Hong Kong Update: Identifying Claims for Workers Returning Home

June 10, 2016
Category: Cases | Strategic Research & Practical Guides

JWB began active case work in Hong Kong from this January, following the publication of our Practitioner’s Manual for Migrant Workers. This next phase of our work to develop transnational access to just compensation will lead to test litigation that will expand the field of possible claims for victims of labour exploitation and human trafficking. Our Hong Kong work reaches over to Indonesia as well, where we are currently identifying cases amongst returnees.

Our current work in this phase includes:

  • Hong Kong case screenings: The JWB Hong Kong team has been working with our front-line partners to identify returnees with still-viable legal claims against their employers, or even their employment agents. These initial case screenings have focused on some of the most common issues that workers encounter, including unpaid wages, price gouging by employment agents, and in the worst cases, physical and sexual abuse.
  • Identifying cases for test litigation: In the second half of this year, JWB will identify the most promising cases to develop into test litigation, which our pro bono partners will take to court on the victims’ behalf. Our work in these cases will shift to locating a reliable home country liaison for the lawyer, who will ensure that contact between the client and lawyer continues, even while the client continues on with her life. Similar to our work in Singapore, our staff will support both lawyer and liaison throughout the litigation process to solve any legal or logistical issues that appear, and to ensure that the collaboration is effective for all parties involved.
SBMI meeting June 2016
JWB consultant Tanti Suryani meets with leaders from Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (SBMI), a migrant worker’s union whose offices across Indonesia deal with cases from Hong Kong and Singapore.
  • Indonesia case screenings and capacity development: JWB has also taken the first steps in screening Hong Kong-related cases in Indonesia, where many migrant workers originate. In addition to case consultations with front-line organizations in Jakarta and elsewhere, we are also translating our Practitioner’s Manual into Bahasa Indonesia. Sponsored by the Tifa Foundation, the translation will give caseworkers and public interest lawyers across Indonesia the knowledge needed to identify outstanding claims that their returnee clients have, ensuring that even workers who do not find help in Hong Kong can still get support when they return home.

Together, these steps will begin laying the groundwork for sustainable lifelines to legal support, enabling victims of labour exploitation or human trafficking to press claims against those who exploit them, even after returning home.