Today I attended a forum given by HK police on problems commonly faced by Filipino domestic helpers. Jonathan Close senior inspector for Interpol was the speaker. He began by remarking about how safe HK is. There are only 1108 crimes per 100,000 population, which makes us a very safe city. Singapore has a slightly lower crime rate (darn that Singapore! Always beating us by an iota.)
He mentioned that if you are a victim of crime you can report the crime to the police by SMS, fax, phone or in person. The best way is in person at a local police station because then they will arrange a translator. In HK the police make the decision to prosecute a crime or not, so once you make a report, you can't then turn around and say "I don't want to press charges." It is no longer your decision.
If you are arrested you'll be taken to nearby police station and an interpreter provided. You have the right to have a lawyer (at your own expense) or call the consulate for help.
A portion of the talk was about regulations for keeping order at public events like protest marches. Boring stuff for employers, but helpful to groups like churches (we have our own Jubilee church) Gatherings of 10 or more people in public don't have to reported to the police. Religious gatherings don't have to be reported unless there are more than 50 people. If there are more than 50 people, the police should be notified. In private premises you can have up to 500 people before the police need to be notified. A procession is a group that is moving along public roads. If you have more than 30 people on a public highway you need to notify the police in advance by 7 days notice.
Inspector Close devoted a large section to drugs, obviously wanting to discourage people against drug use or trafficking. When it came to human trafficking, he said that prostitution was legal in HK, but many other activities (like advertising for sex) associated with prostitution were illegal. And, of course, doing any kind of work, on a domestic helper visa is illegal and will likely result in arrest, incarceration and deportation. We've never had a case of an Arrow lady acting as a prostitute. Most of our ladies are recommended by other ladies, so they have a strong support network, that helps them in time of desperate need, so they won't have to turn to something like prostitution.
One of the dark subjects covered was "what happens if you die in HK?" Turns out, the body is taken to the mortuary, id'd by friend or family member. The coroner decides whether an autopsy is needed (in most cases Not), and when all procedures are finished the body is released to family.
In the Q&A time, a lady asked about Filipinos who use their passports as collateral at loan sharks to get loans, and then tell the police that they lost their passport. What to do? The room erupted in laughter when she let slip that she her motive was that she was the guarantor on loans for other people. Duh! The Inspector pointed out that the rear cover of the passport states that it is the property of the Philippine government, and is NOT to be given into the possession of any other person. He pointed out that with another person's passport it would be relatively simple to get other information about them, take out credit cards in their names, and commit Identity theft. The message from the police department was, keep your travel documents in your own possession. If you are holding your helper's passport, remember
- It is the property of the Philippines government and they are breaching the conditions of the passport when they give it to you.
- They can, on their day off, simply report it as lost, pay a fee and get another one; leaving you holding a useless document.
At Arrow, we will include information about the Identity Theft, and safe passport handling in our briefings. Safekeeping a helper's passport for her can be helpful as long as she fully agrees, has easy access to it when she needs it, and doesn't feel compelled to do so as a condition of work. Your employee should not have to argue with you to gain access to her travel documents.