Hannah*, only 19, was born and raised in a small village in the Philippines. Her family struggled to get by and welcomed the idea of Hannah working overseas as a migrant domestic worker. It was Hannah’s first ever journey, she was nervous but hopeful that she could earn more to help her family break out of poverty. Her story ended up being a nightmare as Hannah found herself becoming a victim of human trafficking.
At the beginning of 2017, Hannah’s close relative knew of Hannah’s intention to work overseas and told her about a work opportunity in Hong Kong. Hannah signed a contract to work for an old Chinese couple. Prior to her departure, she was asked to pay a large amount of money to the agency for their ‘agency fee’ and also to the relative who introduced her to the job. She also had to pay a training fee to the employment agency.
She recalled the living environment was terrible at the training center and all the workers slept on the floor. She was even asked to do free labour including clean the trainer’s house once to twice a week without any pay.
After she received her mother’s approval and attended the training, Hannah left for Hong Kong one month later. Once she arrived at the airport, her passport was confiscated by the agent who told her, “we will keep it for you. Safety reasons,” said the agent firmly.
When she met her employer’s family in New Territories, she was shocked and found out that she was not taking care of an elderly couple, but rather a family of five with two young kids and a dog.
During her 11 months of employment with this family, her duties required her to often work from 5am until 3am the next morning with only 2 hours of rest; she was not allowed to rest or lean on any furniture; her employer usually gave her food in a very small amount. Hannah often went hungry. Hannah thought she could have rest at night after working for a whole day, yet, she was asked to sleep on a mattress in the living room and was often disturbed by her male employer as he usually stayed up very late watching TV.
Hannah was not given a day off in the first three months of employment. When she asked for a day off, she was scolded and insulted with bad words. Since then her employer gave her a day-off once every two to three weeks, which is against the Employment Ordinance. She sometimes not only received scolding, but also physical abuse on her arms, legs and head, causing bad bruising.
Hannah came to Hong Kong for money to support her family in the Philippines, but she was never paid. Her employer directly paid the employment agency and the agent claimed they would give her the money when she finished her contract. Since she was not paid at all, she started receiving pressure from her family for not sending any money back.
Hannah could hardly tolerate the inhumane working conditions with her employer and she left her job at the end of the year. Currently she is staying with a friend and receiving a small amount of allowance from an anti-human trafficking organization STOP. Similar to other trafficking victims, Hannah did not deserve to experience such exploitation from the agent and employer, she is waiting for justice.
*All names and identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivors.
Indicators of trafficking for labour exploitation:
- Deceptive recruitment – family Hannah served was different from the contract signed
- Exploitation – excessive working hours for 20 hours; heavy workload; no respect of labour law i.e. no day-off and food provided
- Coercion at destination – passport and salary were kept by employment agency
- Abuse of vulnerability –dependency on exploiters due to economic reasons, family situation and language barriers
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).