Hong Kong Migrant Workers Hold Vigil Demanding Justice

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Domestic SlaveryHuman TraffickingLaw & PolicyPreventionRehabilitation & LiberationWorker Empowerment

Almost 500 people gathered in Hong Kong on Sunday for a candlelight vigil for victims of human trafficking following the tragic death of a young Indonesian domestic worker, Adelina Lisao, in Malaysia earlier this month.

Her death as struck a nerve among Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong as it bears resemblance to Erwiana Sulistyaningsih’s case. Erwiana was an Indonesian domestic worker in Hong Kong in 2014 whose plight attracted global outrage as she was severely abused, even physically burned, by her employer.

The South China Morning Post reports:

“We want to send a strong message to the government that we are very angry at the lack of protection we currently have,” said Eni Lestari, chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance. “Both Malaysia and Indonesia should be held accountable.”

She called on the two countries to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers Convention, which states helpers should enjoy the same legal protections as any other workers.

“They have to recognise us as workers. We want to be included in the labour ordinance and we should have access to standard benefits,” she added.

The Indonesian government should also enforce the country’s anti-human-trafficking laws, Lestari said, as thousands of cases are not handled properly and traffickers go unpunished.

According to The Jakarta Post, Indonesian president Joko Widodo is considering halting the recruitment of Indonesian domestic workers for Malaysia, effectively putting a migration ban into place.

Yet Lestari says this is exactly the opposite of what needs to be done. “In fact, it makes it worse. Because of the poverty, people are forced to use illegal channels. It increases the smuggling and trafficking of people.”

Ester, one Hong Kong local who attended the vigil, said she felt sad and angry about what happened to Lisao in Malaysia, adding that there were many other instances of abuse in Hong Kong besides Erwiana’s case.

“I hope locals will be aware of the situation too,” she said.

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