Immigration Department year-end briefing 2011

Feb 10th, 2012 | Advocacy | Comment

This extra on Torture Claim Assessment is taken from the Immigration Department website. To read more about operations, arrested illegal workers, CIC, bogus marriage and more please click here:

Pursuant to court rulings in the past few years, the Administration has enhanced the administrative screening mechanism for torture claims and an enhanced mechanism has been relaunched since December 24, 2009. In 2011 a total of 1432 new torture claim cases were received – down 20.8 per cent compared with 1 809 cases in 2010. The majority of the claimants came from South Asian countries. As at December 31, 2011, the Department had processed over 2 182 claims under the enhanced mechanism, of which 92 per cent were provided with publicly funded legal assistance. Of those, decisions were made on 1 146 claims. At present, the number of outstanding claims is 6447.

During the year, some legally aided torture claimants launched various legal challenges against enforcement actions and policies of the Administration. There were judicial review applications challenging, inter alia, the Administration’s policy of not granting extension of stay to torture claimants and not allowing the screened-in torture claimants to work in Hong Kong. The ruling of the court upholds the Government’s policy of not granting extension of stay to torture claimants and not allowing screened-in torture claimants and mandated refugees to take up employment generally. Furthermore, the new Section 38AA of the Immigration Ordinance, which came into effect on November 14, 2009, provides that it is an offence for any illegal immigrants or any persons under a removal order or a deportation order to take any paid or unpaid employment, or to establish or join in any business. As at December 31, 2011, 2311 torture claims had been withdrawn and the subjects had voluntarily requested repatriation to their places of origin.

In addition, the Administration introduced the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2011 to the Legislative Council on July 8, 2011, to underpin the enhanced screening mechanism in the proposed legislation in order to maintain high standards of fairness and to help reduce procedural abuse (e.g. claimants deploying delaying tactics by spreading out submission of evidence over a long period of time, repeated absence from interviews, reopening of claims after withdrawal, making subsequent new claims before removal, making false representations, etc), thus reducing the chances of legal challenges and abuse in the mechanism.

VF tirelessly serves refugees day and night
VF tirelessly serves refugees day and night

Enforcement actions against illegal employment

In 2011, 11 463 operations against illegal employment were conducted, with 5 621 suspected illegal workers and 910 employers being arrested. After the commencement of the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2009 on November 14, 2009, the Department continued to strengthen law enforcement action in combating illegal employment to act as a deterrent for those who may intend to seek illegal entry into Hong Kong to seek illegal employment. Between November 14, 2009 and December 31, 2011, 364 illegal workers were arrested for breaching the amended ordinance. The Department put in a concerted effort to combat offences involving false contracts for applying for foreign domestic helper visas. In August 2011, the Department successfully cracked down on a syndicate using false residential and financial documents to apply for employment visas for foreign domestic helpers. In the operation, over 100 suspected forged documents were seized and two main culprits of the syndicate were arrested. They were charged with relevant offences and are now awaiting court trial. In addition, a number of foreign domestic helpers who had obtained an employment visa by fraudulent means were arrested. Among the four convicted foreign domestic helpers, one was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and the sentencing of the other three was adjourned to early February 2012.

Deterrence of global illegal migration activities

The Department has for years worked together with international and local law enforcement agencies to combat global illegal migration and document fraud. The Anti-Illegal Migration Agency was set up to investigate cases involving HKSAR passports. The latest intelligence reveals that syndicates continue to smuggle illegal migrants into overseas countries by circuitous routes. In the past, illegal migrants travelled to their countries of choice as directly as possible. Currently, to circumvent the strict immigration control in Hong Kong, smuggling-ring members arrange for illegal migrants to take detours to a number of transit ports, so that they may seek illegal entry into their destination country through these transit ports using forged passports procured overseas. The Department has adopted a proactive approach against such transnational crime by conducting joint operations with international and local law enforcement agencies. In January 2011, a joint operation was conducted by the Department and the Hong Kong Police Force to combat document fraud and boarding pass swap activities. In May 2011, another joint operation was conducted by the Department and the Hong Kong Police Force to apprehend passport brokers and passport sellers. Furthermore, in September 2011, the Department conducted a special operation at Hong Kong International Airport, with the participation of local consulate representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, and with Macao police officers as advisers or observers. These three operations were successful, leading to the apprehension of 19 immigration offenders, including a forgery user, a passport broker, boarding pass swappers, HKSAR passport sellers and former airline ground staff.

