It seems that there are a lot of loan sharks anywhere you go; people or companies who offer to ‘help’ you have some extra money to buy something you like or pay for something you think you need, but you end up in deeper debt because of the high interest rates!
The same holds true in Hong Kong where loan sharks prey on domestic helpers and other workers who are in need of cash. To ensure they pay their loans, the loan sharks ask the borrowers to pawn their passports or some other thing with value.
In July, hundreds of OFWs were left without passports after these were taken as evidence by cops against a Chinese loan shark. The cops had learned that the Chinese man had been offering loans to Pinay domestic helpers in exchange for their passports, to ensure they pay him back.
A 42-year-old OFW named Lara, how hails from Aklan and now works at North Point, Hong Kong, was among those who lost her passport to the case. Her employer knew about the situation and was able to help her get a travel document stamped with visa at the back. She was told to get a new passport as such could not be issued in Hong Kong due to the circumstances.
The Consulate gave her a “one-way travel document” so she could process her documents in the Philippines. Her employer also allowed her to go for a Christmas vacation starting December 15.
But obtaining the new passport wasn’t as easy as Lara thought. She was told by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that the Consulate did not have approval to issue a new document.
She had to seek help from her friends in Hong Kong to process the document under the Assistance to Nationals section but was unable to obtain the documents in time for January 2, her scheduled trip back to Hong Kong.
Because she also has to get an OEC so she could fly back to Hong Kong, Lara fears that she might lose her job if she still could not obtain the documents soon enough. She now warns other OFWs to never pawn their passport if they want to borrow money because getting a new one is very difficult, especially in these situations.
Image credit: ABS-CBN News