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No life, the refugee slums in Hong Kong

Sep 19th, 2015 | Housing, Immigration, Media, Racism, Rejection, Welfare | Comment

The plight of the refugees in Hong Kong, is the consequence of a system that isolates and leaves them in an endless waiting out of sight of the rest of the population in unsanitary slums. About 10,000 refugees live in of Hong Kong, mostly coming from Indian subcontinent, but also from Vietnam, Indonesia or Horn of Africa.

Most of them have fled persecution in their country, hoping to find refuge in Hong Kong. This city isn’t the haven they were hoping for. Hong Kong hasn’t signed the Geneva Convention and gives only a very small number of refugees status. Upon their arrival in Hong Kong, refugees are registered as asylum seeker and their passports are confiscated.

Normally, it takes three years to process their applications, but some are still waiting after eight years and they aren’t allow to work. Refugees have access only to tiny rooms in slums in the New Territories. Initially these slums weren’t made for housing, these are shacks,or former farms built or refurbished by unscrupulous owners.

Photographer: Emmanuel Serna

List of 69 refugee slums exposed by Vision First since March 2013

No life, the refugee slums in Hong Kong

A little empathy goes a long way

Sep 18th, 2015 | Housing, Welfare | Comment

Let us praise ISS-HK for promptly remedying a tense situation.

This week a distressed refugee couple requested our assistance after the ceiling collapsed in their room and they became homeless. The welfare policy for refugees offers a subsidy ($1500 a month) for premises rented directly from landlords through estate agents familiar with the ISS-HK procedure. In this case the couple had renewed the contract in February 2015 and were paying $200 a month on top of $3000 paid by ISS-HK to the landlord.

However, a lack of proper maintenance of the old and dilapidated building in To Kwa Wan caused the partial collapse of the ceiling. Refugees are forced to live in the cheapest rooms, often in the oldest walk-up buildings, if not in slums, where sudden structural damage might puts their lives at risk.

In this case, fortunately the refugee couple was unhurt. The landlord visited briefly, but, unconcerned about the welfare of his tenants, disappeared soon after and disconnected his phone. The couple felt bound by the Tenancy Agreement and was unsure about their obligations towards the landlord. With no money, nowhere to stay and food coupons damaged by the rain, the couple called their ISS-HK case officer for assistance.

The wife reported to Vision First that, on several occasions, she called their case officer asking for assistance. She complained that she was dismissed with remarks to the following effect: “I don’t have time”, “This is your problem, I cannot help you”, “I don’t care about your problem. I have many clients (to assist)”, “I am busy. Don’t come (to ISS-HK office). I will not see you”, “I will not visit (the room) because the building is dangerous”, “If you don’t like it, go back to your country.” After which the ISS-HK case-worker would hang up the phone

With dignity and composure, the wife explained to Vision First that death threats had driven her into exile, as if she needed to justify her vulnerability after being insulted by a professional tasked with and paid for her welfare. She was evidently less distressed by the inability to offer emergency accommodation, than by the crude and unwarranted remark: “Go back to your country!

Vision First raised a complaint with ISS-HK and the same afternoon her case officer called the wife to remedy the situation. The thankful lady reported to Vision First, “My case officer said that she understood my situation and was sorry. She promised to do her best and asked me to collect dried food (emergency rations) and go to the office on Monday. I was very surprised when she gave me her mobile number and asked me to call if I needed anything.”

Irrespective of the inevitable difficulties and frustrations faced in our work, we are reminded that refugees are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity. The principle that “every asylum claim ought to be approach as genuine until it is proven that it cannot be substantiated by the claimant,” makes any dismissive remark highly unattractive.

It is worth repeating that the High Court directed that, “a refugee claimant deserve sympathy and should not be left in a destitute state during the determination of his status. However, his basic needs such as accommodation, food, clothing and medical care are provided by the Government.”

An African refugee enters a subdivided unit in Hung Hom, unrelated to this blog

Hong Kong citizens are not indifferent to plight of refugees

Sep 17th, 2015 | Immigration, Media | Comment

SCMP - Hong Kong citizens are not indifferent to plight of refugees

We want work, we want dignity

Sep 17th, 2015 | Immigration, Media, Refugee Community, Rejection, Welfare | Comment

Harbour Times - We want work, we want dignity

TVB Evening News on refugee march to EU office

Sep 15th, 2015 | Immigration, Media, Rejection, Welfare | Comment

TVB Evening News on RU march to EU office (12Sep2015)

Hundreds march in Hong Kong for Refugee Solidarity Day

Sep 15th, 2015 | Immigration, Media, Rejection | Comment

Coconuts - Hundreds march in Hong Kong for Refugee Solidarity Day

Hongkongers march to EU office in show of solidarity with refugees

Sep 15th, 2015 | Immigration, Media, Rejection | Comment

HKFP - Hongkongers march to EU office in show of solidarity with refugees

港團體促加快審批酷刑聲請

Sep 15th, 2015 | Immigration, Media, Rejection | Comment

Apple Daily on the march to EU office

Photos of the RU march to EU office on 12 Sep 2015

Sep 14th, 2015 | Immigration, Refugee Community, Rejection | Comment

How Europe can learn from the hard lessons of HK’s Vietnamese refugee crisis

Sep 14th, 2015 | Government, Immigration, Media | Comment

SCMP - How Europe can learn from the hard lessons of HK's Vietnamese refugee crisis

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