At least seven foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) were suddenly left homeless in Hong Kong this week, unable to go to an employer’s home or get admitted to packed isolation facilities after getting back a positive Covid-19 test, a person familiar with the situation has told The HK HUB.
One was told not to return to her employer’s home on Tuesday after getting back a positive test, three whose employment contracts had ended were ready to board their homeward flight out of Hong Kong when they received the notification that their pre-flight test was positive. Some helpers even had their contracts terminated following the diagnosis, and others have simply been left in limbo with their employer not communicating what the next step is – simply that they shouldn’t come home.
NGOs such as HELP for Domestic Workers, Bethune House, and Pathfinders were among the first groups to respond when contacted by FDHs, providing tents, sleeping bags, food and water, and temporary housing.
Avril Rodrigues, Head of Communications at HELP, says they have provided seven to eight domestic helpers with emergency housing after they had waited in the driveways of Queen Mary’s Hospital and North Lantau Hospital overnight for further instruction without food, water, or easy access to bathrooms. Government isolation facilities like Penny’s Bay have also been full to capacity in recent days with the explosion of confirmed cases, reaching 6,116 on Thursday. The workers that HELP is aware of have since been admitted to beds in isolation facilities or temporary shelters arranged by the organization. Forty-five more workers have been provided with food, water, and other basic care package items.
Rodrigues said HELP always knew there would be an increase in cases among the FDH community with government testing throwing its lasso wider and wider amidst the fifth wave. However, they “didn’t anticipate it would blow out of proportion,” the crisis coming to a head this week with workers left not knowing where to go.
What resources do unhoused domestic helpers have?
HELP “sees the need arising” and anticipates more domestic helpers will become temporarily homeless in the days ahead. They have started an emergency fundraiser to provide helpers with tents, sleeping bags, food, sanitary products, Rapid Antigen Testing kits, and cleaning supplies. At the time of writing, the fundraiser has surpassed its original HK$150,000 goal to nearly HK$450,000.
A Migrant Domestic Worker Coalition of over 14 NGOs formed to serve at-risk domestic workers is also working together to support workers at this time.
The Consulate General of the Philippines in Hong Kong has set up a hotline to assist domestic helpers who have been left stranded following a positive diagnosis at 9155 4023.
Header image credits: HELP for Domestic Workers