On 11 September 2013 Vision First reported on the Slum in the Honeymoon House where ISS-HK settled more than 30 refugees, including babies, in wooden shacks and metal containers. In our view, this compound clearly demonstrated the result of unsavory practices between an unscrupulous purported landlord and a government contractor who, at a minimum, failed in due diligence.
Over the past sixteen months, Vision First regularly visited this slum collecting evidence of refugees being housed in dangerous and unhygienic structures that no right-minded person could remotely consider suitable for human beings. A lack of sanitation and sewerage was the least of the problems, as these ramshackle huts seemed on the verge of collapsing under their own weight.
Further, we are alarmed that refugee, some having lived there for 5 years, raise concerns about ownership as they inform about a slum lady who used a company (names withheld) for tenancy agreements to receive rent from ISS-HK, despite the land not being registered in that company’s name. Refugees report that the slum lady sold the property in early 2014 to a distraught new buyer who now faces stringent enforcement action by the authorities.
In the wake of numerous cross-departmental complaints filed by Vision First, the Lands Department is finally cracking down on the unauthorized structures erected in this slum that must be demolished or removed as a matter of urgency. Notices issued on 11 and 29 December 2014 have been retained as evidence that ISS-HK settled refugees in illegal structures not fit for human habitation. Again we wonder what supporting documents were submitted to SWD.
The Lands Dept notices call for demolition and warn “The public should thus stop to purchase or rent or reside in the unauthorized structures erected on the Lot. Otherwise, you may face losses or liability in the event of enforcement action by the Government against unauthorized or unlawful structures.”
The department is taking a surprising step, “Besides, for cases where estate agents have been involved in facilitating sales/rental transactions, the District Lands Office will refer to the Estate Agents Authority for her appropriate action.” We wonder if the fallout will implicate ISS-HK caseworkers who also facilitated rentals.
Recently we have been informed from refugee tenants of caseworkers contacting and urging them to move hastily out of this compound. Further, Vision First has been informed that refugees were told these huts were illegal and they would be settled in guesthouses while they looked for suitable rooms. This came as a shock to a refugee who queried, “Why was this location approved by ISS for seven years and suddenly we all have to leave in one week? If it is not good now for us, why was it good before?”
Lands Department inspectors surveyed every inch of the lot and found that not only the tin shacks, but also the solid brick-and-mortar homes are illegal. In no unequivocal terms, the registered owner was told that the entire lot must be returned to its original farmland condition for the raising of crops, which we presume excludes categorically the raising of refugee children.