Where did these UNHCR millions go?

Post Date: Jan 29th, 2012 | Categories: 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?



  1. Mohamed riyak mohammud

    Im young somalian Refugee in africa ,i read about vission first i realy love the way there working for refugee in hong kong .

    I have alot og proplem personaly my country one day to another day is going on war of al shabaab group is killing people with out any think.

    Im naturaly reseache about refugee in africa.

    thnks. vision first good work for the refugee in hong kong.

    the day u help human you will get assistance from God.

  2. I had the honor to listen to a talk by a professor in my university who happened to be very familiar with the issues of asylum seekers. His relentless UNHCR Hong Kong-bashing surprised me, as I thought such a big organization with reputation would be doing a pretty good job in supporting asylum seekers. My professor’s words now seem more convincing if this article is true. I surely cannot imagine the UNHCR is corrupt in any sense, but it must explain where the money donated by the public has gone to. Being a non-governmental UN agency does not mean its accounts and finances should remain unchecked. I indeed hope the Hong Kong media and general public will be more vigilant about this in the future.

  3. Eric Platon

    They are making business out of this. I feel so disappointed and so sorry for my refugee brothers. Some are accepted and UNHCR Hong Kong keeps them here for 3 – 4 years and instead of supporting them with 1500$, they cut my brothers to 300$ and send them to collect food at ISS. They are in a serious business, have no doubts about it!!! It is better to go to another country to seek asylum, not here where they delay your time with inhumanity and don’t support you with the money they collect in our name. By the grace of God, I got married last year. I am very proud of this because I no longer have to beg at the UNHCR Hong Kong for their protection and assistance. I’m lucky to be married and maybe wait for one year for my residency, better than being accepted by UN and wait for 3 or more years living like a beggar. The UNHCR Hong Kong has to be honest about the donations and not hide them away. They should tell the people how they are using it. They must stop treating people like idiot slaves. That is my view. Thank you.

  4. Deep Throat

    How times are changing! I’ve been going to the UNHCR for two years and I always heard: “Go to Vision First! Go to Vision First!” Now the music has changed and I’m hearing a different song: “Don’t go to Vision First! Don’t go to Vision First!” What is happening? Is the UNHCR Hong Kong scared of little Vision First? Have they learnt that they cannot bully refugees and treat us like animals? Maybe there will be change after all. Your article has put them in bad spotlight and they realize they cannot control or stop these comments. These are genuine comments from real VICTIMS of the UNHCR Hong Kong. I’m going to keep my mouth shut about other things as I have no choice [they take revenge!], but soon you will know the secrets I have, I promise you! We are proud of you people at Vision First. We always talk about you and know that you are fighting our battle. Thank you from our hearts!

  5. refugee818

    the bad game the UNHCR Hong Kong plays is this. Recognized refugees have the right to choose two or three countries they want to be resettled to. But the UNHCR mainly must put America USA. You know why? Because everyone knows that USA is going to mainly refuse. And when USA refuses all the other countries will refuse even without looking at our file. The problem is that other countries want to know what the USA said and every country must then refuse these cases. I have a voice recording that I want to make public, but I need protection before I do that. Mainly the people like to go to Canada, but UNHCR Hong Kong says “You must have a sponsor”. But why if you have been accepted do you need a sponsor? Anyone who has a sponsor could go to Canada by himself from his own country. Why bother with the UNHCR? We go to UN for help and they don’t even offer us the easy solutions that are in front of their eyes. Why???

  6. Refugee mother

    Good Evening Vision First. Thank you for helping me since I arrived in 2009. Yesterday I had a bad experience: when I went to the UNHCR Hong Kong, the lady was angry at Vision First. She asked me if I go there and I said only sometimes. She told me it’s not good to go there and I should stop because Vision First is attacking the UNHCR Hong Kong. I said Yes, but I wanted to ask her if she could buy me diapers. However I knew that was wasted breath as they wont spend a single dollar they don’t have to. What do you think? If they could offer all the services, products, food, money that you kind people of give us, then we don’t need to go there. If the UNHCR did their job, surely you have better things to do than worry day and night about refugees. It shows how UNHCR Hong Kong are disconnected from reality. They are more blind than blind people. They should wear a sticker: “Warning, I am UNHCR staff! Stay clear!” God bless you for your great service to our family.

  7. Tom Bolder

    As sure as the dawn, UNHCR does not subsidize anyone but themselves! It appears their formula is “take the money and run!” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if UNHCR Hong Kong supported NGOs doing THEIR job with some of the mega millions they collect?! Fine, I say, take 80% and run to Geneva Head Office with your bags of money, but leave 20% to NGOs serving refugees in HK! The reality is shameful: those mega funds swiftly vanished in the BLACK HOLE of their secret operations and the whole world stands looking on, trusting them to be honest. How can we tolerate such a system? The best policy is transparency and UNHCR should be held to the same standard as other organizations serving the public good. I support you Vision First!

  8. A Witness

    I went to UNHCR Hong Kong this week. My case officer was angry about Vision First. He complained about the blog and said to me, “Don’t go to Vision First as they are against the UNHCR!” Then he said, “They don’t understand what it means to give you money. VF are attacking us but they don’t know what we have to do. And the money is not controlled by us!” He then gave me this example with these exact figures: if they have to give 20$ to us, that will cost them 12$ for the staff salary, 4$ for the office cost and 4$ for the refugees. He said that Vision First doesn’t know how UNHCR works and how expensive it is to run their office. I don’t know why he told me that news as I did not ask him but what he said was very clear. The percentage are like this and you can draw your own conclusions:
    – for every 100$ received, 60% is spent on salary
    – for every 100$ received, 20% is for office cost
    – for every 100$ received, 20% is for the refugees

