OFW woman sentenced to 15 months in jail for illegally working for a day

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The Shatin Magistrate Court has convicted a Filipino woman of breach of condition of stay and taking employment while remaining in Hong Kong in breach of the limit of stay. The case was heard today, 17 January.

During the hearing, a Filipino interpreter read the charges and the summary case of the Filipino woman named in the court with an initial of SMAB.

The document stated that the employment contract of the 44-year old Filipino domestic worker was terminated in September 2022, and had a visa to stay in Hong Kong until October 2022.

Her former employer gave her money to buy her air ticket to return to the Philippines as part of the obligatory contract of the employer.

Instead of going back to the Philippines, however, the Filipino woman stayed in Hong Kong after her last visa lapsed. She also worked at the restaurant without a visa.

On December 1, the Immigration Department (ImmD) and Hong Kong Police Task Force conducted an anti-illegal operation in several locations and the Filipino woman was one of the arrested persons suspected of doing illegal work.

The ImmD charged her with breach of condition of stay for 24 days (overstay) and taking employment while remaining in Hong Kong in breach of the limit of stay.

At today’s court,  the Defense Lawyer explained in mitigation, that the Filipino woman has seven children in the Philippines financially dependent on her, and her sister needs medical support from her. Other than these, she is also repaying a monthly loan.

The defense lawyer also asked the Magistrate for leniency for sentencing as the Filipino woman has a clear record in Hong Kong.  He also explained that the ongoing pandemic situation in Hong Kong during the time of her last visa made her decide not to go back to the Philippines. The travel restrictions in Hong Kong also affected her to make her decision not to go back to the Philippines, the counsel added.

After hearing the mitigation of the defense lawyer, Acting Principal Magistrate Mr. Cheng Lim-chi said that after reviewing the case of the Filipino woman who have a clear record in Hong Kong, and after hearing her defense lawyer, Mr. Cheng said that in the case against the Filipino domestic worker of breach of condition of stay, the court would give her 9 days of imprisonment.

She however pleaded guilty so it was lowered to 6 days instead.

In the case of taking up unapproved employment, the Magistrate said that the Filipino was terminated by her employer and  paid for her air ticket, an employer’s obligation based on foreign domestic helpers (FDHs)’ contract.

He said that the Filipino woman could take her flight anytime within the period when she still had her visa last year. However,  Mr. Cheng added, she preferred to stay in Hong Kong and work illegally in the restaurant to wash plates for HK$50 per hour.  Mr. Cheng said that at the time the Filipino woman made her decision not to pursue going back to the Philippines, when there were available flights going out of Hong Kong.

He said that the Filipino woman’s decision to stay in Hong Kong was her personal decision and not because of the pandemic situation and travel restrictions as what his defense lawyer presented during the mitigation.

Magistrate Cheng then said that the Filipino was to be jailed for 15 months in violation of working without visa or permission to work in Hong Kong including the 6 days of overstaying.