Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor vowed on Tuesday to take “vigorous enforcement action” against any local employment agencies that illegally arranged for foreign domestic helpers to work abroad in the wake of a clampdown by the Philippine government.
Lam’s pledge came after the Philippine Department of Labour and Employment announced a three-week suspension from Monday of new applications for overseas employment certificates – a document necessary for all Filipinos planning to work abroad – due to “persistent reports of illegal recruitment activities”.
“I, alongside the chief secretary and the secretary for labour and welfare, are all very concerned about the issue and have been consistently in touch with the Philippine Consul-general in Hong Kong,” Lam said ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.
“I reiterate that [the government] will take vigorous enforcement action against any agencies that conduct illegal activities in Hong Kong, such as channelling the foreign domestic helpers who are supposed to work in the city to other places.”
Labour and welfare chief Dr Law Chi-kwong said the Labour Department had not received complaints from the consulate or requests for assistance from affected families.
Law earlier said that the suspension could affect about 1,000 local families.
Jalilo Dela Torre, labour attaché at the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, said on Monday that they had received complaints accusing four local agencies of illegally channelling foreign domestic helpers to Russia, Mongolia and Turkey, but he said it had nothing to do with the suspension.
Some agencies charged the helpers tens of thousands of dollars, claiming it was to arrange for them to work in a foreign country, Dela Torre said.
Lam said she hoped the saga would be resolved soon, adding that the Social Welfare Department would provide assistance in taking care of children or the elderly to families affected by the suspension.
Teresa Liu Tsui-lan, managing director of Technic Employment Service Centre, said she had requested the consulate to reduce the suspension to one week.
Meanwhile, Lam said her administration would spend considerable effort building ties with other countries in a bid to foster closer cooperation in trade as well as cultural and educational exchanges.
Apart from the long-awaited free trade agreements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that was signed on Sunday, Lam said another deal with Australia was under way.
The government also plans to set up another economic and trade office in Bangkok.
Separately, Lam said she was confident the non-binding motion that would give the government the mandate to move forward with the joint immigration checkpoint plan for the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou would be passed during the Legislative Council meeting on Wednesday.
The pan-democratic lawmakers had resorted in earlier weeks to filibustering the motion. The plan would give mainland officials almost full jurisdiction over part of the West Kowloon terminal of the cross-border rail link that would be leased to them.
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