At 29 years old, Yasmin* still had a face of innocence. She married when she was 21, and had 2 daughters. Her husband worked as a manager in East Java, Indonesia, but it was still difficult to maintain the school fees for 2 children and support the family at the same time. Yasmin felt that she could work overseas to bring in more income for the family. With the help of a broker, Yasmin eventually came to Hong Kong in the Fall of 2014.
Although it was illegal in Hong Kong, Yasmin had no idea and agreed to a HK$3,000 monthly deduction from her salary for the first 6 months of her employment. This is common practice by many employment agencies working with Indonesian migrant domestic workers. On her Standard Employment Contract, she had agreed to look after 2 children. But upon arriving at her new employer’s home, she discovered that she would be taking care of 4 children as well as an elderly couple, along with the employers themselves. She found the work to be excessive, and eventually decided to terminate the contract soon after she paid off the deductions to her agency.
As she needed to find a new employer, a friend introduced Yasmin to another Indonesian woman named Ava one sweltering summer day in Kowloon. Ava offered to help Yasmin find a new employer, but she had to stay at her boarding house in Yaumatei. Yasmin thought Ava is trust-worthy because she was referred by a good friend. Soon after Yasmin ended her first work contract, Ava took her to Macau for 2 weeks in order to renew her visa. Yasmin ended up staying at the boarding house for about 3 months, and paid Ava HK$3,000. During this time, Ava also made Yasmin work for about 2 months but never paid her for it.
In the Fall of 2015, Yasmin began her second contract. Before this, Ava forced Yasmin to take out a loan and required her to repay it, even though Yasmin never knew where the money went. After paying 2 months of this loan, Yasmin was advised by a local labour rights group not to continue this repayment. With the help of this group, Yasmin began to recognise her rights and attempted to ask Ava for her passport and original employment contract back, which Ava had held from the beginning. Ava demanded HK$4,000 for them which, of course, Yasmin did not have.
With the help of the labour rights group, Yasmin filed a labour claim against Ava and the employment agency that worked with her. As she waited for the Labour Department to investigate her claims, Ava, in retaliation, filed a small claims suit against Yasmin, claiming that she owed her upwards of HK$11,000 for money “borrowed”. This is insult upon injury as Ava had already conned so much from Yasmin. Her only hope now is to wait for their trial where the judge will hopefully see past Ava’s deception and offer Yasmin the justice she deserves.
*All names and identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivors.
Indicators of trafficking for labour exploitation during 1st employment:
- Deceptive recruitment – Yasmin was deceived by nature of the work
- Exploitation – Hazardous workload
- Coercion at destination– debt bondage by high agency fee
- Abuse of vulnerability – dependency on exploiters due to economic and family situations.
Are you or someone you know being trafficked?
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Story provided by Stop Trafficking of People (STOP).