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Immigration law discriminates against maids, HK court rules

(Shanghai Daily)

11:41, October 01, 2011

A Filipino maid in Hong Kong won the opening legal battle in her fight for permanent residency after a court ruled yesterday that an immigration provision excluding the city's hundreds of thousands of foreign maids was unconstitutional.

It was a major legal victory in a case that has divided the city with accusations of ethnic discrimination against the foreign maids, most of whom are from the Philippines or Indonesia.

Justice Johnson Lam, ruling in the Court of First Instance, said the immigration provision denying the maids the right to gain permanent residency after seven years - as other foreign residents can - was inconsistent with the Basic Law.

The government is likely to appeal the ruling.

The case was launched by Evangeline Banao Vallejos, a longtime foreign domestic helper who sought a judicial review after her bid for permanent residency was rejected.

Vallejos, who did not attend court because she was busy working, said "thank God" after learning the outcome, said Mark Daly, one of her lawyers.

The case has divided opinion in Hong Kong, with some arguing that immigration provisions barring maids from applying amounts to ethnic discrimination. The vast majority of the city's 292,000 foreign domestic helpers, most of them women, are from the Philippines or Indonesia, but some also come from Thailand, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. About 95 percent of Hong Kong's population of 7.1 million are Chinese.

The maids are a big source of help to the middle and upper classes of Hong Kong, where it's commonplace for families to employ one or more to live with them, where they do household chores and look after children.

But many people complain that giving the maids permanent residency would result in an influx of their family members, which would put a strain on the densely populated city's housing, schools and other resources.

Several dozen people protested outside the courthouse against the maids and their supporters as the ruling was released.

At the end of last year, 117,000 of the city's foreign maids had been in Hong Kong for more than seven years, Lam's ruling noted, citing government figures.

Last year, about 120,000 of Hong Kong's foreign maids were from the Philippines, according to Philippine government figures. Indonesians account for much of the rest, but exact figures weren't available.

Two similar cases involving a total of five Filipino domestic helpers are set to go before the courts this month.


Leave your comment5 comments

  1. Name

PD User at 2011-10-03202.158.179.*
The Laws of any judicial territory are promulgated to look after the interests of the people who inhabit that region. A law that allows the induction of large numbers of unskilled people from SE Asia into an already densely populated city like Hong Kong, and cause still more unemployment, is a stupid law indeed. It needs to be reviewed.
PD User at 2011-10-02220.255.1.*
It sound really weird that HK courts take into consideration of the right of an individual to settle in HK. What about the right of hundreds of thousand of HK citizen ? They too have the right to ensure that the city is would not become to crowded.
helen at 2011-10-01183.78.12.*
The Hong Kong local government needs to review and amend its immigration laws and eligibility qualifications to prevent thousands and later millions of foreign maids from becoming permanent residents and citizens. Hong Kong is already a very densely populated area in China and cannot absorb foreign maids from Asean to become PRs and citizens. The right to stay in Hong Kong remains the prerogative of the Hong Kong government.Those foreign maids should actually try to go the United States where the population is still small. Besides, the US is nation of immigrants and peoples all over the world must exercise their human rights to go and settle in the United States..
Howard Yip at 2011-10-0160.53.51.*
China, including the city of Hongkong, is a densely populated country and we must not be flooded with immigrants from other states. Once a foreigner becomes a Hongkong citizen, he or she also has certain privileges in the mainland.
Howard Yip at 2011-10-0160.53.51.*
China, including the city of Hongkong, is a densely populated country and we must not be flooded with immigrants from other states. Once a foreigner becomes a Hongkong citizen, he or she also has certain privileges in the mainland.

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