幗萃
SDG-16

「為外勞爭取司法公義,沒有疆域的限制。」 — Justice Without Border

世紀交通運輸、資訊科技發達的年代,當一程飛機已可到達世界不同角落,人們於外地工作機會愈來愈多,國與國之間的界限仿若不存。然而,當跨國勞工訴訟出現時,國域限制卻隨即浮現。Amelie Desjardins表示,這便是Justice Without Border (JWB)的存在原因。

地域及國界   無阻為外勞爭取司法公義

JWB是一個小型的跨國非牟利組織,至今成立超過5年,此組織反覆地強調:「即使受害者返回家鄉,亦不應終止其獲得合理補償的權利。」它所關注及幫助的,除了人口販賣受害者外,還有受剝削後返回家鄉的傭工,為她們提供海外訴訟及索償服務。為了有效進行工作,JWB於香港、新加坡及印尼均設辦事處及義工律師,並預計在2018-19年拓展至菲律賓。Amelie說:「雖然本港很多出色的機構,都有支援正逗留在港的海外僱傭,但對於已經返回家鄉的海外僱傭則沒有充足的支援。我們正正是要填補這一塊空缺。」

半數外傭受虐或剝削   中介濫收四十倍費用

那麼,究竟JWB所填補的這一塊空缺,究竟有多大?究竟有多少外勞,曾在本港受到不合理待遇,然後在沒有賠償下返回了家鄉?「我願能知實際的數字,然而很多原因讓我們難以估量準確的人數。」Amelie解釋:「假如外傭在香港受虐待或剝削後離職,她們需於14日內找到新工作,否則便要返回家鄉。當然,若外傭向顧主進行法律訴訟,她們可以留在香港;但通常受害者不了解自己的權利,亦因家庭負擔,一心只想盡快找下一份工作。」而當外傭返回印尼、菲律賓後,JWB則更難從遼闊、零散的偏遠地方中找到當事人,亦難以統計沒有獲得賠償的人數。

然而有2016年的調查顯示,本港四至六成外傭曾受虐待或剝削。﹙數字高達一半!﹚「以中介公司濫收費用為例——這在本港是一個相當嚴重的問題。僱傭條例指出,中介機構佣金上限為外傭首個月薪金的10%;然而中介巧立名目,常收取僱傭4-5個月的全數薪金。」算一算,也就是說中介濫收外傭高達四十倍的費用!奈何外傭根本不熟悉律例,當身邊的朋友都是被收取等高的金額時,她們亦只能逆來順受。

聯繫地方前線組織   進行跨國訴訟

如Amelie所言非虛:受剝削的外傭返回國家後,香港機構難以找回事主,那麼JWB豈不是更難為他們在港進行訴訟?「作為跨地區性及策略性訴訟機構,我們與前線的地區服務組織合作,例如印尼最大的外勞組織SBMI。」JWB在印尼的法律團隊會定期與SBMI會面、收集轉介案件、甄別個案後,找出事主為其進行海外訴訟。但即使JWB找到事主,事主亦未必願意接受幫助,Amelie承認:「坦白說,法律申訴的過程是漫長、痛苦的;而曾受欺壓的苦主很難再相信別人,也暫時不願進行訴訟。但她們知道自己的權利後,起碼往後她們會更懂得保護自己。」

後記

本期《幗萃》以「國際親愛」作為主題,回應「人類的親愛精神沒有疆域的限制」這一句青商信條。乍聽之下,「司法公義」與「關愛」似乎是兩碼子的事。然而,若不是出自關愛,我們又何必為異鄉的陌生人爭取司法公義呢?

We are living in the 21st century in which transportation and information technology are well-developed. When people can travel all around the world with a short flight to pursue better work in foreign countries, national borders seem almost an afterthought. However, when it comes to cross-border labor lawsuit, those boundaries are real and hard. Amelie Desjardins says, that’s why Justice Without Border (JWB) exists.

Distance and border shouldn’t stop us from urging for access to justice

JWB is a small-scaled multinational NGO established for five years. As what the organization keeps saying, “Because the right to just compensation shouldn’t end even when a victim returns home”, JWB supports victims of human trafficking and labor exploitation in cross-border litigation and seeking just compensation even after returning home. It has offices and Pro Bono lawyers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia, and is planning to expand to Philippines in 2018-19. “Despite a lot of wonderful local NGOs that are helping migrant domestic workers staying in Hong Kong, we found that after the workers go back home, they get limited support. So, we are here to fill that gap.”

Half of migrant workers are suffering abuse; or overcharge by agencies for 40 times of maximum allowable fee.

So, how large is the gap that JWB is filling? How many migrant workers return home after unfair treatment, without getting any compensation? “I wish I could know the exact number but for many reasons, it is hard to estimate.” Amelie explained, “Let’s say a migrant worker quits her job after being exploited or abused, she needs to find a new one within 14 days; otherwise she will be sent back home. Of course, workers can stay longer in Hong Kong if they file a complaint against employers; but most of the time workers don’t know their rights and they just want to find the next job.” When the victim leaves and goes back to Indonesia or Philippines, it is even harder for JWB to find her out from such large, diversified and remote areas. Therefore, it is almost impossible to know the numbers of victims who return home without just compensation.

However, a research in 2016 suggested that 40 – 60% of migrant workers in Hong Kong had suffered abuse or overcharge. “Take overcharging of employment agencies as an example – it is a rampant issue in Hong Kong. Employment Ordinance states that, the maximum allowable fee of agency is 10 per cent of the first month’s salary. But the reality is that agencies always overcharge migrant workers complete salary for 4 – 5 months.” That means agencies are overcharging 40 times of the maximum allowable fee! Unfortunately, most migrant workers have little understanding of the law. When every single friend is being charged the same unreasonably high amount of fee, the workers can only grin and bear it.

Building links with frontline organizations for cross-border litigation

If what Amelie saying – organizations in Hong Kong can hardly find out victims of labor exploitation after they return home – is the truth, then how can JWB possibly support victims in cross-border litigation? “As a region-wide coordinating and strategic litigation organization, we work closely with those who provide frontline service on the ground, such as SBMI (Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia), the largest migrant worker organization in Indonesia.” JWB’s Pro Bono officers in Indonesia meet with SBMI regularly, seek for referral cases, screen cases, reach the victims. However, victims are not always willing to accept the help. “To be honest, litigation process is long and painful; and victims who have been exploited or abused hardly trust people again, they may not want to do this (pursue lawsuit) at the current moment. But if they understand their fundamental rights, at least they will know how to protect themselves in the future.”

This issue of Lady’s Link – “Global Love” – goes along with the JCI Creed “the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations”. Apparently, “Access to justice” and “Love” are totally two different things. But what makes us help strangers in a foreign land to seek for access to justice, if this is not love?

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