We are often asked by Hong Kong citizens exactly what services ISS (International Social Services) offers, whether refugees receive what they need and, above all, what they are entitled to. Since HK tax-payers contribute over 200,000,000 HKD a year to enable ISS to offer this program to CAT (Convention against Torture) and UNHCR claimants, the community is very interested to know what procedures ensure a fair and equitable provision of services, as well as supervision of dozens of case-workers who interface with thousands of “service recipients” in ISS care. This ISS’s project – called “Assistance in kind to Asylum Seekers and Torture Claimants” -has run since April 2006 and has evolved into a well-streamed and efficient operation that, on a whole, delivers an invaluable services to its beneficiaries.
However, given the *enormous budget*, the community is asking for more accountability and transparency, which should start with by-annual reports on all service expenditures posted online and distributed to the very people it serves. Here is a link to the program’s website (reproduced below): http://www.isshk.org/e/customize/migrants_assistance.asp
Through the provision of assistance in kind, the ASTC programme, a humanitarian project, aims to prevent destitution for the most vulnerable within the asylum seeking and torture claimants population.
ISS-HK only receives referrals from Social Welfare Department. The needs of service users are individually assessed and the provision of food, toiletries, allowances for accommodation and transportation will correspond to the needs of the individual. Following the completion of the initial interview with the service user a contract is formulated which will specify the category and level of assistance in-kind to be provided. A contract will reflect the individual needs of the service user and will be signed by service user and caseworker. The contract is renewed on a monthly basis so that the client’s situation and corresponding needs can be reviewed and monitored.
Religious and cultural predispositions are respected and accommodated when selecting a food supplier. Meat, vegetables, rice/wheat flour/pasta, bread, fruits, eggs, drinks, seasoning and cooking oil are distributed to each service recipient every 10 days. Each service recipient is given a food order list to select the types and quantity of the food every month. Changes in request can be made by filling a amendment form. Infants have a separate food list for their request and doctors’ recommendations are taken into consideration for pregnant women.
Rented flats are provided for asylum seekers and torture claimants with a capacity of 11 roommates for one flat. An allowance is provided for each asylum seeker or torture claimant who prefers to look for his/her own accommodation. The ISS-HK staff will meet the tenants’ landlords, negotiate with landlords the inclusion of electricity, cooking equipments and gas, refrigerators, and water in the rent, and make arrangements for the deposit and rent payment. The allowance is paid directly to the landlord.
Allowance for the public transportation for interviews related to asylum seekers’ or torture claimants’ application for refuge is provided upon presentation of appointment evidence. Allowance of transportation for medical appointment is also available.
Toiletries can be provided on a monthly basis when the service user presents him/herself to their allocated ISS office for contract renewal. Toiletries provided this include one bar of soap, a bag of washing powder, one shaver, one bottle of shampoo, one tube of toothpaste, one tooth brush plus sanitary napkins for ladies.
Clothing, when available, is given to clients upon their request. Please note that clothing is made available to ISS clients only when clothes are donated to the project, there is no budget to buy clothing for adult clients.
The ISS caseworker will explain to the client that the “medical waiver” can only be distributed by the Social Welfare Department. The medical waiver entitles the client to free medical care and it is the clients responsibility to request the waiver from the Social Welfare Department. Funds and placement of education for children are not included in the project but will be sought and negotiated with relevant parties if the ISS-HK believes it is beneficial for the asylum seeker and/or torture claimant concern.
The nature of the humanitarian assistance is in kind not in cash. This was the decision of the government and was agreed by ISS-HK when we were commissioned to run the project since April 2006. Any alternation to the nature of assistance will be made by the government and is beyond the jurisdiction of the ISS-HK. ISS-HK is acutely aware of its responsibility to ensure that the administration of the taxpayer’s monies is appropriately utilized within the remit of the ASTC Project. In doing so we strive to ensure that the dignity of the service user is maintained.
ISS-HK is a reflective organization which is proud of its ability to adapt to the needs of its service users. Consequently, we welcome the opportunity to engage with our colleagues working in other social service agencies and where appropriate will take up the opportunity to work collaboratively in meeting with the needs of the asylum seeker and torture claimant population living in Hong Kong.