  9. Johnnie X

    I met a fellow Somali at the UNHCR last week, he was talking to himself. It really upset and frightened me that people are losing their mind. I’m afraid I might end up in the same situation. Remember Awil? If UNHCR Hong Kong did their job, he wouldn’t have died! He became crazy because his case officer did not believe him and after two years he was still not believed. Besides the budget issue, my concern is how does the UNHCR Hong Kong view the claimants they are assessing? Do they view them as criminals or do they view them as desperate people escaping desperate situations? The fact is that any claimant can witness and confirm that at UNHCR Hong Kong you don’t go for an “interview”, you are subjected to an “interrogation”! In their cruel investigation the very fundamentals of who you are and what your life is/was, are put in doubt like you are a criminal suspect. Their case officers treat people with suspicion, as if we had the burden to prove we are NOT criminals the way they assume we are from the second they first look at us with discrimination. 99% of asylum seekers came from an unsettled country where there is no law. Here in HK is the first place I come to where every word you say can be held against you. But all of us don’t know our rights that we can rise up against UNHCR Hong Kong. These people are totally acting against the name of their organization. I think they should learn to treat people as human beings who are seeking help and should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. We run away from our countries for fear of dying, but here we are facing mental torture and losing our mind which is equivalent to losing your life. Why did Awil die? Why did he go into coma? Was he protected by the UNHCR Hong Kong? Did they do their best to prevent his death? If only we could ask Awil for his opinion, may Allah rest his soul in peace! ﺍﷲ ﻴﺭﺤﻣ!ك

  10. Transparency Of The UNHCR

    Basically this is the story of “Transparency of the UNHCR” according to real stories of one refugee. I went to the UNHCR last week and my case officer asked me, “Do you go to Vision First. Does Cosmo support you?” I told him that since the first day I went to Vision First three years ago, until now, they help me and many other people every month. Thereafter the officer use angry words and told me, “Don’t go to Vision First any more. Don’t give them information as they are attacking the UNHCR without knowing what we are doing.” Personally I would say the opposite, “Beware of the UNHCR! Support Vision First who support the refugees!” The UNHCR use the good name of the United Nations to get peoples respect and admiration (+++cash!) but at the same time they don’t tell what is going on in their budget and how they spend their money. When the case officer told me not to go to Vision First, I agree with his order, but didn’t tell him that I had made an appointment for the next day to see Cosmo. Thank you for supporting us Vision First! You people are amazing!

  11. Barack Obama of asylum-seekers

    This is scandalous! I am one of the UNHCR claimants, friends with many refugees, which total number is only 180. these refugees get clothes, food, support and money from other private NGOs, but not from UNHCR Hong Kong. We can publicly put the question: Where is the 20,000,000$ of the UNHCR Hong Kong??? As I have two years experience in HK, I surely know exactly what the UNHCR Hong Kong contribute to support refugees! They only offer kindly words and a less than 20 Refugee Certificates that are only paper so it cost nothing! And if they want to help they seek the well fare from ISS or Vision First for accommodation and daily support. Even the office of the UNHCR has only a few numbers of officers, maybe 10 local people, who don’t get high salary, (Where did all the Westerners go? They were much kinder and better) and their working day average 15 visitors total. So we have to investigate the issues of the budgeting of the UNHCR Hong Kong. Otherwise we need to take this protest to the journalists, we have to reach the press because we have nothing to lose in the casino’ of the UNHCR. Last year I told my case officer that they should give me an answer about my case – either yes or no! – but stop wasting my life after two years suffering a miserable life in HK without any help. The fight continues and I’m not afraid of shouting at them what I feel even when they told me to keep quiet.

  12. Mario Chan

    To the Head of UNHCR Hong Kong:

    We the people of Hong Kong urgently call you to uphold the basic democratic principles of accountability and transparency by promptly disclosing all relevant information about your Office’s donations, salaries and expenditures. We also urge you to promptly change the refugee policies that are harming THOSE YOU MUST PROTECT. It is high time UNHCR Hong Kong be transparent, accessible and accountable to both the citizens you fundraise from and the refugees you should serve. We await publication of your 2011 Audit and will not rest until our goals have been met. UNHCR Hong Kong can hide no more behind walls of secrecy!

  13. The problem really comes down to transparency. Organizations like the UNHCR Hong Kong really need to disclose how they allocate their funds and be held accountable to their donors. I do hope the asylum seekers and refugees in Hong Kong do get the support they need. Don’t give up hope!

  14. Augustine Miller

    I read your article with much interest and these comments in utter amazement. Wow! It’s suspicious what is going on there and these amounts are huge. I found this UNHCR 2011 contribution (= donation) report http://www.unhcr.org/4df1d0449.html
    It shows USD 3,468,084 (HKD 26,912.33) were donated by PRIVATE DONORS IN CHINA (= HKSAR)
    This raises a multitude of questions – keep digging and keep asking! Why doesn’t UNHCR Hong Kong hold a press conference to clear these issues? What are they afraid of?

  15. Thank you Vision First. You are doing an amazing job! Peculiar that UNHCR Hong Kong doesn’t offer an audit or a public Press Release with how these millions are spent. Does our government know? Does LEGCO monitor their expenses after allowing their fundraising? What if the 20,000,000 dollars are just half of what they actually received from Hong Kong people? These questions need to be moved into the main media. Let’s support this campaign until answers are offered. Thank you

  16. Son of Mohammed

    The UNHCR Hong Kong silence is hurting my eardrums !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Keep hiding like this and you will lose the little respect you have.
    Show us your audits or be perceived as the TRICKSTERS we know you are.

  17. Still Waiting

    Where is the UNHCR Hong Kong apology? We are waiting for them to apologize to all the refugees they have offended. The fact that they don’t want to talk to us is damning enough. They treat us like children and when we get angry they call their security guards and threaten to call the police! This is management by brute force. Who’s controlling these people. Their failings have been highlighted and we beg you Vision First to never stop this protest – thank you.