Takeover of management and operation of Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC)
The CIC is an immigration detention facility for immigration offenders (18 years old or above) awaiting repatriation, removal or deportation in accordance with the Immigration Ordinance. The CIC commenced operations in 2005. Owing to the manpower situation at that time, the Department and the Correctional Services Department (CSD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under which the CSD would manage the CIC for a period of five years. Pursuant to the MOU, the management and operation of the CIC was taken over by the Department from the CSD on April 15, 2010. The operation of the CIC has been running smoothly since the takeover. As at December 31, 2011, there were 332 detainees held in the CIC.


FCC club lunch with Mark DALY

Feb 7th, 2012 | Advocacy | Comment

Mark Daly discusses strategic human rights litigation including aspects of the recent case that restrictions on domestic workers applying for permanent residency in Hong Kong are unconstitutional. He also talks about refugees and convention against torture law, and the limits of Hong Kong’s judicial review process.

“First I want to discuss a group that remains in quite a desperate situation in Hong Kong, completely unnecessarily in my view. We’ve got asylum-seekers and torture claimants who have been in Hong Kong for ten years. All they want is a fair decision on their case – Yes or No – and they still don’t have it. They are not allowed to work, so the situation that they are in is quite disgraceful for a place as wealthy as the HKSAR. Now there is proposed legislation, for torture claimants only. There is an Immigration Amendment Bill that is going through Legco now, in my view, far too late, better than nothing, but far too late in the day for people whose lives have effectively been in limbo. Being saved from return to torture is the only good thing … their lives have been destroyed in a way for the length of time that they have had to be here. – Mark Daly”

Click here to view it on YouTube

Mark Daly at FCC - 6 February 2012

Where did these UNHCR millions go?

Jan 29th, 2012 | Advocacy | Comment

Please have a look at the right column on this UNHCR link. It shows the “Private Sector Contribution” received from HK donors since 2006. It is undeniably a testament to fundraising prowess – Bravo! UNHCR collected over 20 Million HKD in 2010 and 16 Million HKD till 19 September 2011 (not the full year).While not privy to financial agreements between UNHCR and HKSAR, until December 2011 each adult refugee received a 1500 HKD allowance for groceries, utilities, toiletries and transportation. The money was disbursed by check on the first working day of the month. Let’s do the math: assuming there is a maximum of 150 adults, that is 225,000 HKD a month or 2.7 Million HKD a year. Knowing UNHCR offices are subsidized by HKSAR, other major expenses should be: salary, fundraising, administration, security and refugee programs (few, if any). These items alone surely do not exhaust those many millions. We surmise the surplus is likely transferred to their Beijing Regional Office – not accountable to HK donors – which, let’s make a generous assumption, ensures they are channeled to the most vulnerable refugees worldwide … let’s hope …

Leaving the big picture to those who manipulate it best, let’s return to these recognized refugees, who are struggling to survive day-by-day with handouts from churches and charities. Disturbing news circulated in November 2011, when they were invited to UNHCR; a palpable sense of alarm spread around the community instantly. In typical condescending fashion, they were informed that donations had shrunk in the global crisis and UNHCR had insufficient funds to continue its financial aid. They were sardonically asked if they preferred cash to food rations and even if they wanted to work, a moot question par-excellence! The UNHCR admitted running out of cash and having asked HKSAR for help to continue the financial assistance. Understandably the government prefers to assist with food distribution which is in line with its other welfare policies. While the situation remained murky for weeks, in January a clearer picture emerged when distraught refugees lamented their collective plight. The adult allowance was cut from 1500 to 300 HKD, generating a 2,160,000 HKD saving for UNHCR – Bravo again! This raises burning questions: How did UNHCR spend the more than 36 Million collected in two years? If cash assistance was possible in 2010 and 2011, why isn’t it possible in 2012 after substantial fundraising? If most funds were transferred to Beijing, what guarantees are offered to donors? Did donors ask for a percentage to be devoted to local refugees who assisted fundraising here? Who audits these expenses? Why aren’t they online? What salaries does UNHCR pay locally? What are their priorities? What other cost were cut? Were salaries cutback before imposing a 80% reduction on survival allowances? They could argue the food received is equivalent to 1200$, but actually cash is spent on urgent items besides groceries.

