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Amnesty demands end to workers' slave conditions

Hong Kong and Indonesian authorities must end their "inexcusable" inaction on slave conditions

Hong Kong and Indonesian authorities must end their "inexcusable" inaction on the slave conditions faced by Indonesian domestic workers in the Chinese region, Amnesty International demanded.

Thousands of women have been exploited by agencies which took their passports and charged excessive fees after luring them with promises of high pay and good conditions.

Amnesty said it amounted to trafficking and forced labour, as the women could not escape once they were in debt and their documents seized.

"From the moment the women are tricked into signing up for work in Hong Kong they are trapped in a cycle of exploitation, with cases that amount to modern-day slavery," said migrant rights worker Norma Kang Muico.

She said she feared the problem was widespread in Hong Kong, where 150,000 Indonesian women work as "domestic helpers."

The group accuses both Indonesia and Hong Kong of "inexcusable" inaction.

"The authorities may point to a raft of national laws that supposedly protect these women but such laws are rarely enforced," said Ms Muico.

Hong Kong MP Fernando Cheung said that he felt "ashamed."

"The government should increase its effort to implement laws that are being violated," he said.

Amnesty said that two-thirds of domestic workers it had interviewed had endured physical or psychological abuse.

A third of them had not been allowed to leave their employer's house and were only seen by Amnesty after they had left their jobs.

Many faced physical and sexual violence, lack of food, underpayment and excessive hours - 17 hours a day was the average among interviewees.

Government-licensed recruitment agencies in Indonesia "routinely deceive women about salaries and fees, confiscate identity documents and other property as collateral and charge fees in excess of those permitted by law," Amnesty said.

An Indonesian official claimed that new regulations had been introduced in April aimed at improving the welfare of migrant workers.

But Ms Muico said the risk remained because the government had outsourced its migrant worker services to private agencies "where the only concern is profit."

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