For decades Hong Kong Government’s particularly the Security Bureau and the Immigration Department classified asylum seekers as ‘illegal immigrants’. Before I proceed further into the failed asylum system, let’s first go back to asking ourselves a question. Are asylum seekers really illegal immigrants? Let’s consider the following.
Under international law, it is not illegal to seek asylum. Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that ‘everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. Here I should disclose that I availed myself of this life-saving right 10 years ago when I fled to Hong Kong. By the way, I am a refugee and I have been waiting for a decision on my claim since 2006, which is disappointing to say the least.
For years the Hong Kong Immigration Department has classified and prosecuting asylum seekers who entered illegally, or overstayed visas. This includes vilifying as criminal asylum seekers who sometimes have no choice but to use fake documents to flee to safety. It is a pity for Hong Kong – dubiously dubbed Asia’s World City – to punish asylum seekers who entered with non-genuine documents.
I asked myself, are the people working at Immigration capable of their duties, or are they following orders without common sense? One doesn’t have to be a genius to know that, people running away from life-threatening situations are allowed to travel on any form of identity they can grab in the urgency of flight. Are asylum seekers illegal, or is it politically expedient to brand us so?
Broadly speaking ‘Illegal Immigrants’ are hardship travelers who enter a country without meeting legal requirements, for example, without a valid visa or justification. But the similarity with asylum seekers ends here, because the former plan to return to their homeland in the future, while the latter went into exile to avoid physical harm and possibly death. Not the same, right?
As long as Hong Kong supports the “UN Convention Against Torture”, the Government is bound by duties not to return to risk states persons who claim to face torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Therefore, I urge the Hong Kong Government to thoroughly look into the decision makers whom instruct immigration officers to break international laws to favor the interest and agenda of the leading class.
We are asylum seekers, not fool. We are not illiterate whereby the government and Immigration can insult or play with our intelligence. It is ridiculous how press releases and certain media reports vilify refugees as a collective of illegal immigrants! They should have done their homework better, before choosing such offensive and unjustified words.
It is time for the media to stop falling for propaganda. It could be argued that reporters who call refugees ‘illegal immigrants’ are in breach of journalistic ethics for failing in research and due diligence. I wonder if the companies they work for could be sued.
My message to the Hong Kong Government and Immigration is that, you need to wake up and grasp the concept that: There is no such thing as a bogus or illegal asylum seeker. Anyone in the world is entitled to seek protection in another country and have his or her claim assessed. The fairness and credibility of the process is of course entirely a different matter.
As a final note, asylum seekers cannot be maligned or prosecuted for entering a country without authorization, or the right paperwork in the moment of escape from danger. That would be akin to expecting that people to put on their Sunday clothes before escaping from a building on fire!
(Written by a refugee in Hong Kong since 2006)