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Hong Kong’s dark side of the story

Jan 15th, 2015 | Media, Refugee Community | Comment

Blasting News - HK's dark side of the story

The little girl with red eyes

Jan 13th, 2015 | Personal Experiences, Refugee Community, Welfare | Comment

My name is Nashu. I am a Bangladeshi refugee five years in Hong Kong. I want to thank Vision First for helping my people, because before Vision First come show us the way, we Bangladeshi could not speak to HK people who treat us like we don’t count and don’t have any rights. But what is difference between Bangladeshi refugee and African refugee killed by government, I ask you?

Is true that my uncle and my cousins escape to UK same time I came to HK. Last year they returned to Bangladesh with some UK documents after they were accepted as refugees. That is good for them, but there is no hope for me in HK because Bangladeshi never recognized as a refugee by Hong Kong Government.

Many years I live in a slum and I am very angry people say that we choose to live here. Why are we choose to live in slums if we can work and can rent nice room? There are always lies when people are treated like animals and those who don’t care about problem they think and say that poor people choose to suffer like that. Maybe they never talk to poor people.

Now I want to tell you about a very sad thing I see with my own eyes. I can’t feel comfortable and something must change. Near my home there is another slum where a refugee lady lives with her 3 years old daughter. She smoke Ashish (Ganja) because she is depressed and cannot have hope for the future. Her room is 3 x 3.5 feet and small like a car, so the girl breathe the smoke when she is sleeping.

When I visit I see the little girl is like drunk and her eyes are red and not looking normal. She tell me her father is sent by Immigration already back to Pakistan. The mother and daughter are paining very much without him. They are heartbroken I understand. This is real story that happen to many refugee families when Immigration send one parent away and family is broken.

The baby eyes and body movement is not normal. When I hold her I am shocked because her body is too much hurt. I think the baby is sick, maybe fever like that. But my friend tell me it is not fever. He say that after the father send back to his country, the mother is very sad and start to use some drugs at nighttime. When I first see the baby I feel very sad. True she is like a drunk!

What is the girl mistake that she is born in Hong Kong and her father is send away? She is refugee baby but her mother cannot work so cannot have good room and cannot have money to take care for her. They cannot have good future. Who is responsible to protect the human rights of refugee children born on the land of Hong Kong?

Now I tell you reason why refugees sell drugs to pay for rent, clothes, food and other costs. If the refugees sell drugs is because they don’t have job and if the police catch them send them too long time prison for working (15 months) and short time for selling drugs (4 months).

Also selling drugs big money come easy and working time is only few hours. But to do normal job the money is only 200-300$ and the working time is very long from early morning till late at night. So refugees are more scared that police will arrest them. It is law that make some refugee choose the wrong way as we don’t have the legal way to survive in Hong Kong.

The little girl with red eyes
This photo was taken in the slums in September 2013 and is not of the little girl in the above blogs. Vision First condemns the failed welfare system for refugees that subjects refugee childrens to years of deprivation and suffering with little consideration of Rights of the Child, in a glaring violation of Hong Kong’s obligations under this United Nation’s treaty.

 

 

RU Monday Meeting – 12 Jan 2015

Jan 13th, 2015 | Refugee Community, Welfare | Comment

RU Monday Meeting - 12 Jan 2015

Refugees fight against slum eviction

Jan 9th, 2015 | Housing, Refugee Community, Welfare | Comment

Link to a blog posted on the Refugee Union Facebook on 9 January 2015

Link to VF report on the Slum in the Honeymoon House closing down

Quotation-mark-orangeISS approved this slum for 7 years and now they want us to leave in 7 days. We don’t like to live in these bad conditions, but we cannot work and do not have money to rent good room. Before I tell my (ISS-HK) officer, I say outside homes in Yuen Long are very expensive. Maybe room cost 2000$, so how we rent for 1500$ budget ISS give us? He say to me, ‘Not my matter. Not my problem’ … So what we do? Should we be homeless because Hong Kong Government, Social Welfare Department and ISS refuse to provide home, refuse to increase refugee rent allowance and refuse refugee from working? This is why we come today to protest at the Social Welfare Department main office because this is shameful treatment of refugees.” – Aziz, refugee in Hong Kong since 2006

Refugees Fight Against Forced Eviction

Are we refugees or prisoners?

Jan 4th, 2015 | Immigration, Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | Comment

Greetings to all friends and readers. I am Aameen and I was born 38 years ago in India. I have been a refugee in Hong Kong for 8 years and I hope this message will be read by all refugees, human rights people, NGO people and lawmakers in Hong Kong. I thank Vision First for offering this opportunity.

