“I didn’t intend to work illegally, and my situation is like that of a prisoner here in Taiwan,” said Zoe*, who originally comes from the Philippines and had planned to work in Hong Kong.
Unfortunately, Zoe’s is not an exceptional case, “I need a job” is the main reason trafficking victims are lured and cheated by traffickers. She applied to work in Hong Kong as a migrant domestic worker last year. Through the arrangement of an agency in the Philippines, Zoe arrived in Hong Kong in December 2017. She was taken to a boarding house by the staff of the agency and stayed there for five days. The day she left the boarding house, Zoe thought she was about to start working and earn money, however she was instead brought to the airport where she boarded a plane to Taiwan.
Zoe knew something wasn’t right and began to show her anxiety, but she was told that she had a round trip ticket and she would return to Hong Kong in ten days. She was brought to Taiwan to work for her legal employer’s sister as a domestic worker, which she was also not told beforehand. Although she had indeed started working, it was for a different “employer” in a different city from which she was given a contract.
In Taiwan, she was asked to work from 6am to 12am every day without any rest. Her “employer” did not allow her to leave the house unless to throw away trash, nor was she allowed to use her mobile phone to contact anyone. She was told to put her mobile phone at an obvious place in the living room. Her “employer” often verbally and physically abused her including smacking her on her head.
Could she go back to Hong Kong after ten days as was told to her by her legal employer? No! In fact, Zoe stayed and worked in Taiwan for three months, which was against her own will.
Fortunately, she considered her situation as human trafficking so she used her phone to contact local organizations when her “employer” was not around.
“My situation is like human trafficking and I am so anxious, but I don’t know what to do” she told the local organization.
Zoe also sought assistance from STOP, an anti-human trafficking NGO in Hong Kong and by the time she was connected with them, she had already overstayed her tourist visa. She would like to come back to Hong Kong. However, when her employer found out she had been contacting NGOs in two cities, they bought her flight ticket to send her back to the Philippines immediately. Since then, NGOs have lost contact with Zoe.
*All names and identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivors.
Indicators of trafficking for labour exploitation:
- Deceptive recruitment – employer varied working location and people served unreasonably
- Exploitation – excessive working hours around 18 hours; no respect of contract signed and laws i.e. Zoe was sent to Taiwan while she held FDW visa for working in HK
- Coercion at destination– verbally and physically abused by legal employer’s sister
- Abuse of vulnerability – dependency on exploiters due to lack of knowledge of Taiwan and Hong Kong, economic reasons
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).