Recent news of South Asians, supposedly torture claimants, robbing a mother and daughter understandably sparked distrust of and reprobation towards refugees in general, whose poverty and lack of integration mark exclusion from society.
While the violent crime must be condemned and punished, one should be reminded that poverty is inflicted on asylum seekers by unjust policies aimed at preventing social inclusion. The consequences are alienation and detachment from a community that rejected from the start.
Further, it is well known that when people are institutionally prevented from achieving a normal life, depending on their will to escape their circumstances and available opportunities, they may resort to crimes to survive. This direct, causal connection is always worthy of attention.
There is a hint of deception when access to asylum is offered without access to adequate support. Weaker individuals will be tempted by crime, when alternative and realistic means of survival are denied by a failed support system that is less than humanitarian.
It is now recognized that rent allowance and food provisions by SWD-ISS are insufficient. It is outrageous that refugees are plunged into destitution by the very program that aimed to prevent it. From rent to groceries, from electricity bills to cooking gas, from travel cost to phone bills … nothing has changed. Are the covert objectives sinister?
Refugees face dire circumstances that endanger their survival. It is shameful that they are left in destitution only to be condemned when falling to crime – and it should be noted that engaging in unlawful work is a crime. Whether refugees work, steal or sell drugs, they become criminals. Paradoxically, they received lighter sentences selling drugs and stealing, than taking up jobs!
Could this be asylum rejection by entrapment? The situation is not unlike parking expensive cars in ghettos to lure opportunistic thieves. In the “Broken Window Trap”, police place a mobile phone inside a smashed window to make an easy arrest. It’s an effective, but highly questionable sting.
When policies drive persons to commit offenses that they would otherwise have been unlikely to commit – entrapment becomes a possible defense against criminal liability. There is no mitigation for robbing a mother and daughter, yet Hong Kong’s asylum policy is wrought with ethical concerns.
In the hills south of Yuen Long are many slums ISS sponsors and supports for refugees. The conversion of animal farms into refugee slums is a striking pattern and a preference for case workers. After the first farmer agreed to house refugees in abandoned sheds, many have followed. It’s been a gold rush of sorts!
This particular location was established over three years ago as the longest resident has been here since 2010, although others have since left. The conditions are primitive and harsh. We were unable to stay longer than a couple of minutes in any baking container. It is reported these once rented for 400$ before landlords learnt about the 1200$ ISS paid for refugees. Since then business is booming and work expansions are everywhere.
Housing refugees is good business and, until recently, nobody cared about falsifying documents. ISS contracts at this location bear a number of addresses that clash spectacularly with the one on the Lands Department notice. It is inexplicable that two refugees share one container while their ISS contracts show “89 Shek Tong Tsuen” and “18 Chuk San Tsuen”. A container straddling two villages – how bizarre!
The living conditions are now familiar to our website viewers. We are no longer shocked or even surprised that ISS case workers approve converted animal sheds for human habitation, well, at least not for themselves and their family. The pattern widens and expands. The ISS case workers who signed contracts in this slum are: Tanya Sze, Tofu Lau, Catherine Chan, Mary Lee and Eric So with several clients each.
It is alarming that the same dozen case workers appear to be managing ISS Slum Policy.
Obvious cases of fraud and theft with conspiracy to defraud by ISS and the landlord?
Three kilometers from the Yuen Long ISS food collection shop, live 30 refugees. Some have bicycles, most cannot afford to buy one. A young single mother moved into this slum recently with her one-month old baby. Mother and child are under the protection of UNHCR HK.
One would expect ISS to prioritize assistance to the most vulnerable refugees. However, we met this desperate mother walking through fields, in scorching sunlight, with her fragile baby. She said she was hungry. We offered her one of our lunch-boxes. This brave mother led us to her slum.
ISS case worker Tanya Sze signed off the documents that settled her in a hut under a tree. There is no protection from baking heat or filthy flooding. There is electricity, but no water. There are no cooking facilities, no refrigerator for the food, no drainage or sanitation. By any civilized standards she is homeless!
The ISS contract Tanya signed bears false information. The tenancy agreement the landlord provided shows a deceptive address. Not satisfied with 1200$ rent, the greedy landlord robs this mother 1400$. ISS Tanya is either powerless or incapable of dealing with this criminal behaviour.
In the compound live 30 refugees including another young child. We worry less about the adults who somehow have learnt to cope with the hardship they believe is Government policy. Vision First wonders whether the Social Welfare Department and Security Bureau are aware of newborn babies living in such dangerous conditions.
One question: ISS requires a sight inspection. Tanya, did you visit the baby’s shack?