  18. Alice Heung

    Indeed disappointing. Whichever way you look at it. UNHCR Hong Kong don’t care about their people and will never honestly respond with their version of the facts, as that would tip their apple cart. I contacted them twice. They don’t answer. We should start a petition to demand audited reports. Keep it up.

  19. I am so sorry for the meaning of justice when some organization like UNHCR Hong Kong try to cut and cheat the helpless. My suggestions is these people should think that maybe one day they too could become refugees. Would they like to face this kind of corruption? Why are you dishonest with refugees? Why if you don’t have case officers are you keeping these people for years in Hong Kong? you are lying to people and everybody knows that you say s%$# to them. And you claim to defend human rights? hahaha but your corruption in very unique. Thanks Vision First for opening people’s eyes to UNHCR’s artistic Corruption Show……

  20. I’m refugee family and in 4 years the UNHCR Hong Kong never meet my children. Not even one day. They don’t know which school they go to. They don’t know how they are doing in school or in life. They don’t know their names. And they never give me anything for the children. Not shoes. Not school uniform. Not schoolbag or books. Not even a toy. Nothing. And they say that they protect refugees. They put the LOVING HANDS around the family in their logo sign, but they don’t know how to protect children and family. Not for real. What can I say? They don’t care what is going on with the families and what is going on with the children. The money only goes into their pockets, it really doesn’t go to refugees who need it.

  21. Ali Mohammed

    In 2006 before I was recognized as a refugee, I was wondering why they dont call me for a long time. After three years I went to ask what was happening to my case. I demanded to see my case officer and a British man, who was my original case officer, came to see me. I asked him” Long time the UNHCR Hong Kong hasn’t contacted me and I want to know what is happening to my case.” and he smiled and answered me, “I am sorry. I was in the UK for two years. That was the reason why your case was closed!” When I heard this I got really angry. How is it possible that the mighty UNHCR could not pass my file to another staff while I suffered for two years?

    UNHCR HONG KONG 2011 BUDGET USD 2,132,351,419 (http://www.unhcr.org/4df1d0449.html)

  22. UNHCR Hong Kong is a tool of no defined way, you can not understand it. It is governed by those who think that many refugees who apply here are economic immigrants. That is why donors would never understand what is going on. It is not that UNHCR Hong Kong misuses the funds….no, they think that if they help these poor refugees, this would encourage more refugees to come to HK. They know everything that’s going on. Don’t think they are not aware. They are using this way so that TOO MANY PEOPLE DON’T COME TO HONG HONG. They are LIARS!

  23. Michael Luk

    My advice to UNHCR Hong Kong is simple: collaborate with refugees or lose your credibility. If the people you serve do not trust you, what should the people you don’t serve think of you? It’s a simple equation of human trust, ignore it at your own peril.

  24. Daniel Maine

    Great job Vision First! You are becoming well known as the fighting charity. You first fought for refugee welfare, now you are fighting for refugee dignity. All people deserve respect and basic humane, respectful treatment. This is what advocacy is about: not only food and shelter, but the right to be treated with dignity against anyone or any institution that is bullying the oppressed. Why doesn’t the UNHCR Hong Kong pick a fight of its own weight? Why are they slapping around the most defenseless and powerless people in the community. Their actions are beyond shame, they are disgrace for our community.

  25. Kai Groody

    Thank you Vision First, your article is an eye-opener. Because of their diplomatic immunity, UNHCR Hong Kong know they cannot be touched in Hong Kong. As a matter of fact, they don’t even legally exist here. I doubt they have or need even a business or charity registration. Why not approach the Independent Commission Against Corruption and see what will happen. Probably nothing. Their idea of accountability is to say nothing except to their “boss” that sits on top of them, so questions are passed upstairs and orders passed downstairs, ensuring that nobody outside their walls knows what is going on. UNHCR must learn their stakeholders are the people they serve, the refugees, who are not as powerless as they think.
    In person: ICAC Report Centre, G/F, 303 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong,
    By phone: 25 266 366 (24-hour hotline)
    By mail: The ICAC, G.P.O. Box 1000, Hong Kong

  26. Ali Asaad

    UNHCR Hong Kong projects an image that makes a virtue of their work as “Angels to Refugees”. Have a look at their website, their posters, their Christmas card if you have any doubt. However that remains a sleek and expensive marketing make-over, which covers the poor attitude and poor training of their staff. I have come to the States through the assistance of UNHCR Hong Kong after suffered five years of their inhumanity. The way they treated me was always with maximum arrogance, self-importance, disdain and intolerance, which they made suffer every step of the way. Brothers, the truth is even worse than you imagine. I pray their dark heart be shown to the world!

  27. Wong Li Keung

    I am stunned by what your article. There are serious implications to agency transparency and self-regulation. The government must revise their preferential treatment of UNHCR Hong Kong who must be accountable to the community if they are allowed to solicit donations of such magnitude. We must raise our voice of protest against these murky practices and force international agencies to embrace a worldwiew in which respect and dignity comes first, not self-interest.

  28. Breakthewall

    What you write about is a very shameful act because HK citizen are generous and give a lot of money to UNHCR, knowing refugees are suffering. HK people are good people. Instead of helping refugees the UNHCR Hong Kong is a dead zone that sucks up the money and only takes care of itself. They say Hong Kong is a world city, but for refugees it is a dungeon of misery. My case was closed and they treated me like I was a lier, they humiliated me and my wife to tears. My concern is about the recognized refugees who cannot go home and cannot work here, they have no chance to survive with dignity. The UNHCR Hong Kong should be helping these people. When they cut their money from 1500$ to 300$ – 10$ a day!!! – what do you do with that? They should try to live with 10$ a day and with the way they love money, let’s see how many suicides will follow. It’s good this story comes out as honest HK people need to know the truth. What is going on at the UNHCR? Those thieves!

