“I treated them as if they were my own, yet they treated me unbearably. It came to a point, where I could no longer coerce myself into respecting my employer’s parents, no matter how hard I tried.” As tears streamed down her face of distress, Kasuni* from Sri Lanka had her eyes shut, as if she could still vividly recall her unspeakable experience.
In order to provide for the elderlies in her family and raise her daughter, Kasuni and her husband worked day and night. Prior to her experience in Hong Kong, she also worked as a domestic helper for 8 years. Without a job, Kasuni had to go back to Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, when her husband fell ill and had to receive long term medical treatments, Kasuni knew she had to leave the country again, as it was then impossible to support her family without a long-term job.
As she approached an agency, they quickly notified her of a job opportunity in Hong Kong, where she would serve a family of five including two elderlies, and receive a monthly salary of around HKD$4,300 with regular day offs. However, Kasuni was also told to pay a fee of HKD$15,000, which was supposed to cover insurance and other miscellaneous fees. Thing started to seem strange as she was never provided with any document, in fact, the first time she saw a document was her working visa and contract, which already has ‘her signature’ on it.
Kasuni was rather confused when her agency told her that her job was not actually confirmed and was even more baffled when a said staff ensured her of how often these uncertainties arise in Hong Kong.
Upon her arrival, Kasuni’s Hong Kong agent not only took away her contract but also her passport; after being led to her dorm, she cleaned up the area as well as her employer’s residence. Four days later, she finally got to meet her employer, who introduced her to an elderly couple. Her employer’s father was physically impaired and required special care.
Even with eight years of experience, Kasuni still found her work eccentric and rather unbearable. During the first of her employment, her employer made her work long hours – waking up at 5am every morning and sleeping at 9pm, with 2 hours of assisting her employer’s father with his physical impairment.
In the course of her work, she was faced with unreasonable requests from her employer’s father, where he not only demanded her to sexually stimulate his reproductive organs, but also intentionally contacted her intimate parts and her breasts against her will. Whenever Kasuni expressed her refusal, he would hit her with nearby objects.
Apart from being sexually harassed by employer’s father, she was also subjected to constant physical abuse everyday, which left her with multiple scars, from her head and neck, to her back and limbs.
On top of that, whenever Kasuni asked for food or allowance, her employer would tell her that food allowance is not covered for Hong Kong migrant domestic workers, if they live with their employer. Since it was Kasuni’s first job in Hong Kong, it only seemed natural for her to believe in her employer and buy her own meals with her salary.
“My daughter needs money for her education, and my husband needs money for his medical treatments.” Kasuni’s responsibility to provide for her loved ones was, perhaps, the only reason why she chose to endure such hellish nightmare.
As things escalated and became unbearable, Kasuni escaped from the employment. She later asked for help at multiple nongovernmental organisations, who assisted her with filing a police report. Unfortunately, the police refused to take her case. Her case was referred to STOP, she was identified as victim of human trafficking. With assistance of STOP and human rights lawyer, she is currently trying to claim damages, and is waiting for a verdict on her accusations towards her former employer, who is being investigated for human trafficking and slavery. Without legislative support against human trafficking, just like other trafficking victims, Kasuni has a long battle ahead of her.
*All names & identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
Indicators of trafficking for labour exploitation:
- Coercive recruitment – debt bondage by high agency fee; she was deceived about work nature
- Exploitation – excessive working hours and no respect of labour laws i.e. no food or food allowance provided by employer
- Coercion at destination – Kasuni’s HKID and passport were confiscated; employer’s parents physically abused and sexually harassed her
- 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).