Refugees left with HK$300 a month after subsidy cut

Post Date: Feb 26th, 2012 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

John Carney writes on Feb 26, 2012 for the Sunday Morning Post  (circulation 80,000)

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The lives of refugees residing in Hong Kong have been thrown into further turmoil after the UN abruptly slashed the monthly allowance they receive to HK$300 – an 80 per cent cut. Despite receiving generous financial support from donors in Hong Kong, the cash-strapped United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees decided last month it could no longer afford to pay the HK$1,500 that 180 refugees living in the city were getting to help pay expenses. The Hong Kong government has stepped in to provide the recipients with HK$1,200 worth of food each, but refugees say the remaining cash payment falls far short of what they need to pay for rent, clothes, utilities and other essentials. Refugees, who spoke to the Sunday Morning Post on the condition that their names or countries were not identified, say the allowance cut has left them in a struggle to survive.

“I’m a recognised refugee and I will lose my room this week,” said one man from North Africa. “What can I do? Who can help me? I’m not a beggar.” Another refugee from central Asia said he was unable to pay his electricity and water bills and was “very, very desperate”. Activists’ anger over the cuts has been stirred by the fact that the UNHCR’s own website shows it received private contributions of HK$20 million from Hongkongers in 2010 and HK$16 million as of September 19 last year. “What matters for refugee families is `dollars in hand’ – nothing else,” said Cosmo Beatson, executive director of Vision First, a non-governmental organisation working with local refugees. “The problem is not fund-raising, but the allocation of money trustingly donated by our fellow citizens. The big picture remains disingenuous.”

The UNHCR said funds raised in Hong Kong were used to support its humanitarian work around the world, which have stretched the body’s financial resources to the limit. It was therefore unable to continue its “material assistance” for refugees. “My office had to secure an alternative source of support to refugees and approached the government for assistance,” said Choosin Ngaotheppitak, head of the UNHCR’s Hong Kong office. “This [humanitarian assistance] programme is in line with the standards set by the government.” He said the government programme would also give refugees access to allowances for rental, utilities and clothing. These welfare services, however, were already available to refugees when the UNHCR was still paying them the full allowance.

Human rights lawyer Mark Daly believes the UNHCR is not doing enough. “They’re effectively caving in to a government programme here that doesn’t meet the standards that the UNHCR themselves think other countries should be meeting elsewhere,” he said. “You have to ask: what are they thinking?” The UNHCR’s global budget for this year will be a record US$3.59 billion and 93 per cent of its funding comes from government sources. It serves some 10.5 million refugees, half of them in Asia.

Who gets what

  • Number of recognised refugees in Hong Kong -€“ 180
  • Number of (UNHCR) asylum seekers in Hong Kong -€“ 486
  • Amount donated to the UNHCR in Hong Kong in 2010 -€“ HK$20 million
  • Largest private donor – the Hong Kong Buddhist Association with US$271,337
  • Cut to refugee’s HK$1,500 monthly payments -€“ 80 per cent
  • Saving to the UNHCR – HK$2,592,000 (paid by HKSAR for food rations)
Refugee's illegal rooftop dwelling
Refugee's illegal rooftop dwelling



  1. usamobama

    I am a Somalia national presently residing in Hong Kong as an Asylum seeker. And I firstly would like to thank Vision First and its administration for its continuing Humanitarian Support for the refugees and displaced people from Somalia. Somalia’s nationals are grateful to the Hong Kong Government and, particularly, the people of Hong Kong for their understanding and tolerance towards refugees. Regarding UNHCR it’s very clear that they are not doing much! I remember its chief, Antonio Guterres, informing that his agency hasn’t done enough to meet the needs of Somalis. So my expectation of the UNHCR was never high. In Hong Kong 85% of Refugee’s are from Somalia. Sometimes the one questions here is my human dignity. Where is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Is it just another labeling brand of words? We kindly request and ask good people to support us refugees with donations and any other possible means by assisting Vision First. The more you help Vision First, the more we have a chance to survive! Thank you very much Vision First for keeping the good job. To UNHCR we are safe here in Hong Kong but there are millions of refugees in camps without any means to survive, they are the ones who are a top priority. This does not mean that UNHCR’s moral responsibility is clear. Please everyone help us we are in danger of becoming homeless – please support Vision First

  2. Mohammad FH

    Me I am UNHCR refugee. I see the Sunday Morning Post and I see the website. What you do for us is very good. It is very good for us refugee who cannot protest and who cannot talk to the press. We are very very glad for your help. You are fighting for the refugees and we are all very happy. The way you write, the way you behave will make UNHCR Hong Kong change the bad way they treat us. Vision First help people a lot. Cosmo listen to people and he help refugees a lot. The UNHCR Hong Kong they tell me don’t work! They tell me take the 300 dollars! How come? I telling them “You are big organization. You take big money in donation. You give me 300 dollars. Vision First is small organization and they give me 400 dollars. How come??? What this mean???” I tell UNHCR my rent is 1500$. But they only pay 1200$. I need small money for rent and for living, for everything. How can I survive? Why UNHCR treat refugee like this? This is kind of torture. I running away from my country because somebody attack me, but here UNHCR Hong is killing my mind. Thank you Vision First for pushing everyone to be better and work better. I am 100% very glad and everyone is saying this is what Vision First did!

