Dramatic surge in abode applications by maids

Updated: 2011-10-27 07:41

By Fan Feifei (HK Edition)

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Dramatic surge in abode applications by maids

There has been a dramatic surge in the number of applications from foreign domestic helpers for the right of abode in Hong Kong recently.

Describing the increase as remarkable compared with previous months, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said on Wednesday: "Applications for permanent residency from foreign domestic helpers had been few in the past. On average, there was only one application monthly several months ago. But, from August to September, the number of applications rose significantly, averaging 17 applications a month."

And, on Wednesday alone, the number of applications shot up to 20.

Lee said the government will continue to suspend applications from foreign domestic helpers for the right of abode.

The High Court on Wednesday ruled it is not necessary for the government to apply for the suspension of an earlier ruling that foreign domestic helpers are entitled to permanent residency after having lived continuously in the city for seven years.

Ngai Sik-shui, vice-president of the Immigration Service Officers Association, said the Immigration Department would need an extra 300 to 400 officers to handle applications if the number goes up significantly over a short period. He said this would exert enormous pressure on the department unless manpower is increased.

The government estimates there are about 125,000 foreign domestic helpers who have lived in Hong Kong for seven years.

Many people are worried that if the maids are granted the right of abode, their dependants may also apply for residency here and the total number could soar to 400,000.

Several local employees' unions have held protests against granting foreign domestic helpers permanent residency for fear of their posing a threat in the job market and the enormous social burden imposed on Hong Kong.

Mark Daly, a lawyer for Evangeline Banao Vellejos, who successfully brought a judicial review against the government in the right-of-abode legal battle, called the Immigration Department's figures "unreliable" and "widely exaggerated if not entirely misleading".

He added that not all foreign domestic helpers who have lived in Hong Kong for seven years qualify for the right of abode, and many of them have said their dependents would not come to Hong Kong to stay with them.

fanfeifei@chinadailyhk.com

China Daily

(HK Edition 10/27/2011 page1)