  29. Amaraweera

    Before I came to seek protection in Hongkong, I thought that UNHCR pays for refugees here. Now I know that UNHCR collects the donation here and they keep all the millions for themselves outside Hongkong. In fact it is HKSAR who pays ISS to take care of refugees. What you write is a problem for UNHCR because before nobody knows this information. You expose the truth and they don’t like it. The truth in the media is what they hate the most. When African refugees go to their office and ask for help – because they cannot work – they believe the United Nations are helping them, but now they know the truth. Here is a democracy, we can talk and we can write anything. The law is correct and what you are doing at VF is courageous. If the UN needs to send 20,000,000 to Africa, that is fine, send it to Africa. But did they tell their Hongkong donors that no money is for Hongkong refugees? There are 48M refugees in the world who need help, but why are refugees ignored here? There are families who used to receive more than 4000 HKD a month and signed home contracts for two years. Now they are in deep trouble and go to Vision First to ask for money. This is not fair! Also, now the UNHCR has 14 people, there are maybe 2000 cases open in Hongkong. Why doesn’t UNHCR hire more people with that money? Why don’t they have 50 case officers working on these 2000 cases? Because they don’t have money? No! Now we know they have 20 million dollars so money is not the issue. So why are HK refugees not getting any of this money? Why are thousands of claimants suffering so long for lack of staff, for lack of interpreters, for lack of service. We have worked and suffered for freedom and rights in our country. We have brains and we have intelligence to understand what UNHCR is doing behind their secret walls by studying their actions. This is a good fight. Thank you for fighting for us Vision First. We respect you so much! You opened a big problem for UNHCR now. Change will come, so keep up the good fight! I’m going to send these reports around the world for more people to know. Thank you very much.

  30. Punished_by_UNHCR

    Is it a lack of funds? What do they do with their money? My case was opened by UNHCR in 2005 and closed by them in 2005 on appeal. They didn’t believe my story. My family came to HK and they gave up and returned home in 2005 after spending 45 days in jail. What if I also went home in 2006, or 2007, or 2008, or 2009 and was tortured? What would have happened? What if I was killed by my government? I know I have a strong case so I stayed for CAT. I survived here in the most miserable conditions. Suddenly in 2010 the UNHCR reopened my case by sending an email to RAC (Refugee Advice Centre) and now they want to consider me again. Did they ever say they were sorry that they closed and reopened my case? Money plays the game at UNHCR. How do they spend it? Why don’t they hire competent officers? Early 2011 they only had one RSD officer handling cases and opened almost 600 new cases. It’s a matter of LIFE and DEATH for us. This is not a joke! They pretend not to have money and just send people away to die. There is more I want to say, a bigger story, but I will save it for another day. I have evidence that UNHCR take REVENGE against refugees who talk to the press! Why? Because nobody can stop them. Nobody can punish them. Nobody can make them pay. They are wolves hiding in sheep skins.

  31. A voice of Protest

    Hello Vision First, I have been a refugee for two years. It is inhuman and barbaric that UNHCR, an organization supposed to protect us refugees, is treating us in this way. We have come to know from VF what they are doing to us. An organization that raises 40,000,000 HKD in two years in the name of refugees, they are treating us like beggars. This money was donated by kind citizen in our name! It is an insult to our intelligence and to our humanity to be mistreated like slaves. The question that remains to be answered, as mentioned in your article, is that before they reduced the survival allowance of refugees by 80% … what have they done with their salaries? Did they reduce their salaries even by 8%? The reducement must start from the top. Did Mr. Choosin take a salary cut? That is where the problem lies and that is where you can tell if an organization cares about the people they are paid to defend. They are very, very stupid people! The way they are treating people is beyond words. I’m sick of hearing their lies !!!

  32. John Steve

    want to add something. When I first arrived and I had nowhere to stay, I was sleeping at the Star Ferry. I went to the UNHCR and told them that it was cold outside and I could not sleep in the streets. I asked them for help. I just asked if i could sleep on the bench outside their front door without disturbing. The Chinese lady got very mad with me and said, “If you sleep here I will call the police!” Is that the way to treat people? Is that the way they deal with suffering people? Who taught her how to use that language? Surely other NGO would not like me to sleep outside their door, but would they threaten to call the police to have me arrested? I don’t think so.

  33. John Steve

    my feeling is that we come here to save our life, but it’s like we are still at home and we are still in danger. We are still surviving, because HK is very expensive and we are not allowed to make another job, anything. So UNHCR has to explain what they are doing with the money that they collect for refugees. Some of us have big families, with children who need the necessary things and already go to school. So how do we survive? If the UNHCR was only a RSD office, without any money, then it would be understandable. But in fact they collect millions and millions of dollars. How can UNHCRjustify this? We need to find out the truth. The only way is to ask the UNHCR to answer honestly these straightforward simple questions: how much money is collected in HK? How is it spent?

  34. Eye_of_the_storm

    Mon cher, we must not hesitate to support this new wave of protest that has started and demands our backing. It may well happen that our protest will affect UNHCR ill-practices, dear to them as they ensure their secretiveness and power. Mon cher, this protest is worthy of our sweat and blood! This protest will require efforts that, at first, might be a strain, but over time will assure our victory. Let us be tenacious and resolute, let us be determined and trusting in our legitimate expectations. This wave of change will usher in a better future and, by God, that is what we have always lived and suffered for. Abas UNHCR et vive l’humanité !!!

