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Police step up ID checks on migrant workers

20 December 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Officers stopped several Filipina DHs for ID checks at North Point market on Saturday

At least two Filipina domestic workers have warned about police officers stepping up patrols on the streets starting on Saturday, and stopping migrant workers for HK ID checks.

One of them said she was herself stopped near the North Point market for the ID check, as she was hurrying through the cold on the way to a popular floral display near the pier.

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Irene Liban said that after officers got her ID card, they began asking a lot of questions, like where she was going, what was she doing in the market, where did she work, what was her work, whether she was meeting friends, why she was off on a Saturday, if she did the marketing and cooking for her employer, etc.

Then the officers made a call, apparently to their Immigration contacts, to verify her visa status based on her ID card number. After ascertaining that her ID and visa were valid, she was let go.

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Liban said it was the first time she was carded by the police in the three years that she has been in Hong Kong.

Another Filipina who happened to be in the vicinity, said she saw the officers making two other ID checks on her fellow FDHs who were not doing any marketing. One was standing in front of a 7-11 store, and the other, a shoe store along the tram line.

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Cherry Anne said one of the Filipinas was obviously irked that she was stopped for the spot check, as she was apparently hurrying to go somewhere. But she knew well enough to cooperate with the police, which are by law, allowed to randomly stop people on the streets to check on their identification and visa status.

In the past, however, the ones often stopped were young males, usually carrying backpacks which are routinely checked along with their identity documents. The operation used to be carried out to flush out illegal immigrants or workers, mostly from the mainland.

Officers often patrol FDWs' favourite haunts in Central on Sundays

The shift to stopping and checking FDWs comes in the wake of a Covid-19 outbreak last week in a Tai Po boarding house frequented by Filipinas.

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At least 13 cases have been linked to the boarding house, including four from an employer’s household. Health officials say 33 close contacts of those who had been there were moved to a quarantine centre.

On Dec 14, health officials issued a mandatory testing order for everyone who had stayed in the premises for at least two hours in the past month.

This was followed by an announcement of free tests for all of the nearly 400,000 FDWs in the city, prompting protests by migrant groups about them being targeted again for discrimination.

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In the third wave of infections between July and August, free tests were also offered to FDWs, after several Indonesian helpers who had stayed in cramped dormitories run by employment agencies across several districts, were also found infected.

Liban did not let her odd encounter with the police ruin her dayoff

Though surprised by the police action, Liban says she considers it as a necessary step to prevent the further spread of the virus in the community.

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But she warned her fellow FDWs to make sure they wear a mask when they go out of the house, and to always bring their ID with them so they could stay out of trouble.

Those who defy gathering restrictions like not wearing a face mask in public or going out more than two to a group, will make them liable to pay a fixed penalty of $5,000. If the case goes to court, the penalty could rise to a maximum fine of $25,000 and six months imprisonment.

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