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Domestic workers lose residency fight

Final appeal court rules against seeking permanent status

This file photo shows Hong Kong domestic workers demonstrating in 2011 This file photo shows Hong Kong domestic workers demonstrating in 2011
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • March 25, 2013
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The highest court in Hong Kong ruled against foreign domestic workers’ right to permanent residency today.

A written judgment from the Court of Final Appeal said foreign domestic workers are “obliged to return to the country of origin at the end of the contract and told from the outset that admission is not for the purposes of settlement and that dependants cannot be brought to reside in Hong Kong.”

Evangeline Vallejos, a Filipina who has lived here since 1986, brought the case after her initial victory at the Court of First Instance was reversed by the Court of Appeal last March.

A ruling in her favor would have allowed 117,000, or one-third of Hong Kong’s foreign maids who mainly come from the Philippines and Indonesia, to seek permanent residence.

Foreign domestic workers receive a guaranteed minimum wage, statutory holidays and annual paid leave. But their lack of residency rights means that, if they leave an employer, they have only two weeks to find a new job before being required to leave the country. Expatriates in other professions can gain the right of abode after seven years.

Eman Villanueva, a Filipino labor unionist, said outside the court that the ruling “gave its judicial seal to unfair treatment and the social exclusion of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.”

Among other rights activists who supported the action, Father Franco Mella said he was “very disappointed” but had expected the result.

“We will continue to struggle outside the court to fight for their legitimate rights,” he said.

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