While the community deserves to know how a United Nation office spends local contributions, we realize that would only happen when elephants fly across Victoria Harbour! What matters for refugee families is “dollars in hand”, and today they are suffering additional hardship due to unjustifiable policies. While there might have been a deterioration in worldwide refugee circumstances (questionable since combat ended in Sri Lanka, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan), the 16+ Million raised till last September disprove funding was disappointing. Arguably it was a great success. Doubtless the problem is not fundraising, but the allocation of money trustingly donated by our fellow citizens. The big picture remains disingenuous and the reality harsh - refugees are losing their room (one sleeps at our shelter), are depriving children of necessities and are falling into deeper, unwarranted destitution. Where is the protection UNHCR is mandated for? What exactly do 20 Million a year buy for the local refugees? What percentage is earmarked for *tangible* local solutions? If UNHCR’s role is just fundraising in HK, then why even bother with Refugee Status Determination? Why do they abandon those in their care? One evening a refugee complained to his UNHCR officer he had been evicted from his room and was homeless. To his astonishment, he was comforted with a smirk and three insensitive words, “Good luck then!” Another was told, “Don’t talk too much! Why don’t you close your case?” Well, that certainly identifies undeserved salaries best allocated to refugee services!

Where did these Millions go?
Where did these Millions go?

A decisive football victory: VF vs CA – 6:1

Jan 28th, 2012 | Advocacy | Comment

Hello, this is the VF football team captain reporting. Believing our Somali Football Team could beat the fearsome Christian Action side – with years of experience and stronger players – we invited them for a friendly match on the cold evening of January 22. Nobody expected this clash of giants to become historical. The outcome was uncertain from the start with both teams fielding their best players: Vision First 100% “Made in Somalia”, Christian Action a mighty international mix from Africa, Middle East, India and Switzerland. The match kicked off at 9pm in windy weather in Kowloon Park, the spotlights illuminating the field through an indifferent fog. Hearts were pounding; the growing excitement was palpable. Around us supporters gathered on both sides, passionately calling out their favorite names. After twenty minutes, CA scored a contested penalty, after an accidental handball by our defense (0-1). From that moment, CA commanded the game nervously by one point, while the VF boys built up a strong, determined strategy. Our efforts paid off. At the end of the first half a surgical strike from mid-park by M.S. scored an exquisite leveler … GOAL!!! (1-1) and the teams retreated to their corner.

Returning to the battle ground, the CA team gradually lost their nerve and suffered a humbling sequence of thunderous goals. Having dominated most of the first half, they were convinced they would regain control. Little did they know the gods were not on their side, or else, this was their chance to blame the freezing conditions to negotiate a draw. The drama of the second-half has already become stuff of NGO legend. It will be talked about for decades across the internet and across the streets, from Hong Kong to Canada and the USA … and probably even back home in Mogadishu despite the war. With great trepidation both hopeful teams returned to the field to determine their destiny by football skills and these alone. Enough talking! May the best team win! The excitement mounted. The VF side pushed forward without finding the crucial chance to create a winning assist. Then suddenly, M.N. cut loose, evaded the stunned VF defense, and, with masterful ball control, confirmed Somali domination … GOAL!!! (2-1) Minutes later, M.S added his second jewel with a devastating long-range missile which set the fans on fire … GOAL!!! (3-1) These three goals could have been sufficient, but they were followed in rapid succession by another humbling trio ten minutes from time.