Every human being that is free has rights, but refugees are prisoners in Hong Kong because we do not have freedom. We cannot work so we are desperately poor. We cannot live in good place without money. We cannot eat what we like without money. We cannot take bus without money. We cannot phone without money. We cannot even write letter home without money.

Why in Hong Kong the lawmakers treat us worse than prisoners? We cannot rent room or buy any food, water, clothes, shoes and other daily things without money. Here for example, everybody whether they are rich or they are poor, whether they are educated or they are uneducated person, they can choose which toothpaste they prefer. Only refugees and prisoners cannot choose toothpaste flavour!

Refugees in Hong Kong must use all daily things and food what kind the ISS distributor give us. Dear Respectful Lawmaker, why refugees don’t have the right to work to buy what they need? If we are free people, is it not our right to work and buy and use what we need? We are refugees, not prisoners.

In 2011 I was sentenced 15 months prison for working illegally because the ISS didn’t give me the things I need. The Respectful Tuen Mun Court send me to Pik Uk Prison and inside there whatever they give me I use and I follow the rules. I ask the Respectful Lawmaker: Why in prison I can work and buy what I need, but in the outside world I cannot work and buy what I need?

So I politely tell you that even if we live outside with good character, refugees in Hong Kong do not have freedom and are treated worse than prisoners. How we feel freedom if we have no right to work and to buy what we need? Every human being has different choices and every free person has the right to choose. Why then refugees are not free to choose?

It means that for Hong Kong Government the refugees are not human beings. If we consider the world law as good for humanity and to protect human life, why the law in Hong Kong is not good for refugees and does not protect our life? Is this law good for human rights? Is it good for humanity?

So I have these questions for the Respectful Lawmaker: Why you don’t protect refugees? Why you don’t give basic human rights to refugees? Even if we forget about refugees and consider to the simple fact that we are all human beings, why you don’t respect refugees as human beings?

It is very sad that the Hong Kong lawmakers make a big difference between human beings and refugees! I will not request for any visa or work permit, I only and politely request treating refugees with respect as human beings. I ask why refugees don’t have fundamental rights? We always read in the newspaper that dogs and cats have more rights than refugees. Why must this be true?

From my point of view, I cannot understand who they consider refugees in Hong Kong, if refugee have no protection, no work, half assistance, no human rights and no respect. The law in Hong Kong pretends to give us full freedom, home, food and clothes, but we cannot even rent room and get enough food to eat. So please tell us, are we refugees or prisoners?

Dear Respectful Lawmakers, why are your human rights and my human rights separated?

(name, Immigration and contact details provided)

Are we refugees or prisoners
Refugees have their Immigration documents checked frequently. Some complain it happens several times a week by officers who know them, perhaps to stress their extraneousness and otherness in society.

 

Through the Karakorum to Hong Kong

Jan 2nd, 2015 | Crime, Detention, Immigration, Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | Comment

I am Pakistani refugee and I arrived in Hong Kong in 2009 from Jehlum where my life was in mortal danger and police cannot help and protect me. I traveled along the Karakorum Highway, on the Silk Road, one of the wonders of the world, to a safe place because my family enemies want to kill me.

On my mind I have a question: Why do many people doubt the reason and way refugees come to Hong Kong? They doubt about this very much, so I will tell you my reason and my long trip along land from Islamabad to Hong Kong. I have never flown in an airplane in my life.

I was happy in my motherland Pakistan and I was having a good job running my own business. But after my father’s death, my other family members wanted to hold and take all our land and other property. At the time my father passed I was 18 years old. Over a few years the fighting get very worse and they killed my older brother and also want to kill me.

I was lucky to run away to another Islamabad to save my life, but they are strong and rich and find me there. I escape again and never feel my life is safe in Pakistan. In my country who have more money buy the police. Then the police refuse to protect victims who cannot pay more. They will also make false charges to arrest and put long time in jail those victims until they find money.

How did I know about refugees in HK and why I choose HK? I had some friends who were before here as refugees and they teach me how I can come, what documents I need and how much time and money it take. At that time I sell my business very cheap because hurry to get a passport with China visa.

I knew that I must reach Shenzhen (China) and that was my first target. I did not choose airplane because by road is much cheaper. I buy bus ticket from Islamabad to Gillgit, which is one and a half day drive. From there I take another bus to Sost, the Pakistan/China border which take more two days.

