Don’t make vaccines a must for foreign helpers, says migrants’ group

Published (HKT): 2021.05.05 06:15

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam failed to fully assuage migrant workers’ concerns about discrimination despite halting a mandatory vaccination plan for foreign domestic helpers, a group said.

Her government on Tuesday made an about-face on the order following claims of bias and a backlash that had escalated to the diplomatic level. Lam said that officials were reviewing the requirement for all foreign domestic helpers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before they could renew their contracts. No final decision had been made on the matter, she said.

A migrant workers’ group in the city was not convinced by Lam’s backdown. Eni Lestari, chair of the International Migrants Alliance, told Apple Daily that the measure was discriminatory and should be scrapped altogether.

The latest remarks by the Hong Kong leader left room for the measure to be put in place later, said Lestari, also the founder of the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers.

Concern groups and workers were unhappy that Lam had solicited no discussion with them or the foreign consulates before her government announced the measure in the first place, Lestari said.

All 370,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong were subject to the obligatory vaccination under the earlier decision, unveiled on April 30.

Some groups, while welcoming Lam’s suspension of the measure, reiterated that Hong Kong should not make the vaccines compulsory for foreign domestic helpers.

Some helpers with health conditions were worried about possible side effects, said Lestari and Betty Yung, chair of the Hong Kong Employers of Overseas Domestic Helpers’ Association.

Yung suggested the government adopt a more “humane” approach to replace mandatory vaccination, such as requiring workers to get tested when they renewed their contracts.

The Mission For Migrant Workers welcomed Lam’s Tuesday decision but urged her government to conduct scientific analysis and consult concerned parties when formulating policy. Migrant workers should not be singled out, the group said.

In a reply to Apple Daily, the Indonesian Consulate said it was prepared to discuss with Hong Kong officials to ensure that pandemic control measures were fair and non-discriminatory.

The Philipinne Consulate thanked the Hong Kong government for its “understanding and magnanimity,” saying it would hold constructive dialogue with the city’s officials on the issue. The consulate also encouraged its nationals to take advantage of Hong Kong’s free and voluntary vaccination program.

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