  3. Rubber Wall

    UNHCR is like a Rubber Wall: complaints bounce off their diplomatic immunity. They cannot be summoned to court to explain their actions. They cannot be sued for dereliction of duty. They cannot be pinned with the suffering directly caused to refugees. No registered charity could ever get away with this. The *roar* of complaints Vision First’s articles generated – particularly from refugees themselves – is a damning testimonial to the disgraceful job they do. Do they behave like good international citizens? The public can examine the evidence and decide for themselves. I am glad Vision First brought these issues to light. Please continue demanding independent audits, until their duties are absorbed by HK Government and UNHCR Hong Kong is shuttered.
    In the long run, the government will do the right thing, which is taking over refugee status determination and allowing successful applicants to work and build a decent life in Hong Kong. Yes, advocating for refugees’s RIGHT TO WORK becomes a priority until the government realizes refugees have the right to make an honest living.

  4. Cow Pies

    UNHCR is nothing but a fundraising *Black Hole*!!! There are reasons why their job should be an essential international service, yet they offer no accountability or transparency. Why should we take them for their word when we don’t trust any other international agency (United Nations excluded)? The more one digs for answers, the more questions are unearthed … It’s too convenient to say “We spend the 3.9 billion USD helping refugees worldwide” without backing this up with independent reports. Even the pie charts on their website show 88% “Refugee Programs” but the same charts don’t show salaries, housing allowance, insurance, officer travelling, entertainment, lobbying and other cost they most certainly have. Why should we trust them? They are in-house, unverified, unsupported and lacking basic monthly cost they obviously have. We realize that UNHCR was around before we were born, they will be around after we die and it cannot be changed overnight. Truth is, the way they treat refugees is disgraceful. After collected 27 million HKD in 2011, there is no justification for spending only 648,000 HKD and passing responsibility to HKSAR. They recognized these 180 refugees, but they continuously shirk their responsibility to care for them. Shame on UNHCR !!!

  5. Justin Excuses

    UNHCR keeps hiding behind the excuse of impending “humanitarian crises” around the world, yet don’t publish external audits about what is purchased, from whom and where. Here’s a different example: UNHCR Hong Kong collected 1.8M HKD from the Pakistani community for relief after the 2010 flooding. However, by mandate they cannot assist Pakistanis in Pakistan. The office is known to send people away, saying “You must seek protection at a UNHCR office outside the country”. They certainly turn away Pakistani flood-victims seeking relief in Hong Kong, because such claims do not comply with the five acceptable reasons “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” – flood victims need not apply! Where did that money go? If you ask them, they will say they made an exception on humanitarian grounds, however A) there is no proof how these funds were spent in Pakistan, and B) why don’t they make an exception to help Hong Kong refugees they recognized themselves?

  6. PR Master

    I have read the PR spin UNHCR offered and agree with Vision First. Once all is said and done, what matters are the “dollars in hand” and how refugees perceive that a downgrade from $1500 to $300 + food rations did NOT take their best interest to heart. The reality is what counts, not figure manipulations. Besides, without an external audit, nobody will trust UNHCR’s word and figures again. Period. You are right to say the UNHCR is hiding behind smoke and mirrors, since to all effects they took the money and ran to another country. Though it remains to be seen indeed the other country received the 47,000,000 HK$ generously donated by our citizens – I have my doubts!

  7. Sad Max

    I have read the many responses to this article and I’m deeply saddened by the refugees’ plight. They are condemned to live what I’m sure is the hardest life of anyone in Hongkong. They should be supported by UNHCR, but where that fails we should actively encourage HKSAR to change laws and policies to take over refugee management from arrival to integration. I will ask around about what rights UNHCR has to neglect the duties they are paid for and fundraise for. Good job, Vision First!

  8. Crime Boss

    Besides how much money UNHCR Hong Kong raised and have to spend, the arguably ‘generous’ contribution of HKSAR, and so on, what matters is that refugees will inevitably go to work illegally. Isn’t this a shortcoming of UNHCR policy? They help to push refugees into the underground world, even the criminal world, just like they have done with asylum-seekers hung out to dry. Why are they thousands of recognized refugees in London, Paris, Rome and Frankfurt? How can there only be 180 in Hong Kong? The rest are rejected and have no options but to struggle for survival … no matter how!

  9. Somali Group

    Because UNHCR Hong Kong mentions that refugee crises are escalating worldwide, you can still push for Somalia, which is a good example of why UNHCR should help famine driven Somalis in Kenya, and give the, status in HK. They should accept all Somali asylum-seekers in Hong Kong as this reduces their expenses in the Somali camps as they only need to pay us 300$ a month here. UNHCR should encourage thousands of Somalis to come to HK where they can conveniently wash their hands of all responsibility. UNHCR is voted “Lamest Duck” in the world!

