Story provided by: Diocesan Pastoral Centre for Filipinos
The two Indonesian women Tasya and Ira had not received two years’ worth of wages from their employer, in violation of their contract. They were employed by this same person as foreign domestic helpers, but instead found themselves working illegally at their employer’s grocery store instead, cooking Indonesian food for customers.
When they brought up their outstanding wages to their employer, she assured them that they would be paid, as soon as business picked up or when she sold her properties in China. Despite her dubious claims, the women continued to work illegally for the employer, as they owed money to their employment agency as well.
In light of their employer’s illegal practices, they decided to approach the Hong Kong Labour Department to file a claim and receive assistance. However, the claim form was in English, and they were unable to read it or fill it out on their own. Their attempts to ask for help from staff at the Labour Department office were rebuffed, and they were told that no one would assist them in completing the forms or working out their entitlements. As a result, they gave up their claim.
The situation came to a head when the employer finally terminated their contract, after they had repeatedly asked for their unpaid wages. Tasya and Ira were able to get in contact with a woman from a local Catholic church, and they were referred to the Diocesan Pastoral Care for Filipinos (DPCF) for assistance.
The DPCF helped them to complete and file their claims at the Labour Department, though the initial Conciliation meeting was inconclusive. A later Labour Tribunal hearing produced more positive results, as the women were able to submit a recording of their employer admitting to the withheld income. The employer conceded that she was in the wrong, but she claimed that she did not have enough money to settle the full amount of the claim. Out of an initial claim of HK$110,000 for each woman, they ended up receiving only HK$20,000 each. The Labour Tribunal also referred them to the police to pursue a criminal investigation, but the case was dismissed after two months.
*All names & identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
Human trafficking indictors in this case
Common work and living conditions:
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
- Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
- Avoids eye contact
- Poor Physical Health
Lacks health care
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
- Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of indicators in this particular case. Also, the red flags in this case may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. Learn more about human trafficking here!
Are you or someone you know being trafficked?
Is human trafficking happening in your community? Recognizing 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.
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