Foreign maids in Hong Kong lose residency battle

Featured South East Asia - March 25th, 2013
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Hong Kong’s top court has rejected two Filipino maids the right to seek permanent residency in the city, dashing the hopes of hundreds of thousands of domestic workers.

The Court of Final Appeal on Monday ruled unanimously against granting residency to Evangeline Banao Vallejos and Daniel Domingo. The pair have lived in Hong Kong for over seven years, a period that would ordinarily qualify foreigners to become permanent residents, Reuters reports.

Vallejos, a mother of five who has lived in Hong Kong since 1986, won a High Court ruling in 2011 granting her the right to request permanent residency status.

But the court ruled that foreign maids should not be treated as “ordinarily resident” due to tight restrictions on domestic helpers.

“The nature of foreign domestic helpers’ residence in Hong Kong is highly restrictive,” the court said. “The foreign domestic helper is obliged to return to the country of origin at the end of the contract and is told from the outset that admission is not for the purposes of settlement.”

The case’s joint appellant, Daniel Domingo, was similarly rejected after living in Hong Kong for 28 years.

The ruling means foreign maids will continue to be specifically excluded from eligibility to settle in Hong Kong, which would give them access to voting rights and the right to live in the former British colony without a work visa, AFP reports.

The court argued that granting domestic workers residency would swamp the cramped city’s seven million-population.

Hong Kong is home to nearly 300,000 maids from mainly southeast Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Indonesia. There are about 1,000 pending applications from foreign maids seeking permanent residency, reports AFP.