By now the devastated CA team was losing leg power and stumbled about in dismal disarray, wondering what train had hit them. Taking advantage of this weakness, a mighty cross found the head of H.A who set the score beyond reach by defeating the outstretched arms of the CA keeper … GOAL!!! (4-1) Ahhh that must have hurt! In the dying minutes, Somali Power grew to its mightiest expression fueling the excitement of mesmerized fans. That’s when another long-range cannon ball from H.A penetrated the helpless CA net … GOAL!!! (5-1) “Mercy! Mercy!” we could hear the CA players scream silently in their devastated hearts. This sadly wasn’t their night! Five seconds before the referee blew the whistle, newcomer A.S had a golden chance to prove what a mighty striker he is. With a close-quarter blast he sealed the game incontestably beyond debate … GOAL!!! (6-1) The shrill of the whistle filled the night and jubilation erupted on the Vision First side. What domination! What mastery was displayed! Disregarding the tears and protesting antics on the defeated side, the Somali boys left Kowloon Park proud of their teamwork and proven skills. In recent days the CA team has - quite understandably - tried to poach some Somali players with enticing offers. However, they fail to appreciate the depth of loyalty these boys have for their flag, their brothers and Vision First.

A decisive football victory: VF vs CA - 6:1

Couple recognised for refugee work

Jan 28th, 2012 | Advocacy | Comment

Annemarie Evans writes in SCMP – Jan 26, 2012

As the Australia Day 2012 Honours List is announced in Canberra today, two Hong Kong-based awardees will be on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, helping executives see how it feels to step into the shoes of a refugee. Four times a day over five days, Australians Malcolm and Sally Begbie will be introducing, among others, the Europe boss of Yahoo, Rich Riley, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee and the CEO of JPMorgan Private Bank, Andrew Cohen, to a simulated “Refugee Run”. They will try to cross international borders, be interrogated by soldiers, internally displaced or kept in holding camps. It’s an activity that the two co-founders of Hong Kong charity the Crossroads Foundation and their team have been carrying out in partnership with the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, since 2009, and it is for their services to humanity that the Begbies are recognised as Officers of the Order of Australia today. The honour has been conferred on them “for distinguished service to the international community in the provision of humanitarian relief, particularly through the Crossroads Foundation, and as a significant contributor to United Nations”.

“It’s extraordinary, we can’t quite believe it,” said Sally Begbie, 60, from Davos. The organisation, which the couple founded in 1995 with some boxes of flood relief goods in their bedroom, has mushroomed into a series of projects run from their site at Tuen Mun by 70 workers, including their two sons and daughter-in-law. The Begbies said they were undeserving of their award. “We’re painfully aware of the extent of global need, people starving to death, abused,” said Sally Begbie. “There are 43 million people globally who are international refugees or internally displaced. In that sense we feel undeserving. We only make a small dent. “A big piece of this has been the generosity of the Hong Kong people and the government allowing us to operate at a rent of HK$1 a year.” The Begbies are in Davos with a team that includes former refugees. Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and business magnate Richard Branson previousy took part in the Refugee Run. While several groups are in Davos to criticise the forum, and capitalism, as economies slump, the Begbies prefer to influence by example. “If we can impact the thinking of these people, then it is a wonderful thing,” said Malcolm Begbie, describing how one chief executive, after a Refugee Run, took “all of his international leadership to a Thailand refugee camp for a day”. “We grieve whenever there is a downturn in the economy,” said Sally Begbie. “The most vulnerable people are going to be impacted by that.”


The Refugee Run border crossing

Charter for Compassion

Jan 24th, 2012 | Advocacy | Comment

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women – to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion – to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate – to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures – to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity – to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings, even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

To support the charter click here: Add your name now

I believe that at every level of society – familial, national and international – the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities. I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness.  This is the practice of compassion. – Dalai Lama

The Golden Rule
The Golden Rule - a poster hanging at the United Nations HQ

Changing hatred into reconciliation

Jan 16th, 2012 | Advocacy | Comment

My name is Jonathan and I’ve been a refugee in Hong Kong since 2009. Truly, we don’t like being here because we miss our family and country. If we had a calm, peaceful homeland, we wouldn’t be here. The main reasons for persecution are two – political and religious. Personally, I escaped my country because I was a political activist from my university days. After graduation the policies of the government we had supported drifted badly. They wanted every power to benefit themselves, not the people they should be serving. We realized that we couldn’t support them anymore. At my first job with a telecom company (half government owned) my boss surprisingly knew everything about my past. He pressured me so relentlessly that he chased me out of the job. I was supervising a city branch, when an issue came up where I had to endorse the crediting of phone lines for the World Food Programs. However, a senior manager snuck onto the WFP billing telephone numbers for a construction company. This scam was brought to my branch trusting I would keep my mouth shut. I instructed the casher to add these numbers to WFP’s bill, as I knew what the consequences were if I refused.

