I left my country in Africa. I was working in China when great danger started and I could not return home. I became a refugee sur place. I came to Hong Kong in January 2014, when I entered with a two-week visa. I sought asylum when my permit expired. It was very hard.
I struggle for everything alone and without knowing the system. I went to NGOs to get help. I followed Vision First and they helped me a lot. It is important to assist others and I have always helped fellow refugees when I had the opportunity, knowing how lost we feel at the start of the asylum process.
It is very difficult for refugees to survive in Hong Kong because we cannot work. The assistance we receive in rent and food is far from enough. The rooms where we live are in very poor condition. The government is not doing its part to assist refugees who look for a safe place in this city.
I am one of the lucky ones and this is my story. Two months ago I left Hong Kong and returned a few days later, the second time in less than two years. At the Immigration counter I presented a Dependent Visa and was allowed one year stay with the right to work!
What a huge difference it makes! The first time I arrived, the future was very dark and I didn’t know what would happen. Now I am smiling with great joy and hope as Hong Kong welcomes me. Work, honest and legal work, is what all refugees need to survive and keep their mental sanity.
The difference is that a year ago I married my lovely Chinese wife and recently our application for a dependent visa was approved. The visa allowed me to change my status from “USM claimant” (= unwelcome) to “Dependent Visa” (=welcome). Honestly, I realize how lucky I was that my destiny was marked by remarkable events that changed the course of life.
On 13 March 2014, two months after I first arrived, I heard that refugees were fighting for their rights through a public demonstration at the Government House, in Central. I joined with great expectation as it was my first demonstration. I realized that refugees were not treated fairly during the processing time of our claims. I learnt that some refugees were waiting over 10 years for a decision by Immigration.
I was proud to march in the front line. I was not scared. I remember that a journalist asked me, “Why you are not scared? Why don’t you cover your face?” I answered, “Why should I be scared? These are my rights and I need to fight for them!” If things are wrong and must be changed, people must stand up and fight for the change they want. In life you cannot hide to be counted.
I have always felt very strongly about human rights. People are oppressed all over the world and also here in Hong Kong, where society does not allow some social groups to live with dignity – among these are my refugee brothers and sisters. For this reason I now promote and supported the Refugee Union, and encourage its members to be strong and united. Despite finally getting legal status, I can’t forget my experiences and hope that our struggle will be successful.
I wish to thank those people who supported and encouraged me from the beginning. I have always trusted my fate that life would work out well, but without my friends’ support it would not have been possible. Hong Kong people are wonderful people. We might disagree about the government and its policies, but many ordinary people I met treat me like a friend and some like family.
Finally I wish to thank my wonderful wife for her trust, love and support that changed my life. My two years in Hong Kong have been unique, from the depths of depression when I lost my future, to the love and joy with my new family. I look forward to landing on my feet and offering support to other refugees struggling on this journey. I love to help people and believe God helps those who help others.