The Philippine and Indonesian consulates formally asked the Hong Kong government to take action against loan sharks who target Filipino and Indonesian domestic workers in the city.

Philippine Consul General Antonio A. Morales and Indonesian Consul Erwin Muhammad Akbar met with Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung on Wednesday, hongkongnews.com.hk reported.

The joint call by the consulates was said to be due to the rising number of cases involving illegal money lenders making domestic workers, who have insufficient knowledge of Hong Kong law and financial pressure, hand over their passports as collateral for loans.

Migrant workers reportedly see this method as simpler than going to official loan agencies.

Since 2016, police have recovered more than 1,500 passports belonging to Philippine and Indonesian domestic helpers. The travel documents, held as collateral for loans, were confiscated from only three loan shark syndicates.

The two consulates asked Hong Kong if it were possible to criminalize “the act of demanding and withholding passports and labor contracts as loan collateral by illegal or unlicensed money lenders”, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the consulates also asked about the possibility of lowering the interest rate for loans, which is set at 60%.

They also called for strict law and regulations on money-lending and to increase the criminal liability of individuals illegally operating as loan sharks.

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