Lam asks labour, immigration officials to help domestic helpers affected by PH travel ban

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Chief executive Carrie Lam holds a presscon on Feb.3,2020.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Feb.3,2020 that she has asked labour and immigration officials to ascertain what steps they can take to address the situation of foreign domestic helpers from the Philippines who have been barred from returning to Hong Kong and are finding it difficult to go back to the Philippines due to a travel ban.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a travel ban to mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau following the death of a Chinese national infected with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on Feb.2. The said virus has affected over 17,000 people in 27 countries, with majority of the infections reported in mainland China.

The temporary ban prohibits the entry of foreign nationals from China and its SARs to the Philippines. Filipinos and Permanent Resident visa holders will be allowed to go, but they will be quarantined for 14 days.

The ban also disallows Filipinos – including those who work overseas – from going to China, Hong Kong and Macau. This is expected to affect domestic helpers who work in Hong Kong, who also fear the possibility of termination.

Lam said she is aware of such concerns, however and have directed the Labour Department and Immigration Department to do something about it.

“Now, there could be more governments who don’t have enough understanding about our work  here in fighting the infection. So to prevent that from happening, we have arranged to meet with all consul generals in Hong Kong.

I’ve also written to all consul generals in Hong Kong, we’ve explained to them the work we’ve done since the start of outbreak, there are concerns that Hong Kong residents overseas, because of certain measures of certain foreign governments or because we’ve closed certain borders, they may not be able to come back, they are stranded in other places that may lead to a host of problems.

With this consideration, we will intervene at once whenever there’s certain measures. For example, the Philippine government  also took certain measures and a large number of foreign domestic helpers at Hong Kong may be affected, that’s why I have asked the Labour Department and the Immigration Department to see what they can do,” she said.

“There are foreign domestic helpers whose contracts have expired and they are not able to go back so they will be stranded here. We are trying to help them in a compassionate manner because of problems of international travel, so we will see what we can do to help those affected.”

Lam mentioned this as she explained her decision not to shutdown all border checkpoints, leaving the HK international airport, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and Shenzhen Bay open.