Dearest Supporters –
A bittersweet feeling permeates our heart as we compose this year-end report. On the one hand, there are great accomplishments to announce, but on the other hand, celebration is unjustified whilst many beneficiaries face the L.O.C. dead-end in the asylum process, more on this later.
Thanks to your generous support, in 2010 Vision First expanded its reach beyond expectations. By engaging the community and developing partnerships, our tailor-made programs are currently assisting 235 beneficiaries. Our board of directors was reorganized in September, welcoming new professional talent to inspire and guide us to new heights next year. Besides running 13 home-shelters and a successful Sunday Food Program, we placed many children in primary, secondary and special needs schools, ensuring their generation isn’t jeopardize by their family’s misfortune. What makes VF shine is outreach that includes the ONLY Financial Assistance Program in the asylum field. The rational behind this effort is simple: everything cost money in the city and leave your wallet at home if in doubt. The power behind this program is YOUR donations that rose from 10,000 HKD in January to 50,000 HKD in monthly auto-payments! This is remarkable and undoubtedly makes a tangible difference in our grateful beneficiaries’ hardship. We guarantee that “what we receive is what we donate” and our honorary auditors ensure we are 100% volunteer-driven – without administrative or salary burdens. We wondered how to limit office rental, when a Benefactor rescued us with a rent-free CENTRE for Spring 2011. Finally, we report that thousands of fieldwork hours went to researching the asylum situation in shantytowns across the territory, where marginalized exiles struggle in neglect, outside public view. It pains us to limit our assistance to a 5% minority, but we are confident our influence will grow over the years.
In 2010 a dozen refugees were resettled to third countries (official UNHCR figures are unavailable), however desperation runs deep for hundreds of individuals. Out of 800+ UNHCR applicants, about 20 (2.5%) were recognized refugees. Out of 6600+ Torture Convention claimants, no one was yet accepted, though 40+ were deported. The remainder is in limbo, suspended in forced idleness and prohibited from working, leaving, even volunteering to assist others. Add hunger, destitution homelessness and depression to unequivocally remove economic migrants, who shun an existence devoid of employment. The Lack Of Credibility (LOC) stamp, marks UNHCR’s rejection of cases that don’t meet their criteria, to the bewilderment of those who believes that, despite objective evidence, humanitarian considerations succumbed to geopolitical directives. Granted these are complex issues and UNHCR faces an arduous task, we lament their 0% appeal rate, in sharp disaccord with the Court of Appeal’s international average of 30%. This is not only a remarkable statistic, but also a life sentence to those denied refuge. On the ground, we witness the devastating impact these decisions have, by plunging into despair those whose hopes are dashed, hardship guaranteed and statelessness endorsed. This is not as it should be! We believe cases are closed that must be recognized and, powerless before the outcome, we recognize Vision First must develop ‘durable solutions’ for our beneficiaries, otherwise condemned to permanent Hong Kong exile.
Were our eyes but sharp enough, we would appreciate how little we accomplished before the magnitude of our task. However, we strive day-by-day, while vigorously advocating for the HKSAR to administer the asylum process, so we might be proud of our society. As a refugee lamented, “Displacement is like death, one thinks it only happens to others”, and it could be anyone since only a tenth of the global population enjoys the rule of law. Our DREAM for a world that takes responsibility for those who suffer human-rights abuses and are forced into exile, starts with the material difference we make TOGETHER for the 235 exiles welcomed at Vision First.