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Migrants call for free dorms, resting place for FDWs amid pandemic

18 December 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Migrants need free living space in-between jobs and during their days off, say activists

Foreign domestic workers must be given free accommodation in-between jobs, and also a venue where they can rest during their off days to protect them from the coronavirus spread.

This was the call of several migrant support groups during an online press conference held today, Dec 18, to mark International Migrant Workers Day.

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Sringatin, chair of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, said Hong Kong’s decision to offer free testing for all FDWs in the wake of an outbreak in a boarding house in Tai Po, is not really meant to protect them.

“We are asking the government for free accommodation, but instead, it’s just giving us free tests,” said Sringatin.



The free tests being offered by the government started today and will last until end of January next year. Many FDWs posting comments online say they will not submit to the test, unless their employers insist.

Sringatin also said the migrant domestic workers (MDWs) need to be given a venue where they can rest on their days off so they don’t stay in cramped dormitories, or forced to gather in open areas where they can be fined for breaking social distancing rules.

Sringatin says discrimination & exclusion are the migrants' biggest problems 

She said the MDWs’ fight is not just against the virus, but against overwork and discrimination during the time of the pandemic.

Fifi Ng, a spokesperson for the Autonomous 8A Migrants Committee, also said Hong Kong should extend financial support for MDWs, as do other countries.

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“The Hong Kong government is not giving any emergency financial support to MDWs if we compare to Japan and Korea, where financial support is given for those who have been there for some time,” Ng said.

This is the same call that all other support organizations like the Mission for Migrant Workers have been making since the coronavirus outbreak started in Hong Kong in late January.

Mission’s community relations officer Johannie Tong said the exclusion of MDWs from financial aid, as well as discriminatory policies by the government, such as telling them to stay at home on their days off, have made life more difficult for them during the pandemic.

Tong says at least 170 migrants have asked for food and help from the Mission since pandemic began

“With long-standing issues of migrant domestic workers such as long-working hours, insufficient food and problematic accommodation and sleeping arrangements not being addressed nor relieved, migrant workers have been experiencing more difficult situations and more serious rights violation during this pandemic,” said a statement read out by Tong.

She said that for the past months since the coronavirus outbreak, the Mission has been asked for help by MDWs for various reasons.

More than 70 who were undergoing quarantine asked for food donations because they were provided very little sustenance by their employers or agencies. More than 100 others whose contracts were terminated or in-between jobs also sought food assistance.

From Dec 9 to 17 alone, she said 22 workers asked to be given shelter because they had difficulties paying for accommodations in-between jobs.

Worse, she said MDWs are being unfairly labeled as virus carriers whenever positive cases are reported among their community of more than 400,000 members.



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