Refuge for abused domestic workers faces closure due to lack of funds

Photo via Facebook.

Since it was first set up in 1986, Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge has provided shelter for domestic workers seeking refuge from abusive employers.

Now, the shelter is facing the threat of closure due to lack of funds and is appealing to the public for donations to keep its doors open.

Bethune receives no government subsidies and relies entirely on private donations.  The organization recently lost one of its major financial backers, and only has enough money to last until the end of June.

The charity typically houses up to 30 domestic workers at any time, and donations to the center cover rent, utilities, food, and other expenses related to the needs of these women such as transport, toiletries and visa extension fees.

The women staying in these shelters are seeking shelter from abusive employers. Some of them are going through the court system.

Bethune’s executive director Edwina A. Antonio told Coconuts HK that they need HK$1 million (US$127,400) to cover expenses for eight months, but have so far only reached about 24 percent of their target.

She said that there were currently 21 women staying in their shelters, which were in high demand given a lack of alternatives.

The group was “doing everything to prevent the shelters from closing down,” she added.

Antonio said that if worse comes to worse, Bethune will need to request other shelters to house these women, but added that such facilities were usually full, pushed to the limits by an increase in premature contract terminations and incidences of abuse and exploitation.

“We are more than a shelter, we transform victims to survivors. There is an urgency because it is a humanitarian crisis,” she said.

“These women support us so we can support Hong Kong, so by helping us remain open, you are helping the women to access justice.”

One of the women who was able to access justice thanks to Bethune was, Ariane — who features in a video posted on the charity’s Facebook page last night.

Thank you for making this video to support us and all the migrants in distress! Our shelter needs your help!Recently,…

Posted by Bethune House Migrant Women's Refuge on Wednesday, June 13, 2018

She stayed at Bethune for more than six months while awaiting a court case with her former employer. She was unable to work during that time and had no other place to stay.

Donations can be made online or via PayPal at shelter@bethunehouse.org.hk.

You can also donate via direct deposit to Hang Seng Bank S/A number #284-8-241309, or via cheque payable to The Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, Ltd and addressed to the MFMW Limited, St. John’s Cathedral, 4-8 Garden Road, Central.

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