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。
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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