Terminated workers need help says sister

Sister Demetillo.

HONG KONG (SE): Sister Corazon Demetillo, director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos, called on employers to offer support for terminated workers whose new contracts are still being processed in Hong Kong during the pandemic and had nowhere to live.

Sister Demetillo pointed out that many terminated workers looking for jobs in Hong Kong are in financial difficulties after staying in Hong Kong for one to two months without income. According to her, many have used up their savings and are living on the subsidy of friends or charity groups.

Foreign domestic workers having finished their contracts or being terminated are supposed to leave Hong Kong after 14 days upon the end of the contract under the immigration rule. However, the Immigration Department flexibly considers applications from workers to extend their stay to one month in Hong Kong as visitors, if the applicants are unable to return to their place of origin due to the pandemic there or international travel restrictions.

The Immigration Department has also offered further flexibility on immigration regulations to assist the domestic workers in time of the pandemic. If the applicants could find a new employer, while they enter into a new contract, they may not need to return to their place of origin if the new employer can write a letter stating that the employee is urgently needed. Upon the approval of the Immigration Department, the worker will be allowed to stay in Hong Kong while waiting for the processing of the visa.

Sister Demetillo said, while workers are glad to have more time to look for a new employer without returning to the Philippines, the longer period of staying in Hong Kong without income has created difficulties for many who have no place to stay. Shelters for terminated workers are usually full, while boarding houses charge at least $50 a day. 

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“I appeal to the kindness of new employers. The terminated workers have no jobs and they have nowhere to go. They cannot go back to their home countries like before. They need help while waiting for the new visa,” she said.

She hopes new employers can give some financial subsidy for their future employees whose contract is being processed in Hong Kong, or even give them a place to stay. “This is the most charitable thing they can do,” she said. 

Furthermore, she welcomed the government measure to require employers to pay for the quarantine hotel charges of the newly arrived workers.  “The cost is high for many lower-income employers, but still they can afford it better than the workers,” she said.

According to a report on Now.com on July 9, a quarantine boarding house in Mongkok charges a worker $200 dollars each day. The staff offered the service of delivering food, temperature checking and making sure that the workers stay inside the house for 14 days. The boarding house is fully booked until the end of July after the government announced the quarantine measures for foreign domestic workers on July 7.

Amid a surge of local cases, the Secretary of Food and Health, Sophia Chan said foreign domestic workers are required to undergo tests for Covid-19 before they are allowed to enter Hong Kong and submit to mandatory quarantine for 14 days at a hotel. 

Employers are responsible for the charges of the virus tests as well as the quarantine hotel. Chan said an employer’s home is not an ideal place for quarantine as the flats in Hong Kong are too small and the newly arrived will be requires to share a toilet with the family members. 

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