Civil society is preoccupied about the closing of UNHCR (a lack of fairness caused their demise) and the launch of the Unified Screening Mechanism (Immigration typically makes changes in December), but nobody speaks out against the cruel and unlawful treatment of refugees at the hands of the Social Welfare Department and their contractor International Social Service (ISS-HK). Why such silence?
It is easier to hit broad targets and distant objectives, rather than combat a reality one became accustomed to. While it is true that refugees worry about future prospects, there is something everyone can do to alleviate their present suffering. Police inspected a crumbling shack outside Yuen Long. They heard complaints about high rent and no money to pay. Their response was, “This is not our problem!”
Typical response! As long as everyone repeats and believes, “This is not my problem”, refugees will continue to be segregated in ghettos without the ability to pay costs. For years civil society and NGOs heard complaints about slums, extortionary rents, rip-off electricity bills and the incarceration of those who dared to earn a day’s wage. What remedial actions were taken to combat this blatant injustice?
“This is not our problem” leads to hundreds of children at the St. Joseph’s Primary School in Kam Tin witnessing a refugee ghetto below their classroom windows. From above, the students see explicit, institutionalized destitution imposed as punishment on those who dared seek asylum in our affluent city. What does observing this social injustice teach the future generation of our global citizens?
Sandwiched between a primary school and Mercedes-Benz, refugees doubt the promise we made on the international stage – Hong Kong welcomes and protects victims of torture. What went wrong? Who betrayed this sacrosanct promise? Who is responsible for these inhuman and illegal structures? Who is genuinely motivated to fight the cruelty and fraud that rots the refugee system? The time is now.