Hong Kong Courts Hold First Death Inquest for a Migrant Domestic Worker

June 15, 2022
Category: Communications | Press Release | Public Relations

A family’s years’-long journey for a loved one who died in Hong Kong

[Hong Kong, June 15, 2022]: A 7-day inquest into the death of a migrant domestic worker (MDW) concluded today, finding Leonita Arcillas Quinto, a Filipina domestic worker had died from “natural causes”.  It was seemingly the first time a domestic worker’s family from overseas obtained an inquest in Hong Kong. 

Justine Lam, Head of Hong Kong Office, Justice Without Borders, said:

“The verdict unfortunately does not shed much more light on why Leonita died. The fact Leonita’s employers refusing to participate in the inquest and avoiding contact after moving out of Hong Kong attributed to part of the unclear outcome.”

“Her sister Imelda’s determination and effort to seek justice and truth for Leonita all the way from the Philippines was at the core of this inquest. The journey also highlights some of the vulnerabilities that MDW’s face while working overseas.”

“The jury’s recommendations have highlighted some important issues for the government’s consideration. We welcome these recommendations and look forward to this process developing further so that MDWs will be afforded more protections to ensure their health and safety at work.”

“We hope though that her family can take comfort in the fact that her death received the official investigation it deserved. Migrant workers’ lives matter and they deserve equal respect from the system. Our mission is to ensure that migrant workers and their families have equal access to the judicial system in Hong Kong, even when the worst happens, and even for those who are no longer in Hong Kong.” 

Imelda Quinto Abong, younger sister of the deceased, said:

“I am relieved that the inquest finally completed five years after my sister passed away. I would like to thank those who helped make this inquest possible. I am also grateful to everyone who participated in the inquest so I had a chance to learn my sister’s story from them.”

“I pray that other MDWs will always be careful and do not go through what my sister suffered with her employer. I hope this inquest inspires people in Hong Kong to pay more attention to the grievances of MDWs. I hope to see an assessment of potential employers of MDWs in the future.”

Leonita Arcillas Quinto, was 46 at the time of her death. She had arrived in Hong Kong five months earlier in December 2016 to work for an employer and her family. She later complained of poor treatment, including long working hours with an overwhelming number of tasks, malnourishment from being underfed, and even abuse and hostility from her employer.

Leonita then gave her one-month notice to the employer in mid-March. Just two weeks later, she was found unconscious at the employer’s home on April 4, 2017. She was subsequently declared dead after being taken to the hospital. Following an autopsy and a police investigation, her cause of death was “unknown.”

Leonita’s sister Imelda then connected with Justice Without Borders in 2019, which then took on the case. The process led to a 3-year long journey to the inquest. Imelda and other family members attended the inquest via video-conferencing facilities in the Philippines.

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Media Contact

Ms. Coffee Pang

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About Justice Without Borders

Founded in 2013, Justice Without Borders (JWB) is a regional non-profit advancing transnational access to legal assistance for migrant workers. Focusing on those who have suffered labor exploitation and human trafficking, we address the unique strategic and logistical issues that lawyers and clients face in bringing cross-border claims.  We also work to scale up our impact by imparting our expertise to a growing network of frontline NGOs, law firm partners, and government agencies, so others can take on the work of cross-border access to justice.   

Justice Without Borders, because justice should be just as mobile as migrant workers. 

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Justice Without Borders, Limited is a Hong Kong registered charity under Section 88 of the IRD

Justice Without Borders is a registered charity in the United States with IRS 501(c)(3) status