I grew up in a remote village in the Philippines. When my elderly mother fell ill, because I needed extra income for her medical bills, I began thinking about working overseas. Through a close friend of mine, I was connected with an employment agency in Hong Kong, who charged a training fee of HKD8,000. The amount was more than what I could afford at the time, so I agreed to letting the agency deduct the fee from my monthly salary once I started working. After training, I was excited for the new journey ahead, ready to pave way to a better life, or so I thought…
As soon as I entered my employer’s flat, already I realized that the work conditions were drastically different from what I had agreed upon. The employer also gave my salary to the agency instead of paying me directly. As a result, for two months, I did not receive a single penny.
Thereafter, through the agency, I was introduced to another employer who lived in the New Territories. The conditions there were terrible. At my new place of employment, I was demanded to work from 4am everyday to 2am the next morning. Other than cleaning the employer’s house and garden, I was instructed to clean and take stock of the inventory at their produce store in the wet market, which is actually illegal. Every night, I must wait until the family is done with their meal to be allowed to start preparing my own. By then, it’s usually around 9:30 already. After dinner, I would still have to finish the daily chores until past midnight.
Having persisted for four months, I finally reached my limit and filed a complaint to the agency. They, however, claimed that I still owed them money, and tried to force me to go back. Confused, I explained that the training fee had already been repaid in the first two months when the first employer gave them my salary, which totaled up to HKD 8,000. To my disbelief, the agency said, “You can’t prove that you only owe us 8,000 dollars, could you?” At that point, I knew there’s no hope in expecting any assistance from them. In the end, I successfully escaped after connecting with a local NGO, and was identified as a victim of human trafficking by the International Organization for Migration.
Miles away from home, I came to Hong Kong to work and earn money for my mother’s medical expenses, only to be deceived and exploited. Why should I be treated this way?
*All names & identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor. The photo is not of the actual victim.
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