  35. V for Vendetta

    I just want to live in peace. I have suffered for too many years already through wars, executions, torture and persecution. After being recognized a refugee I thought I would find peace in Hong Kong. I dont even care about having the right to work. I just want to survive in peace. Instead we are forced off the cliff by insensitive, cruel UNHCR who doesn’t care about our well-being despite the 20 Million HKD they collected last year. We asked them to continue the 1500$ a month support which is not even enough to live half decently and instead they push us to the ISS shops that sell expired food and rotten fruit and vegetables at inflated prices. UNHCR only did that to save more millions of dollars as now Hongkong government is paying for our cost. I don’t think Hongkong citizens should be happy about this. Thank you Vision First for always helping us. We know you do a great job and we appreciate everything you do for refugees THANK YOU

  36. Webelieve

    UNHCR has still not paid us what they promised us. Now they are dragging their feet and calling refugees for meetings. The Vision First article has made them very angry and considering their many years of operating behind secret walls, they find it difficult to adjust to the internet world of blogging and Facebook rallies. Now we want to protest even more. We want to march against them. Talk to the press. Carry cards asking for TRANSPARENCY and AUDIT. When the UNHCR gets angry, they get very mean and reduce us to tears like a master with slaves as they think they own our lives – Shame on UNHCR!

  37. I feel so bad as UNHCR is abusing the generosity of HK people. It is the UNHCR who is not doing the right thing. Obviously HK is very generous by supporting refugees with over 20,000,000 HKD a year – which is a huge amount of money. So how can UNHCR say that they are not getting donations? Isn’t that enough for them? It doesn’t make sense. If they have no rent cost then what do they need all this money for? Salaries for sure, but where do all the millions go? I understand the money goes to the big camps around the world, but they are supposed to first take care of the refugees here, who are now living like beggars. What do the refugee families do who signed contracts before the cut in funds and now cannot pay their rent? Did the UNHCR think about this consequence?

  38. VF supporter

    Dear VF – I have moved to Dubai from HK and continue to support you gladly. Interesting article, thank you. Dubai has always some sort of UN Material (last was orthopedic equipments for mine victims in Africa) stashed away in containers being stored in some warehouses in Port Area. The UN together with the local African government is actually selling donated equipments! In this case it was worth over 200,000 Euro in German donated orthopedic surgical equipment. Of course there are other cases involving other materials. Moreover, the admin cost of the UN is eating up most of the donations even so many work voluntarily at the UN. The UN is fully aware of the corrupt governments and instead of supporting them with materials that will be sold to third parties, they should actually monitor the transport to the victims and ensure it will be delivered but they really do not care as long as the papers say “Donated to XYZ country in Africa”. Look into the way UNHCR does business. Find copies of their contracts and NDA (Non Disclosure Agreements) to learn how secret they are –
    STUNNING !!!

  39. Suleiman

    I am a recognized refugee since 2009 and want to add my protest here. The UNHCR know we don’t have power, we don’t have lawyer, we don’t have family or friends, we don’t have human rights, we don’t have social support. They know we don’t have a voice and that’s why the UNHCR is taking advantage of us. Thank you Vision First for stepping up in our defense! Everyone protested when they cut our 1500$ allowance but what can we do? We are under their control. We depend on their protection so we cannot rebel, we cannot protest, we cannot do anything. Even the amount of food we are getting is not 1000$ but closer 650$ if we buy it ourselves. The 200$ utilities paid by ISS, they always try to push it down. Of course they don’t give us the 200$. Some refugees are pushed down to 50$ and some don’t even get this small amount. Now, because we protested, they are holding back the money. They want to punish us. They want to teach us a lesson, but we are not afraid of them. Last month we only received it on the 15 January and this month they haven’t paid and they are saying, “It’s not yet confirmed.” That is the question: where do the donations go? One more thing: how can it be possible that last month’s receptionist is now a Case Officer? What training did she do? Is she qualified? Did she graduate her studies last month? Is she somebody they can easily control? Doesn’t casework require greater skills than receptionist? Maybe not at the UNHCR!!!!!!

  40. Puppet_ Buster

    The UNHCR is like a Puppet Show: on the outside you see and think that something is good and positive is going on, but on the inside there are clever, greedy hands manipulating the puppets the world see. It’s a business to feed their lifestyle. At the refugee meeting they were saying that they need to cut the money, that UNHCR can only give 300$ and the government will offer the food. We asked, “Why if they government wants to help us, they don’t give us the money we need so we can buy the cheapest food in the fresh market?” The officer [name deleted] replied, “This is the only way they can help you, because actually the government doesn’t like you being here.” So a refugee challenged him, “If they government doesn’t like us being here, why then do they want to help us?” And another one asked, “If they don’t like us, if we are their enemy, why do they want to help us?” The officer became red in the face and stuttered unsure, “It’s only for humanitarian reasons. They want to KEEP YOU ALIVE! It is only their help to keep you surviving!” This is exactly what he said, as God is my witness and we were all so deeply offended. It seemed we are kept like chickens in a farm. Are we treated as humans? Why do they blame the government? We don’t hear these insults at the Immigration Department, where nobody is as rude as the UNHCR is to RECOGNIZED REFUGEES. Why bother recognizing us if you spit in our face like we are your slaves. What century is this? It feels like 2012 Before Christ! The officer wasn’t relaxed when he was trying to explain himself. He knew there was something wrong about this and what he was sharing with us was not true. You could read it on his face that he was uncomfortable explaining these stories they put together to fool us. Now we know what happened. We know 100% that they lied to us, having read the information about the 20 Million. Who can force the UNHCR to present an audit? Why are they not accountable for their actions? The Puppet Show might continue, we have no power to cancel it, but we know whose hands are operating the marionettes. And yes, it is true, we are always threatened “Don’t protest! Don’t talk to the press!” Why? What are they afraid of? What are they hiding?

