Like many other migrant domestic workers, Sithara* was prompted to work in Hong Kong in order to support her family. As a daughter to aged parents, older sibling to a sister who is still at school, and a single mother to a young son, she naturally felt a certain responsibility to provide for her loved ones.
Sithara first came to Hong Kong from Sri Lanka in 2013. She worked as a domestic worker for a good employer for 2 years until she fell sick and went home to undergo treatments. The second time she came back was in 2016, after finding a job through an agency. Unlike many others in her situation, Sithara was able to pay the expensive agency fee in advance, using up her meagre savings from her previous jobs.
On her arrival, her personal documents were confiscated by the agency for “security.” Sithara erroneously trusted them. During the 3 months of her employment, her employers made her work long hours – waking up at 4am every morning and sleeping at 12.30am every night in order to cook for the husband. She had to use the 1 hour lunch break to nap every day as she was constantly tired from the lack of rest. The wife would make unreasonable commands, for example, making Sithara change her clothes because she was acting and dressing “like a princess,” and asked her to tidy up daily. The dust in the house especially caused her health to deteriorate. The wife was also verbally abusive – scolding and mocking Sithara all the time. She was also made to care for a greenhouse, which was not part of her job description.
“Day by day, she killed me.”
Sithara often felt frightened and unsafe whilst working for them, but refused to give up. She tried to complain to the agency about her working conditions but they did not care and in return scolded her saying she was the one at the wrong.
“They never know how much courage it took to show them I’m fine, but I was very scared.”
That was until an accident happened which sent her to the ICU. She was then forced by her employers to resign and was luckily able to retrieve her belongings and documents from both her employer and the agency and went home to Sri Lanka. Sithara later returned to Hong Kong to take on another job, and at the same time sought help from lawyers, who then referred her to STOP., to prosecute the agency and her previous employer.
Today, Sithara is still patiently waiting for justice to be done so that less people must go through her ordeal.
*All names and identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivors.
Indicators of trafficking for labour exploitation:
- Deceptive recruitment – Sithara was deceived about the nature of the job.
- Exploitation – excessive working hours and poor working conditions.
- Coercion at destination – her personal documents were confiscated.
- Abuse of vulnerability – dependency on exploiters due to economic reasons and family situation.
Are you or someone you know being trafficked?
Is human trafficking happening in your community? Recognising potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need.
To reach out or report suspected cases of human trafficking in Hong Kong, please contact us at connect@100storiesHK.org.
Story provided by Stop Trafficking of People (STOP).