Life in Central Java, Indonesia, was rather typical for Farah*. Her husband worked as a contractor and she worked in a factory supporting their family of 5. Farah and her husband had 3 school-aged children and their combined income was just enough to sustain the family and put the children in school. Things began to turn for the worse, however, when her husband was in a car accident and ended up in the hospital. He wasn’t able to work for a long time, and even now continues to require medical care. This was when Farah decided to look for work overseas in order to bring in enough to support the family.
She first arrived in Hong Kong in the summer of 2012. She had contacted an employment agency in Hong Kong while still in Indonesia. “I was a bit scared, and of course sad to leave my family,” she said, but there wasn’t any work in Indonesia for her that could support the family.
For the first two and a half years in Hong Kong, Farah experienced what is all too common for domestic workers coming from Indonesia: both contracts she had required an illegal deduction of hk$3000 from her monthly salary of hk$4100 for a period of 7 months. In addition, since one of her contracts was prematurely terminated, she received a significant compensation, but the employment agent also took this money.
After this, Farah used a different employment agency and was able to work for 1.5 years without any problems until the elderly woman she was caring for passed away and her contract ended.
The day after her contract finished, Farah was desperately needing a new employer. She met a woman named Agatha through an acquaintance who told her she would find her a job and allowed Farah to stay with her in the meantime. Of course, she required Farah to pay hk$2000 for her services and Farah, with no other options, agreed. As her visa expired, this woman accompanied Farah to Shenzhen in order to extend her stay but charged another hk$2000 for this.
Agatha did eventually find a part-time job for 9 days for Farah, but the salary was pocketed by Agatha. After this, Farah refused to do any part-time work. When her visa again expired, Farah was taken to the Macau ferry where she was picked up on the other side by an associate of Agatha’s, had her passport confiscated, and stayed at a boarding house for about 3 weeks.
Farah only returned to Hong Kong when Agatha texted her saying that she finally had a full-time contract for her. However, the very next day after returning to Hong Kong, Agatha took Farah to Central and took out a loan in her name. When Farah tried to ask about the contents of the loan agreement, Agatha (and the loan associate), became angry at her and insisted she sign it without question. They then gave Farah a slip of paper that required her to pay back a hk$6400 loan.
When Farah met her new employer, they told her that they had also paid about hk$13,000 in agency fees in total. Farah, understandably, is very upset that Agatha had taken so much of her money but doesn’t know what to do about it. She feels betrayed & shocked that someone, a fellow Indonesian, could be so deceptive. Agatha “is a very good talker, she can say anything to make your heart melt,” Farah explained when thinking back on how she had been deceived.
When Farah did not make her first loan repayment, the loan agent, who is a known accomplice of Agatha’s, began calling the employer’s home nightly and threatening the elderly lady. Farah is fortunate that her employer is understanding and supportive of her, but she wants to see justice done. She now hopes that Agatha can somehow be stopped and she wants her story to be a warning for others so that no one will have to go through what she has.
*All names & identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
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This story was originally published at www.stophk.org on September 2, 2016. Story provided by FADWU and STOP.