  41. Back in 2004 UNHCR said they had no money, they sent us to eat at Christian Action for breakfast, lunch at ICM (International Chungking Ministry) and dinner … no, sorry, no dinner! They said they didn’t have money for shelter and told us to sleep outside in the streets. They still tell refugees today, “Go sleep in Kowloon Park!” I would like to know how much money they received from 2004 till 2011. Not what they conveniently post on the website, but the real amount of money as shown in a bank statement! Do you think the 20 Million is correct? Why would they suddenly be transparent about that? It could be double. It could be more. They rejected me and years later I am still here because if I go back to my country I will be certainly be killed. I don’t mind, Hong Kong government protects me. But I have a question. There are hundreds of asylum-seekers they didn’t accept and almost ten years later we are still in Hong Kong afraid of persecution and torture at home. Clearly our cases are real and when CAT starts accepting us we will find a way to punish the UNHCR for these years of suffering. They will pay for our tears. How does the UNHCR feel about these failures? How would they feel if the tables were turned and they wore our shoes, if they slept in Kowloon Park? Our suffering remains on their conscience and there will be justice one day in the hands of God. Today their wickedness is exposed by your article. They don’t care about refugees’ future and wellbeing. They only care about their salaries and their diplomatic position above the law. Are they really untouchable? What will they do after their evil deeds are exposed? Do they have something to hide or can they come out and explain everything in a press conference with an AUDIT. I am university graduate, I was a professional, I know about business, I know about money and I know about accounting. With an independent audit the truth will come out, so please Mr. Choosin show us where your money goes? Only guilty people and organizations hide behind a wall of silence. That will not last long. We will meet you outside in the streets, where we suffered for almost a decade already! The fight has only started. Thank you Vision First.

  42. Ronaldino

    I’m so shocked that this behavior of stealing money, cheating and abusing the name of the United Nations is not only a problem in Africa. Instead here it is in Hong Kong. In such place in Hong Kong where everyone things that this sort of things do not happen, but now we know that you can change the location but you cannot change the United Nations. It’s so shameful. From this step we don’t know whom to believe and who not to believe. This is total confusion.

  43. Webelieve

    Hello VF – I’m was recognized a refugee by UNHCR in HK three years ago and I would like to add some comments.

    A) Many Sunday mornings when I come out of church I see students – olding a UNHCR box – collecting small donations in coins and notes from people in the streets. There are 6 or 7 of them and their boxes receive money in them. They probably collect a few thousand each before lunch. Now I realize THOSE COINS are what they give to us! The big money they keep in their account for personal use, definitely not for us refugees.

    B) It happens all the time. When we go to UN asking for clothes, reading glasses, emergency items or medicines, do you know what they say? They say “GO TO VISION FIRST!” The never take responsibility and, sure as hell, never want to spend their own money! They never buy anything for anyone and I know most of us here. If this is not true, can they please tell us who they buy things for? Only for women and children just arrived do they pay the cheapest guesthouse room (200$ a night). A few weeks ago, one Middle East family of six was stuffed into a tiny room with two small beds. The beds were pushed together, there was hardly no space by the wall for their bags. The parents and one kid slept on the small beds, while three kids slept UNDER the bed! And UNHCR even asked ISS to pay. It is a sin for them to spend money on those they should protect. Did their boss tell them they will lose their job if they spend those millions on HK refugees ????????????

    C) when they call us they always block caller ID. We all joke that when you see “Unknown Number” it’s the unknown criminals at the UNHCR! They mask their identity as they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions, so that we don’t have a number to call them back, so that we cannot complain. They never give their name, just command their instructions as if they had God’s power over our life. They never say “Hello, my name is Mr Lok, how are you?” They say, “I’m from the UNHCR … you must do this … you must not do that!” You don’t know who it was and if you ask for their name, they reply “That’s not important for you.” Without a name or a title, you don’t have a legal way to complain. You feel that they are bullying you like the secret service in my country. Similarly if you don’t have appointment, don’t bother visiting their office, as they will be as rude, abrupt and disrespectful as possible to make you leave without bothering them. It’s hard to explain in words the way they talk to you. They are masters of the “make them feel so humiliated they don’t bother us again” management style.

    As long as I have breath, I will fight for my freedom. Nobody has the right to put us down. We run from deadly trouble in our country and we find another group waiting for us. But we believe we are the ones who will win, what we rightly require will come true soon. Those criminals threatened me that if I speak to the media or go on the internet they will cancel my status. But I am not afraid of the Big Bad UNHCR Wolf. We have prepared many hidden traps and we will catch it one night with God’s help. Besides, I would rather die in Hong Kong than receive any favor from their heartless hand! Keep your head up, refugees, and keep up the fight!


  44. It is so sad to know this. what we know is that they don’t have enough staff because lack of money, that’s why they are dealing with the cases so slowly. Even my church is sending them money, at least before, to help to pay for their staff, so that they have more officers to speed up the cases (some cases take 5 to 7 years of suffering for the claimants). Today we find out they have 20M dollars and they are not spending them to help HK refugees – all I have to say is, this is so sad!

  45. speak up

    I am a refugee and I tell you UNHCR has some old, evil people that need to be changed or retired asap [… names deleted …] I think one webpage only is not enough to describe this jealous, old, evil generation. Instead they should be sent back to school and taught that a) persecution is not exclusive to Somalia b) watching TV does not inform on refugee status determination c) power should not come with contempt and disrespect. We need well educated, respectable and uncorrupted staff in UNHCR, because the present officers belong to a group of immoral people who just want to steal money from the poor. UNHCR should be an international organisation worthy of everyone’s respected – evidently it is not! Thanks vf for this article

  46. CY Leung

    My name is CY and I volunteered at Christian Action and Vision First. I personally know several wonderful refugees and respect them enormously. What you write is really messed up! Who would have guessed the United Nations were so dishonorable! Hong Kong people are very generous, just look at the support we offer the world at every tragedy, but we are not cretins like the UNHCR seems to think. We demand to know who handles what money and we have the ICAC (http://www.icac.org.hk/en/home/) to prosecute those who cheat. The UNHCR is not above the law here. Good job Vision First, keep up the pressure!


    I have long had the strong conviction that UNHCR Hong Kong was composed of incompetent, inhumane and insensitive people, but believe me I am not surprised to learn that in addition to these three evils, they engage in MAFIA practices. Not only do they defraud noble and generous donors of Hong Kong, worse still, they make money on the backs of poor refugees whom they are suppose to take care of and protect: WHAT DESPICABLE CYNICISM!

