Prompted by a high level police visit to a notorious refugee slum in Nai Wai, Vision First led the media to document the site and examine the ISS-HK contracts that drew the suspicion of the authorities. Could there be fraudulent elements associating ISS-HK case workers to this slum?
Vision First exposed this slum in August 2013 emphasizing that since 2006 ISS-HK had channeled rent from the government purse to this slum lord. Eight months later over a dozen refugees still reside in these illegal structures with tenancy agreements and ISS-HK contracts bearing questionable data.
Generally speaking, it is our understanding that if the Building Department does not approve premises for residential use, owner are not allowed to rent such locations to anyone – citizen or refugee alike. The fact that literally thousands of ISS-HK contracts show inappropriate home addresses raises suspicion.
It is noteworthy that ISS-HK sponsored and subvented this particular slum since September 2006 and for over seven years arranged monthly payments to a farmer who undoubtedly was not licensed to rent pig sheds for human habitation.
Either due diligence was neglected, or it was expressly decided to avoid carrying it out.
ISS-HK frequently offers the excuse that “99% of service recipients choose their own accommodation”. While this claim is arguable – as certain slum lords claimed to have established ghettos on the suggestion of ISS-HK staff – in the event it were true, such a claim is far from satisfactory.
The case of Madam Lama, reported in previous weeks, demonstrated that most refugees are not helped to find accommodation when they request such assistance. Many case workers refuse to flat-hunt, even for sick, pregnant mothers. Other case workers dispatch refugees to ghettos, the only choices available for such low rent assistance (currently 1500$ a month).
Vision First has formed a reasonable suspicion that the documentation relating to slum dwellings contain fraudulent elements. It is simply impossible for slum lords to provide genuine proof of ownership for tenantable premises in abandoned fish, chicken and pig farms. For reasons that are hard to fathom, ISS-HK turned a blind eye to a crucial contractual element.
The attached document shows ISS-HK housing procedures requiring landlords to provide:
- Landlord’s HKID copy / Company Business Registration copy
- Landlord’s bank book copy
- Completed Landlord Notification Letter
- Tenancy Agreement between landlord and service user
- Evidence of ownership: Rates paper/ Solicitors letter/ Land Register …
A cursory look of any one of the 65 slums exposed by Vision First casts serious doubt on the effectiveness of such requirements and, equally, on the SWD’s oversight of ISS-HK and SWD’s scheduled and unscheduled inspections of refugee accommodation.
Vision First is extremely concern that ISS-HK case workers – who applied their signature on thousands of ISS-HK contracts bearing false information – might be responsible for misleading the government at best, and breaking the law at worst. Could the chickens be coming home to roost?
Over the months we have accompanied lawyers, journalists, lawmakers and academics to uninhabitable refugee ghettos where nobody but coerced individuals, without money or right to work, would reasonably “choose to live” as discredited by ISS-HK justification.
From the evidence collected and the testimony of hundreds of refugees, it appears that ISS-HK, its management and case workers are treading on dangerous ground. Since August 2013 both international and local media have paid considerable attention to a scandal that is expected to deepen this year.