30 September 2011

Migrant domestic workers gain residency rights in Hong Kong

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A Hong Kong court has ruled that migrant workers can now apply for permanent residency.

A Hong Kong court has ruled that migrant workers can now apply for permanent residency

Filipino migrant and domestic worker Evangeline Banao Vallejos has won a landmark case in the Hong Kong High Court, which will see the introduction of rights for unprotected migrant domestic workers including the ability to qualify for permanent residency.

Under Hong Kong immigration policy, migrant workers are ordinarily eligible to apply for permanent residency after seven years, but the city's 270,000 migrant maids are excluded from this legal practice.

In the Vallejos case last Friday, High Court's Judge Johnson Lam Man-hon ruled that the policy is unconstitutional and inconsistent with the Chinese autonomous territory's Basic Law. Permanent residents in Hong Kong are granted the right to vote and stand in political elections and cannot be deported.

The Filipino Migrant Workers Union has welcomed the decision, describing it as a win for human rights.  "Today is a victory, not only for migrant workers but also for justice and fairness," said the union's Vice Chairman Eman Villanueva.

"But our fight doesn't end today," he warned.

However, the decision has not been embraced as warmly by segments of the Honkinese public.

"If migrant workers win, it's bad for Hong Kong's development, for example, in education, health care and housing," said Don Wong of the Hong Kong Social Concern. Group.

The case has attracted considerable attention in Hong Kong with numbers of supporters and opponents gathering outside the court. The Wall Street Journal has reported that "the government is widely expected to appeal the decision".

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