    I think that,when you work for an organization as vital and prestigious as the UNHCR, you should have a good knowledge of general culture. I have many times been interviewed by a UNHCR officer with no knowledge of the geographical location and historical background of my important country. And they call themselves UNHCR officers! What a joke! I wonder if they even know the meaning of UNITED NATIONS! My officer in the UNHCR was forced to interrupt my interview, consult his colleagues on basic facts concerning my country, and apparently they didn’t know any better than him. I was obliged each time to patiently correct him and explain everything in detail over and over. I used simple English for his benefit, so he could understand, because even the translator couldn’t do a good translation. It’s obvious they employ cheap interpreters so as to save money in their pockets. So far the best interpreters I have met are with the Hong Hong government. When I asked them why they doesn’t work for the UNHCR they told me they can’t afford them and they only charge a few hundred HKD an hour. So What do you think here? This incompetence is the main reason why genuine cases are rejected without any reasonable explanation. I really wonder how these UNHCR employees are recruited and on what bases. They are deciding on our Life and Death, yet it feels like we are playing a game at high school!

    Sometimes my case officer calls me on the phone before the date of my appointment and asks me to come with my family to their office in Yaumatei. We leave Tuen Mun where I live with my wife and children for over an hour journey, which costs us more than 100 HKD! When we arrived there, they make us wait unattended, without explanation, without food for an entire day like we are arrested in a police station. Then somebody comes at the end of the day with no apology, no bus fare and no excuse and asks us to come back the next day without any explanation. And when we return there the next day, the same situation repeats itself like they are having fun jerking us around. And after all these unnecessary appointments and waste of money I don’t have, we are finally obliged to return on the date of our original appointment – naturally without any progress. How incompetent can you be? Each time I am forced to borrow money from kind friends for the bus as I cannot work in HK. Furthermore the social service only reimburse one journey to UNHCR per month. There is more, much more, but I should stop with these few examples, because if I continue writing about UNHCR Hong Kong and their ill deeds, I will end up writing a book or crashing your website.

    It’s undeniably obvious that the UNHCR Hong Kong has failed their mission. The figures you have provided on this blog do not lie. It’s a MATHEMATICAL LOGIC because nothing good can be achieved by such incompetent personnel. Without been seen as a preacher, I think sincerely that Hong Kong government must close the UNHCR office in its territory. The government must take total control of refugees situation here in Hong Kong, because :

    1 – They have every reason to do so.
    2 – They have the full right and authority to request the closure of the UNHCR office in Hong Kong because of these practices which dirty and gives a very negative image to Hong Kong and its government.
    3 – They have experience in the management of vulnerable people in society.
    4 – They have the means, the necessary structures and qualified human resources for this task


  48. i hate unchr! shame on them! they are just thieves, feeding their family by torturing other penniless peoples. Last time i ask them for winter clocthes and shoes and didnt get any even though im a refugee. the governement better close this office because they are not doing their job which they swear to do (humanitarian mission). We do not get even enough to buy food for our family with the high inflation in hong kong. damn unhcr branch hong kong sar!

  49. fearless

    thanks for bringing up this issue of unhcr of hong kong which i consider a group of criminals united under the name of united nations – that just reflect the greedy of those who working there. This reminds me the day i went for interview few years ago, on that day i did my interview FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME WITHOUT ANY FOOD, (NO ISS THAT TIME). I USED TO MANAGED TO GET ONE MEAL A DAY IN CHRISTIAN ACTION IF I WENT THERE ON TIME … WHERE THAT MONEY GOES IS THE QUESTION WE ARE ASKING OURSELVES. THEY ARE PUTTING MORE TORTURE ON ASYLUMS SEEKERS HERE IN HK IGNORING WHAT SOME OF US PASSED THROUGH BACK IN OUR COUNTRY. TO FINISH I CAN SAY THAT UNHCR HONG KONG REPRESENT A BIG HANDICAP FOR HONG KONG IN THE FUTURE. UNHCR IN HK HAS DESTROY MANY YOUNG MEN LIFE,LEAVING THEM HOPELESS, DESPERATE, TRAUMATIZED …. Thank you Vision First, it is good know you are there and care about this suffering.

  50. Missy HK

    Oh my gosh i had to check it out with my own eyes on their website cause I couldn’t believe it was true. I work with refugees and I donated to the UNHCR in dec. I wonder wat happened with my money. How can you help far away people u don’t kno, if u don’t help first those who come to ur office with out a cent??????????? That seems pretty basic to me!!!!! Keep up the good work VF!

  51. Charles Ponzi

    As I languish in jail, I cannot help thinking how others have perfected my business model. From what I read on Vision First, it’s clear certain institutions collect MILLIONS in donations and only spend HUNDREDS on humanitarian services. My great claim to fame is naming the “Pyramid Scheme” which today is an official investment model growing in popularity. You too can profit with my “Six Easy Steps”™ –

    Step 1: find a way to rake in millions (photos of malnourished kids easily do the trick)
    Step 2: fill your treasury with millions and bribe your conscience
    Step 3: spend 10% showing how great your service is
    Step 4: sit back in luxury enjoying the other 90%
    Step 5: repeat the process for 60 years
    Step 6: for this one, please email cponzi@pyramid.com with a contribution.

