not exceed six months.

The statement said the Government has noted that FDWs might have difficulty returning to, or coming from, their places of origin because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

All applications will still be subject to Immigration’s assessment of individual cases.

For inquiries, call 2824 6111 or email enquiry@immd.gov.hk for enquiries.
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