Filipina Evangeline Vallejos, who has worked as a domestic worker in Hong Kong since 1986, has won her historic, precedent-setting case to seek permanent residency.
“This is a big victory over injustice and discrimination perpetrated by Hong Kong against foreign domestic workers,” said Eman Villanueva, leader of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL), which backed Vallejos.
The Associated Press also called it “a landmark legal victory for hundreds of thousands of foreign maids fighting for equal treatment”.
“The Court of First Instance rejected arguments by Hong Kong government lawyers that the foreign maids did not have the same residency status as other foreign residents,” said an AP report.
“Friday’s ruling says that the immigration provision denying them the right to apply for permanent residency after seven years was inconsistent with the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. Other foreign residents have the right to apply after that time,” AP added.
Prior to the court ruling, Hong Kong’s nearly 300,000 domestic workers were excluded from availing of permanent residency allowed for those who live there for seven straight years.
A victory attained without PH gov’t support
Ironically, the Philippines did not openly support the case filed by Vallejos.
According to UNIFIL’s Villanueva, all that was done by the Philippines’ Hong Kong consulate was to monitor the legal proceedings.
“Philippine consular officials did not even make any effort to respond to racist statements against foreign domestic workers,” said Villanueva.
Three other Filipinos are set to file similar cases before Hong Kong courts, all seeking to claim the right of abode for domestic workers.
In a joint statement supporting Vallejos, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) said that:
The denial of right of abode to FDWs [foreign domestic workers] also transgresses international conventions that seek equality of treatment regardless of race, gender or social standing. Agreements such as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families, Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Conventional for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women are just some of the human rights standards that are violated with the continued denial of right of abode to FDWs.
Responding to critics’ warnings over a pro-Vallejos ruling, the AMCB asserted that
The false and exaggerated statistics of FDWs and families ‘flooding’ Hong Kong are but baseless assumptions that only fan xenophobia and racial hatred. It is not FDWs getting permanent residency that should be feared, but the chaos that may arise from the provocative statements issued by some politicians and the Hong Kong government itself. In these times, some of the most hateful of crimes – such as the recent terror attack in Norway – have been committed under the ideology of racism and xenophobia against migrants and immigrants.
“We condemn those who create racial hatred among the people. Such ideology makes it appear acceptable to treat FDWs as second- or even third-class citizens of Hong Kong. It makes it appear permissible to commit various kinds of abuses to foreign maids. It makes it appear natural to reduce FDWs to modern-day slaves and creates the thinking that the rights of migrants can be selectively given or arbitrarily denied,” the AMCB added.