I buy again bus ticket from Sost to Kashgar (China) where I pass again immigration and they give me entry into China. But my target point is still very far because I need to reach Shenzhen, where Hong Kong is very near and I can easy enter. From Kashgar I buy train ticket to Urumqi, the big and old China city. Then I take a bus to Shanghai, another to Guangzhou and last one to Shenzhen.

I get a lot or problems in China all the way about food and language that is very different from my country. I reach Shenzhen at 11 o’clock at night and buy a SIM card for my mobile to contact my friend to ask him to please tell me how I enter Hong Kong because my visa is only for 23 days in China.

I stay in a hotel in Shenzhen because I am very tired as I was in train and bus for more than two weeks without rest as I carry on my journey. So the next morning my friend call me and tell me “You need to pay HK dollars 5500 for some men and they can help you to enter in Hong Kong by sea on a boat.” [In 2014 smugglers charged 14000 RMB for an illegal passage to Hong Kong]

At night the same day I meet the men near the Lo Wu McDonald and I pay them the money. They arrange for me a boat to take me to Hong Kong. They drive me in a small car to the seaside and a Chinese boy driver and other 8 people I see on the boat. It is 12 o’clock at night and the man go back in the car. I sit on the small boat that I worry it is very dangerous and only good to catch small fish.

After two hours already in the sea, some HK Marine Police boat come to us and tell us “Hands Up and show your identity!” It is very unlawful what I was doing, because without visa documents we can’t enter in any country, but I must find a safe place to save my life.  

After I show my passport to the marine police, they say, “You are safe. Don’t worry!” and they bring me inside police station. From there they send me two days later to CIC detention center. I was bailed out in October 2009 and until today I am waiting to start my interview process.

(Name, Immigration and contact details provided)

Through the Karakorum to Hong Kong
Refugees generally enjoyed better living conditions in their homeland, than in Hong Kong where hundreds live in dreadful, pest-infested slums supported by the public purse. Why?

 

I am refugee

Dec 31st, 2014 | Crime, Personal Experiences, Refugee Community, Rejection | Comment

Does it matter who am I? Does it matter where I come from? I have been trapped in Hong Kong too long to distinguish between myself and the other thousands like me. I do not hear the clanging of gates, or the clinging of keys, but asylum stripped me of my freedom. It is prison by other means. I am refugee.

My life was torn apart by the insanity of war that makes no distinction between combatants and civilians. Nobody can sit on the fence, or claim neutrality, when the guns start firing. There are only two choices left: to fight or to escape. Either way the consequences become tragically unavoidable.

It so happens that I had travelled to China before and a valid visa permitted my hurried escape. I had never realized how expendable life was until I lost family and friends to human savagery. Such brutality reached me in the form of graphic photos that underscored how evil and vicious life can be.

That is the past and I have no way of changing it. I accepted my misfortune and my losses to avoid going mad wondering what might have happened had I made differently choices. The truth is that I lost the privilege of choosing after seeking asylum in a city-prison that doesn’t want me, but I am unable to depart.

Do I have the choice to opt out if I want to? Only if I could rewind time, could I avoid the invisible walls that imprison me in Hong Kong. There is no shame in my defeat, because events beyond my control swept me aside and sealed my cruel fate after destroying everything I cherished.

My life was interrupted by the shock of asylum when I realized that I will never be granted protection by HK government. Only 22 persons were granted asylum in Hong Kong out of 15,000 claimants since 1992. What are my chances? I have no future. Daily indignities destroy my self-respect as I beg for assistance with rent, food and incidentals, under threat of arrest and jail if I dare to work. I am refugee.

I believe that the dignity of a man is measured by the breadth of his mind and the depth of his character. Instead asylum labelled me a loser and tossed me in the garbage dump of humanity. I am worthless as I am denied legal status. I am powerless as I don’t have socio-economic rights.

Hong Kong judges me for what I have and by what I do for a living. I have nothing but the clothes I wear and I am prohibited from making a living, so I am disposable and easily forgotten. Nowadays so much value is given to social status and belongings that marginalized people are treated like lepers. 

It is terribly ironic that by denying asylum, Hong Kong government also strips refugees of humanity. It feels like a huge betrayal of international treaties that these failures are glaringly self-evident: an effective zero-percent acceptance rate; endless waiting period; interminable assessment process stretched over years; protracted determination period that inevitably ends with rejection …

I felt profoundly betrayed when I realized that the Immigration Department’s asylum system was a farce. Never mind that the process stops and starts every few years and reforms are introduce with great fanfare, because results speak louder than words and justice cannot be heard.