  52. A confused refugee who lost hope

    I felt great when i saw this blog, because as a refugee here in HK I don’t have a voice. There is a saying “When the goat is dead, it’s not afraid of the knife again!” I am the goat. I’m not afraid of telling them the truth. They recognized me years ago and then they abandoned me here, where I have life, no work, no school, no family, no hope. The United Nation Peace Keeping Forces are stationed in my home-country so they know there is WAR, not peace there and i cannot go home. They have my documents, they know my case very well, but they ignore me. Other people from peaceful countries are resettled, but those who come from a warzone and have serious problems back home, they are ignored. They do not talk to me in a hopeful way, they speak in a threatening way, that they dont even want to help me and upto now they are still telling me to go back home (though I have been accepted). We are very happy for Vision First is doing this for us. There are other people who do not know what is going on, they should get concerned and maybe helps some of us, being ignored in our suffering. Actually I am very happy for Hongkong, it is a great society we find ourselves in, but there is no hope for refugees. Refugees are people who suffer immensely and the UNHCR has to learn how to treat us with respect and dignity. Amen

  53. Ghost refugee

    You cannot complain with the UNHCR. There is a way to help people but they will not do it. If you complain to the officer and tell them that you want to talk to the manager, then they will threaten to close your case negatively. Why? because you jump over them and they don’t wont people to complain. They know how tough our life is. They say they are an international humanitarian organization however the service they offer is so far from humanitarian. They have made such fundamental mistakes with my case that I cannot even write about because it would be so shameful for them. What do they think they are doing? Who train them to handle refugee matters? They are not hopeless, they are dangerous in what they are doing. We have to teach them to use their brain.

  54. Anonymous

    it’s great that somebody can criticize the UNHCR now. They hate the media and always threaten “Do not go to the press! Do not talk to the media or we will cancel your status!” Today we have a place to complain about their arrogance and malfeasance – thank you Vision First, keep up the good work! Why doesn’t the UNHCR reply to those good, honest questions? Do they have something to hide? Do the prefer to live in the shadow?

  55. Richard Ellis

    Your blog is a GAME CHANGER! Never before was this information shared publicly and, given how shadily UNHCR operates, that is not a surprise. Let’s hope these comments ram home to those in-charge that vulnerable people have a VOICE and must not be discounted as brainless drones, victims of an uncaring system. The floodgates have opened, debate has started, though sadly, and predictably, the one party who owes explanations, disdains participation. Who pays their salaries? Who appoints these losers to be guardians of refugees? In any fair system they would never be elected to their positions. It is time a revolution started at the United Nations! Thank you for speaking out, Vision First!

  56. An angry refugee

    first of all thanks for your good question,i really want to know where exactly the money goes which is belong to the refugee,i want to know who is the top person,who collecting the money and he or she have to give a statement where did the money spend because by my calculation and vision first information in 2011 more than 70% of the money which UNHCR have collect is disappear and now they telling us we have to accept the new policy because UN running out of money and they think i’m stupid and i dont understand whats going on.Organization like UN already know that what will be happen in next 20 years and they already have program for next 20 years so its really weird they telling us this year UN dont have money. If its like that why they didnt budget the money in the past years? When you asking them where the money goes the first answer they will give you is Africa. But Africa situation everyday getting more worse so you think money goes to Africa? You know what i told them, I told them “%$#@ you and %$#@ your policy!” I will never accept that some fool play with my life. It’s already enough they kept me here for 4 years and they enjoying with our money. We are the beneficiaries and have to suffer. In hong kong we shouldn’t accept the new policy, dont collect the food and dont get the 300 hkd. The its over for them! I cant follow some idea which want to use me: they collecting money by our name because we are the refugee and people donate money and clothes to them for us but they dont want to give us, Actually i have lot to say but not now right time will came soon. GOOD LUCK FOR ALL THE REFUGEES !!!

  57. A UNHCR claimant

    Thank You Vision First for raising the genuine problems of the Refugees / Asylum seekers which they are facing from the UNHCR Hong Kong, we are totally agreed with your blog and appreciate the comments of the others friends. As you have mentioned millions of dollars are paid by the HongKong peoples to the UNHCR Hong Kong every years, but no one knows that where that millions go. We think that due to diplomatic immunity the UNHCR considered themselves above the law and above accountibility. Also the behaivor of the staff of the UNHCR is insultive and disrespecting and they do not providing any kind of assistance to asylum seeker or to refugees.

  58. A concerned citizen

    Thank you Vision First! We need to ask these questions. It’s essential to know what is going on in there, especially for refugees whose present and future depends on UNHCR’s decisions. They cannot sit in their office and not be accountable for their actions. It’s been TOOOOOO long that they act in this secret, mysterious way, without being honestly clear of what they are doing, lying about situations, presuming that everyone else is stupid! They like to play politics this way, playing with people’s lives beyond the reach of justice and investigation, just because refugees don’t have a voice to protest. Look how ARROGANT they have become! Who do they think they are? It is simply a lack of decency, when you look down on people, suffering people, and you thumb your nose because you are protected by diplomatic immunity. SHAME ON THE UNHCR !!!!!!!!!

  59. Captain Schettino in exile

    Impressive news. You slammed the UNHCR on the rocks, just like i did with my sheep! If the UNHCR wishes on building trust between the agencies and the people it is supposed to protect – as they claim – then these CUTS in refugee allowance fail their objective, because they give explanations against the evidence. The way officers abruptly treat refugees only protects their institution, rather than us refugees. We would have gladly accepted the 80% reduction IF it was explained to us that the millions collected had to be sent to people dying of starvation abroad. However, the reasons given us were LIES and, again, they treated us like children.
    P.S. I wish I had another ship to crash in that carpark building!

  60. Shandu-X

    I want to say, where is the audit accounting from these milliions? Where did it go??????????? Where is Hong Kong Government from this ?????? There must be clarity in what UNHCR is doing with Hong Kong money – yes!

  61. Friend_of_VF

    I am a refugee in here for 2 years and I agree with your blog. Thank you. The UNHCR is above the law and we cannot complain about what they do to anybody in Hongkong. Thank your bringing up this issue, it’s a good time. After the meetings in December, an officer phoned and warned me, ““If you protest or if you are in the media without the UNHCR permission, we will immediately cancel your status.”