However, WFP complained about it and an investigation started. A panel was called to explain what we knew about this situation. They zeroed into me and accused me of being incompetent. I knew they had always looked to firing me and this was an easy way to scapegoat me. At my second job I was working for a driving license project under the Ministry of Works and Transports. My boss, who used to be my junior, suddenly ended my contract and explained this was something that was beyond her control as it came from higher up. This came on the heel of threatening phone calls, like, “Watch your step! You will get hurt! It’s not worth your life!” I was warned this was my last chance to come to my senses as I was very active with an opposition party. One night my home was ransacked and everything destroyed. I lived with heightened fear that I would be kidnapped or shot in the streets. My family advised me to withdraw from politics, as I had nothing to benefit if I got killed. Even my uncle, a high ranking military officer, advised me to find an activity that kept me out of trouble with the government. Closer to the summer elections, the phone threats escalated, “If you don’t care about yourself, then make arrangements for your family’s funeral!” I knew life was cheap for these animals with guns.

Visiting a family happily housed by Vision First
Visiting a family we have happily housed

The time to flee came when I was trading pharmaceuticals outside the country. I was called and threatened, “We know where you are! We hope you are not running away, because we are watching your family!” The government tracked my activities, stopped the bus with my cargo and confiscated it. Plain clothes security agents went to my home asking for me. I returned through a secondary border crossing, got in touch with my girlfriend, changed my mobile phone and hid for two weeks in the village where I was born. The secret service searched my home three times that week. It’s common knowledge the victims they arrest never surface again. Their prisoners are made impotent through torture and are missing arms or legs. If you fall into their murderous hands, that’s it! I had no choice but sneak back to see my parents one last time. I borrowed money from my father and boarded a bus to a neighboring country. I fled to China, and then came to Hong Kong. Recently I spoke with my brother in the army, who told me to wait until after the election, as they will not tolerate any opposition to their power. We shall see how this works out, but I have little hope as every election is rigged by those who hold a bloody grip on power and will never agree to leave. In fact, the election was a disaster.

Dear Vision First, last year I said I was tired and didn’t want to stay. I really miss my country, my family and the opportunities I had. It makes things tougher to be segregated in a place where we cannot work and continue the life we had. We had responsibilities, family and duties that we should fulfill instead of sitting on our hands. This raises a question for HKSAR, “If we were productive for the community back home, then clearly we also have something to offer this city. Why aren’t we allowed to find our way, to work, to make a living in a decent way instead of begging?” If we could work we would proudly contribute our experience and skills here. Also, with our earnings we would boost the economy by paying for our life, instead of depending on charity. We would also buy things to send home to our families. When I consider the suffering endured and realize back home somebody is responsible for this, there is bitter resentment in my heart. This misery undermines the spirit of reconciliation back home, because we cannot move forward from past sorrows. Our lives are stuck where they were when we left and we cannot forgive. We stew in years of hatred and anger which greatly exacerbate our feelings. This only reinforces the cycle of violence, because when we return there is somebody to blame for all this pain. Those perpetrators must pay for what we underwent.

On the other hand, if refugees could integrate they would build new lives, start new activities and families. They would heal somewhat and detach themselves from the pain that drove them away. Today refugees forced abroad, look back at their countries with vengeance, not with affection. They dream of revenge and retaliation, because their sufferings are compounded in exile. I believe refugee integration is essential for world peace. I know Vision First serves members from 42 countries. Imagine the great benefit they would bring back upon their return! I wish their suffering were not prolonged by the harsh reality here. Hong Kong has a chance to make a difference worldwide by welcoming refugees and transforming their hardship into healing, changing their hatred into reconciliation, converting their vengeance into peace. Revenge is not a good feeling when it eats at your heart day and night. It is bad for us, bad for those around and bad for society. Vengeance breads violence, not forgiveness. What is important hope, you have to be hopeful no matter what situation you are in, no matter how small your chances are. You have to believe that something positive will come as God will not abandon us now. Thank you for this chance to share my views – Jonathan.