(Name, Immigration and contact details provided)

 I am refugee

Year end message from the Refugee Union

Dec 30th, 2014 | Refugee Community | Comment

From Refugee Union’s Facebook

 

RU year end message - 30Dec2014

Presidential Elections in Togo: here we go again

Dec 24th, 2014 | Refugee Community | Comment

As one of dozens of Togolese refugees who took refuge in Hong Kong, I query why the Immigration Department never accepted one of my compatriots despite: a) 50 years of repressive dictatorship in Togo, and b) many of our colleagues having been readily accepted as refugees in European countries. Here is a brief history of the political situation in my country.

For 50 years power has been controlled by the Gnassingbé Clan that took hostage the people of Togo without justice. In fifty years nothing changed, neither in fact, nor in the way was power held at all cost by this father-son dynasty.

It is reported that no election in Togo has met the basic minimum requirements of modern politics: transparency, honesty and fairness in relation to the outcome of the elections. In Togo the elections always end up the same way: they deliver a predictable share of plunder, brutality and funerals of voters who are reduced to political collateral victims.

In this context the government party rallies voters who are hungry and have no choice. They give them 5Kg of rice to buy their vote. They do this every 5 years so effectively each vote is worth 1Kg of rice a year. What a joke. The international community looks the other way and calls Togo ‘democratic’.

The Gnassingbé Clan seized power in 1963 when General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, the Father, killed the previous president. He stayed behind the curtains until he started his official rule in 1967. Since 1963 the Father has killed without mercy every activists that he could identify and arrest, including my friends.

Political opposition started in 1991, with the “COD” coalition, after the Father signed a decree to allow a multi-party system with no real power. In 1992 the government and COD arranged the National Conference for Peace to acknowledge and forgive the atrocities of the past. Alas the peace agreement ended up with everyone running home scared, then more fighting and more bloodshed.

During the conference the opposition wanted to dissolve the Father’s political party, the Rally of the Togolese People (RPT), but this proved impossible. That was the end of the conference. A national strike followed and for 13 months nobody went to school or went to work, but they could not break the Gnassingbé Clan’s stranglehold on power.

From 1967 till 1993, the Father Gnassingbé was the only election candidate, like in North Korea. Under International pressure, in 1993 the Father allowed multi-party candidates, but he cheated that election every 5 years until now. The government appoints a group of people (CENI) who supervise the election, but they are the President’s People and falsify paperwork and computer records.

When each election finishes they say that the Father is the winner, or they will disappear and be killed. The Chief Judge, who is appointed by the President, then formally proclaims the winner. And this has been going on since 1993 with deadly persecution of all activists and genuine opposition leaders.

Only Death could end the Father’s absolute power. But when he died in 2005, he was succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbé, after an operation to exile the president of the Assembly in Benin, as he was constitutionally next in line. This cleared the way for the Son who, with the protection of the army, rapidly took control of Togo.

Again the people protested. In due course the Son made a fake concession and put the assistant of the president of the assembly as President and scheduled fresh elections. But the RPT proposed the Son Gnassingbé as candidate and predictably he won the election. The Son cheated in the elections of 2005 and 2010 and will repeat this year.

According to law he could only be elected twice, but the Son changed the Constitution to say that the President could rule “forever”, so he plans to rule Togo as a lifetime dictator. The Son craves power like the Father and he won’t give up. My people suffer and hundreds of political activists escape abroad, including to Hong Kong where I sought refuge over 10 years ago.

For the good and honourable people in Hong Kong Government who believe in the supremacy of human rights, I have these questions:

  • How many political activists will be found dead in the bush, will be swallowed by the lakes and will disappear in the ocean before justice comes to Togo?
  • How many activists will flee Togo in exile and come to Hong Kong?
  • When will the first Togolese refugee be accepted in Hong Kong?
  • You people who fight for justice where are you?

(Name, Immigration number and contact details provided)

Presidential Elections in Togo here we go again

Hunger strike shows the face of death

Dec 22nd, 2014 | Detention, Immigration, Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | Comment

It was almost 15 years ago but I remember the day like it was yesterday. I came to Hong Kong to save my life. I had to find a safe place after fleeing Pakistan in the summer of 2001. After many years in 2010, my torture claim was rejected and I was charged with “remaining in Hong Kong unlawfully”. I was sent to prison for eight months for what I consider seeking asylum here.

When I was arrested, I was in shock … suddenly everything changed and I felt like a criminal. Immigration does not issue “asylum visas” so how are refugees expected to remain legally in Hong Kong while they wait for decision on their cases? Some refugees waited years for UNHCR to reject their case and didn’t surrender to Immigration. After rejection they were also prosecuted and jailed. Is it fair?

