Hong Kong’s Labour Department will implement an initial victim screening mechanism in its ten offices across the city so that foreign domestic workers who are potentially being exploited or abused may be identified at an early stage.

The initiative is part of the plan that the Hong Kong government implemented to fight against human trafficking and enhance the protection of the 390,000 foreign domestic workers in the territory, said Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung in his official blog.

Cheung said the Labour Department will also explore with relevant government departments more measures to encourage and facilitate foreign domestic workers acting as prosecution witnesses, as well as to step up publicity and education on their rights and benefits.

Separately, the Immigration Department will set up a designated team to conduct preliminary checks on foreign domestic worker visa applications in order to identify potential trafficking in persons or exploitation indicators. Early identification will lead to investigation of suspected cases as soon as possible.

Cheung said the government has provided HK$62 million (US$ 7.9 million) recurrent funding in the new financial year to create new posts to implement the plan.

The blog also revealed that over 7,500 initial screenings of vulnerable persons, including illegal immigrants, sex workers, illegal workers, foreign domestic workers and imported workers were conducted in 2018 in immigration, police and customs departments. The figure tripled the corresponding figure for 2016 of 2,500.

Over 110 full debriefing sessions were conducted in 2018, almost four times more than in 2017. From them, only 18 victims were identified as victims.

Cheung said the figures proved that trafficking in persons is not prevalent in the city.