Never doubt …

Jan 4th, 2012 | Advocacy | Comment

Doves of peace in armored vests

Dec 25th, 2011 | Advocacy | Comment

This has been the year of protest and doves of peace have worn armored vests to resist the bloody repression of crazed, autocratic dictators who raged ruthlessly from Tunis to Cairo, from Tehran to Kinshasa. No one could have predicted the chain of events triggered by a humble Tunisian fruit-vendor who set himself alight to protest the abuse suffered trying to retrieve a confiscated cart. All he wanted was to make a modest living to sustain his family. But the authorities disallowed his simple dream and their callous, pitiless misconduct  – endured daily by most people across the world – launched the Arab Spring of revolution. The self-immolation of one aggrieved citizen, whose voice could not be heard, ignited the fire of an entire population which forced the President himself to escape to Saudi Arabia. Who would have guessed that? However inspiring the initial success was, every subsequent victory was paid dearly with blood and tears. These ironfisted tyrants cling so obstinately and embarrassingly to power that Nietzsche comes to mind, “Shame, shame, shame – that is human history!”

At Vision First we welcome refugees from 42 countries, each a troubled hotspot in an embattled world, that is trying to peacefully topple leaders buttressed by troops, tanks and torture chambers. When outraged masses rally against corrupt governments, the forces of justice, backed by goodwill and Twitter, initially succumb to the forces of repression, backed by gunfire and tanks, in an unequivocal imbalance of power. That’s the inevitable first step when vampire states, often run by thieving families for decades, have no better way to legitimize their rule, than gangsters have to dominate their neighborhood. The only difference is we often see these thugs-in-suits in the news, standing smugly for photo sessions with the leaders of western democracies, the World Bank and the United Nations. With so much blood on their hands, you would imagine they would be arrested and carted off to the International Criminal Court, but we have learnt that investment agendas commonly trump national integrity.

With the Christmas season upon us, we hold in our prayers those who suffer far away from their families, those who lost loved ones this year, those who abandoned their way of life, their work, their studies and everything cherished to become refugees in Hong Kong. At Vision First, we are often reminded how privileged we are to hear first-hand the voices of opposition from Egypt and Jordan, the cries of protest from Ivory Coast and Togo, the hopes of change from Congo and Somalia. There are deep, sorrowful emotions accompany the lives of those who might never be allowed to see their homeland again. Time Magazine is celebrating the Protester as “Man of the Year, as in 2011 protesters didn’t just voice their complaints – they changed the world.” We applaud their selection, as we owe a very great debt of gratitude to those who risk their life for the core values we share – the very essence of what it means to be human. It’s thanks to the quiet heroism of each anonymous protester that a fresh wind of change is blowing across the planet today. While most outraged citizens continued the struggle in towns and cities, others were persecuted, beaten and tortured so severely they had to seek protection abroad. Having seen the photos of their murdered friends, burnt-out legal offices and ransacked homes, we understand the urgency of their escape until the time when gun muzzles stop flashing. What would we have done to save our families?

Infuriated by images of protesters dragged by their hair, stripped, beaten and kicked by troops in Tahrir Square, a bleeding student cried out “You can kill our body, but you cannot kill our spirit!” This event parallels what occurred twenty centuries ago, when power-crazed leaders failed to end a revolution still going strong today. Two thousand years ago they feared a Protester born in a manger in Bethlehem, who first escaped as a refugee to Egypt, but then returned to challenge the abusive authorities that persecute the very people they should serve. If you don’t know your history, you are doomed to repeat it. Today’s despots have learnt nothing from the failure of the Massacre of the Innocents two millennia prior, but hold fast to the delusion that butchering their people will make them cower in submission. Christmas has come again and we would do well to remember those who have nothing to celebrate, but the compassion others show for their broken lives. Christmas is a time to rejoice, so please ensure you are making somebody else’s day special, too.

Christmas lunch courtesy of ANZ Bank
Christmas lunch courtesy of ANZ Bank

Dignity: a call to action for the future we share

Dec 24th, 2011 | Advocacy | Comment

... think ... reflect ... actualize ...

We must be grateful to those who remind us of our common bond. Pick up this book and look in the eyes of your relatives, those distant cousins you have not seen in so many years, for whom your heart ached without knowing. And know that in protecting their rights and their way of life, you protect the wellbeing of us all and the future we share together
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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