It would have been impossible to foresee Elis’s tragic death, and it was a horrific accident for everyone involved. However, Elis’s death could have been prevented – and once again sheds light on a system that puts power in the hands of employment agencies and employers, leaving nothing left for domestic workers who come here for a better life.
From facts as they are presented now, Elis was awaiting her second work contract in Hong Kong after working here for three years. She was an active union member, and was aware of her rights- just a few months ago she marched to ask for justice for fellow migrant worker Erwiana.
Yet, activist groups say the agency charged her two months of salary in order to change employers – illegal under Hong Kong law. A Standard Employment Contract becomes valid upon entry to Hong Kong. Elis’s employer delayed employing Elis for two months, ostensibly to save money, though her employment contract had already begun.
The agency on its Facebook page claim that Elis stayed up late chatting with a friend, and stayed on the roof so as not to wake other sleeping women in the dorm. However this raises more questions than it answers – Why would she have chosen to sleep on a roof if she had another option? Why were there sleeping facilities on the rooftop? If this was a pure accident and the agency in no way liable, why would they offer $50,000 to Elis’s family?
Finally how does the Labour Department play a role? If their mandate is to ensure safe living and working conditions for domestic workers, then it is clear they have failed.
A reasonable person might come to the conclusion that someone might be hurt while sleeping on a roof. Though the facts remain unclear as the police investigate, Elis was undoubtedly a victim of a system that cheated her of wages, put her in unsafe living conditions, and ultimately robbed her family of their mother and daughter.
Elis was just 33-years-old and a mother of two children. Her children and two parents who relied on her remittances now not only have to cope with her death, but they also face the arduous process of making insurance claims in Hong Kong.
Justice for Elis is supporting her family financially as they deal with the struggles ahead. All donations large or small are welcome.