In June 2011 I was released from Pik Up Prison and transferred to Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (“CIC”) for deportation procedures. The government wanted to send me back to Pakistan where I told them my life was in serious danger. But nobody believed me. After I went inside CIC the office-in-charge took me to a room and shouted at me, “You must go back to your country!”

I said I would not go back, because my life is still not safe in Pakistan. After some questions, I had to sign some documents, then they sent me to the hall where a lot of people were waiting. Every day the officers force and force me to go back to my homeland. They didn’t’ listen. They didn’t believe. They didn’t understand. But why I choose more and more detention?

In this world, I think, most important and precious for every human being, after the air we breathe, is human rights and freedom. I always refused to be deported because I will face danger in Pakistan. Even if my arms and legs are bound in Hong Kong, I must prefer to stay here than return to be tortured to death.

When my trouble started we were 5 guys pressured by officers every day to leave Hong Kong. There were 2 Pakistani and 3 from India, but one India guy they sent back after a few weeks. And here I tell you a story that perhaps you will find hard to believe, but I have proof that I can show you. It was also reported in the South China Morning Post one day in September 2011.

The Immigration officers always force me to go back, but how I go back when still my problem is same since 2001? After many weeks the Immigration still refuse to give me bail out. I stopped eating and I was getting every day more and more sick. My hands and arms were shacking. They were not in my control. My arms were like rubber, they move and not stop. Then I was given a bed in prison hospital.

But Immigration still forced me to go back when I am sick. I was very tense. I was very scared. I didn’t know how many days or weeks I stopped eating. One night I went to toilet around 2am and I fell down. I could not stand up because my body was too weak already. My mind stopped working. Some friends helped to bring me out of the toilet. The officer-in-charge was shocked when he saw my condition.

The prison doctor called the emergency ambulance and they brought me out to Tuen Mun Hospital. I was in shock. I felt I was dreaming. The doctor injected me some medicine. After the check-up I was returned to prison hospital. I don’t know the exact date or month, but this happened during my detention at CIC, from 4 June 2011 to 20 June 2012. And they kept pressuring me to go back!

Later I learn the word “Hunger Strike”. For me it was just not eating as I wanted to die so the officers stop forcing me to go back my country. During the hunger strike three times my situation was very bad and I think I was dying. My body had no power. I don’t know how much weight I lost but my arms were skin and bones. My mind did not work and everything was like dreaming. Even my hands were not in control. Why I wanted to die and not live? I better loved detention and didn’t want to be deported. In prison I had life and breath and water. In my country I have fear and death. Why should I go back?

From childhood I read in books that for human life two things are most important: oxygen and water. So I had these two important things in my detention. More than 50 days I stayed inside the prison hospital. Many times they took me to Tuen Mun hospital. As a Muslim I believe in God and maybe I still have life because God is always with me.

I made 78 days hunger strike for my safety and for my freedom. Refugees who were inside with me are still in Hong Kong and they saw my arms become like sticks and my hands curl in like claws I could not move. I think the Merciful God gave me a new life and on 20 June 2012 Immigration give me bail out. Now even I forget my real birthday, because Immigration give me a new birthday.

So here in my mind I have a lot of questions. Was my long detention in CIC lawful? Were the law and the monthly notifications for further detention legal? The further detention made me hunger strike for 78 days. Even I was not a normal person, I was a prisoner. Even I had finished my sentenced in Pik Uk Prison. Even I was patient, but I could do nothing to make Immigration believe my case is real.

I stopped eating because I had no choice. If I go back I die suffering, but in prison I die peacefully. I stopped eating to try for freedom, to save my life. The law kept me in prison, but the hunger strike released me. The law is a very friendly thing for humanity. The country makes the law for a good and happy society. So we always try to do good and within the law. But every law is not always a right law.

I say respectfully that in my detention the law showed me the real face of death. I came very close to the world of death. Kindly believe me because every not eating day and hard suffering night, I saw the Main Gate of the Death World. But the good law cannot make me safe. The law make me dead. And luckily or unluckily I am writing to you about my detention time. And please I don’t want to be hurt more because of what I write now.

As human beings we must follow, accept and respect the law, but kindly I request that please you make the law with unity and humanity. And I hope that all the asylum seekers in Hong Kong and inside CIC detention will always follow the law. Even if we can make hunger strike for freedom, but we must do it peacefully and don’t break the law, because the law is the law.

(Name, Immigration number and contact provided)

Hunger strike shows the face of death

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