After working in Taiwan for 5 years, Annisa* felt it was time for a change, and she began searching for jobs in Hong Kong because she had heard that a lot of Indonesians have found work there. She arrived in Hong Kong in 2013. As is common practice for many agents working with Indonesian migrant domestic workers, she had a monthly deduction of HK$ 3000 taken from her salary for the first 6 months. Her main responsibility was to take care of an elderly lady. For the most part, Annisa enjoyed her work but unfortunately, the elderly woman passed away after about 1.5 years and her contract was terminated. This was what began her exploitation by a woman named Agatha.
Annisa met Agatha about one week before her first contract finished, and she told Annisa that she could find her a new employer. After her contract finished, Annisa stayed at a boarding house provided by Agatha, doing some part time work arranged by Agatha for about 2 weeks.
When the agency paid her the meagre HK$1500 for her work, they told her that they had been instructed by Agatha not to give her the money directly.
Annisa then began to realise that perhaps Agatha was not as trustworthy as she once thought. When Agatha later tried to force her to give her the money, Annisa refused.
Unfortunately, by this time Annisa could not escape from Agatha. Her passport had been taken from her and she could only hope that she can find a new employer quickly. As her visa expired, Agatha took Annisa to the Macau ferry, handed her the passport so she could go through immigration, and had an associate meet her on the other side. This person immediately confiscated her passport again upon arrival. Annisa was made to pay HK$2000 to Agatha for this “service”. She stayed at a boarding house under supervision for about 2 months, until Agatha texted to tell her to come back to Hong Kong. As soon as she came off the ferry, Agatha took Annisa’s passport and then escorted her to take out a loan in Causeway Bay. The money went straight to Agatha, but Annisa was the one who had to pay it back. Her second contract also had a monthly deduction for 6 months, and in addition to that, Agatha also asked for an additional HK$8000 as a “deposit”. Annisa told her she didn’t have that much money, and Agatha allowed her to pay in instalments.
When Annisa decided not to pay the last instalment, agents from the employment agency came to her employer’s home and threatened her.
To Annisa’s dismay, her new employer also exploited her lack of understanding of her rights as a migrant domestic worker, and made her look after 2 households. They lived in multi-level village houses, and often had a lot of extended family visiting, which made the work quite excessive for one person. After about 4 months, Annisa began to have disputes with her employer about her holiday time, and they eventually decided to terminate the contract. On that day, she went to the agency to try and get her passport back. The agency initially refused and Annisa called a local labour rights group to help, and they advised her to call the police. Once the police came, the agency admitted that Agatha had the passport and they needed to ask her for it. But while they were waiting for Agatha to arrive, the police had to do a shift change so they left, telling Annisa that she can call them back if Agatha did not return her passport. When Agatha finally arrived without the police there, she tried to extort another HK$9000 from Annisa for the return of her passport. Annisa put her foot down and threatened to call the police again, at which point Agatha finally conceded and returned her passport.
Although this was a minor victory, Annisa is still waiting for justice. She filed a claim with the Hong Kong Labour Department against Agatha and the employment agency she worked with, but in the meantime, she cannot work. Annisa hopes that this nightmare can be settled soon and she can begin her life again.
*All names & identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
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Story provided by Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions.
The photo is not of the actual victims.