My name is Jakir and I am an African refugee in Hong Kong. I wish to congratulate the Refugee Union for registering as a society!
On 20th October 2014 history was written when the police issued a certificate for the registration of the “Refugee Union” as a society. The first of its kind in Hong Kong. Nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of the city, where underprivileged and unrecognized group would seek recognition through the Societies Ordinance and be granted approval.
This was a great and a significant achievement for us refugees, despite several months of waiting and uncertainty. It is a major success for asylum seekers and refugees with the Hong Kong Government who has consistently and deliberately marginalized, oppressed and criminalized us for decades by denying our most basic social and human rights as a form of deterrence.
The Government, in the name of helping the refugees, provides an inadequate welfare system that is grossly flawed, riddled with ineptitude and possibly corruption. The inhumane policies perpetrated by the government have not dampened the hope and ingenuity of the refugee community. We continue to fight for better policies and treatment from the Hong Kong society despite the odds.
The food assistance offered to refugees (two bags of dodgy groceries we collect every ten days) is meant to demean, humiliate, control and manipulate our minds. This policy has achieved the opposite result by hardening us and making the refugees more confrontational. It is time for the Government to abolish a pointless system that widely abused by the shop owners and staff.
The rental assistance is far from enough to secure refugees a decent housing. In fact it criminalizes 8000 refugees forced illegally to work to pay our rent balance every month. We people are forced to live in shared accommodation where there is no privacy, others live in makeshift containers and chicken huts and greedy landlords squeeze us for money all the time.
These two cruel, dangerous programs are not the “humanitarian assistance” the Government sells them as being. Far from it; they deprived refugee of human dignity and respect with an aim to make us suffer so we abandon hope for protection and leave Hong Kong! We do not have any choices in our life here. It’s a life of survival of the fittest, as our mind, body and soul waste away without a glimmer of hope. And that is why many people want to join the Refugee Union.
On Monday the 3rd of November the newly registered Refugee Union threw a celebration party to mark its inception and successes so far. Ove the afternoon and evening, scores of members visited our office and rooftop in Sai Ying Pun to joyously celebrate in style. There was delicious food from different countries and plenty of cold drinks to rejoice this remarkable occasion.
Refugee Union members were very excited and expressed their joy and achievement with well-deserved pride. The gathering rekindled past memories with nostalgia, when we successfully organized and executed well planned protests and occupations to push for better policies for the entire refugee community.
This was a meaningful moment: the brotherly love, support and understanding between us was palpable, there for all to see on our faces. The laughter and encouragement that the members offered each other was telling. In the words of an African colleague, “We lost everything escaping here, but we gained a new family in the Refugee Union, people who care and help each other like brothers and sisters. Even more than brothers and sisters as here we struggle together!”
It was indeed a defining moment for us refugees. From then on we all agreed that things will never be the same again. During this evening we took stock of our achievements and pledged to consolidate gains by putting plans into action and laid down a new strategy on the way forward.
In the coming year the Refugee Union will strive to raise its profile, while at the same time become the defining voice of all the refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong as untied we pursue recognition and respect for our basic social and human rights.
We already have a big and spacious office where we meet, exchange experiences and ideas, plan and offer hope and encouragement to one another. This was truly a wonderful moment for the refugee community. This will definitely be a game changer in refugee relations with the community.
All refugees, supporters and friends are always welcome to visit us at 3F, 102 First Street, Sai Ying Pun.
United we stand against our oppressors!