  10. Richard Fang

    The UNHCR is not accountable. It is true that it should be to small private donors, and not only big ones, but this is somethings I’m afraid out of VF reach. I would insist on the right to work. It is true that the UNHCR might be pushing it, but when is it going to happen? Why they cut assistance now? Who should care for THEIR refugees? I think that if you want to have an impact, Vision First actions must be grounded in local affairs, because it is there that we hope to see the effect. You need to contact Legco and gain support there – Good luck!

  11. VF donor

    Dear Vision First – I had surely bought the Sunday SCMP and read the good news over Yum Char with my mother in law. Let’s give thanks to our Lord and pray for his wisdom and strength for Vision First! Keep going on strong and be confident of our support – thank you.

  12. Congratulations

    What Vision First in February 2012 will go down in refugee history. This has never been done before: an NGO standing up to the shady practices of UNHCR and pointed an incriminating finger. Great job! Vision First asked deep questions and raised fundamental issues into the public consciousness. Before it had happened that somebody had raised personal issues with the High Commissioner’s office, but this is different. Where does UNHCR money go? Who do they actually serve? How do they function in reality, on the ground, with refugees … not according to PR spin! The devil is in the details and UNHCR details stink. Asking clarifications for these issues hasn’t happened before. Perhaps privately, but it’s never happened before in the media, on the internet. Thank you, Vision First, for kicking down the UNHCR Door of Secrecy! More people will surely follow in your footsteps, having realized they are unable to provide independent audits and openly debate these matters of great public concern.

  13. Follow the Leader

    As we sit in Chung King Mansion pondering this month’s remarkable events, we notice the absence of Christian Action’s voice in the “UNHCR Debacle”. Why haven’t they spoken out? Why didn’t they join the rallying call to advocacy arms? Being temporarily headless isn’t an excuse. A strong organization must have a guiding spirit that inspires staff no matter who the manager is. They started the CKM Service Center in 2004 and should be the leaders in the field. However meekness and submission to UNHCR appears to drive their action. We read about churches speaking out against all kind of injustices. We hear others giving voice to the voiceless. We wish to encourage Christian Action to do more for us refugees, as timidity never made the world a better place. Thank you Vision First for leading the way!

  14. Buddha's friend

    As the Buddha taught, “A journey of a thousand steps starts with the first one”. Your actions this month, dear Vision First, have started the ball rolling. In due course the government of Hong Kong will terminate UNHCR work and ask them to pack their bags – a welcome day for many!

  15. Cosmo Beatson

    In reply to an anonymous email from UNHCR Hong Kong, dated 1 March 2012, 1:24AM

    To whom it may concern,

    While it is always disconcerting to respond to an anonymously penned message, particularly one whose tone is slightly menacing, I do so now in good faith and with the hope that eventually a solution can be reached to serve refugees temporarily based in Hong Kong and the people of Hong Kong who earnestly desire to help them.

    Vision First has commented on this matter of great public interest firstly because our office has heard numerous testimonies of suffering from persons who expected help from the UNHCR and did not receive it, or received only about one fifth of what was needed. Secondly, as citizens of China and residents of the great city of Hong Kong, we saw a need to point out that money contributed by concerned citizens wishing to help the refugees in their community is not being spent at home. These are facts. If raising facts for public information, for public consideration, amounts to “defamation” in the eyes of the anonymous author of the message sent to us, then the right of free speech in Hong Kong might as well not exist.

    Please remember, anonymous author, that the poor, homeless yet hopeful persons who have come to us for help and complained of their treatment by the UNHCR bear no malice. They are simply in pain. Vision First also bears no malice toward the anonymous author or his inscrutable office. We are simply trying to help those in need. The need is evidenced by the more than 200 postings these suffering people have placed on our open-access Vision First website. If the anonymous author and the inscrutable office had addressed the needs of these people as expected, and in any way commensurate to the funds contributed by the people of Hong Kong, Vision First would not need to remind you of their plight.

    Let us please begin today to serve these people, to serve them together. Our Open Letter contained numerous questions under twenty points. We appeal to your reason and sense of humanity. Please look at those questions and address them sincerely and exhaustively, restraining yourself from using self-defensive PR spin. To serve some of the neediest in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong citizens who have contributed to assist them, our next step will be to openly debate the facts, the audits, addressing the all-important testified experiences of the refugees themselves. Let us do this both publicly, in the Public Forum of the media, so that contributing benefactors can understand, and privately, through efforts to address the real problems that have arisen, serving both those in need and those who have contributed money to your organization in good faith.

    We look forward to meeting you and working with you, we look forward to serving the greater good together, both in the public forum and through private efforts. Until that time I offer you my very,

    Sincerest regards,
    Cosmo Beatson
    Executive Director
    Vision First

  16. Raymond T

    Hello Vision First – my suggestion is to seek the assistance from some legislative counselors. Get some legislative counsel, like Albert Ho, Leung Kwok Hung or those acting for Social welfare group and seek their opinion. They are fond of doing these kinds of complaints and can pursue them further. Keep up the good work!

  17. Mr Refugee Beggar

    Now, we became the regular beggars! While sleeping we plan where we will go tomorrow for begging. Some times going for begging a little money to Mosque, Church, I.S.S. and to others NGOs whose behaviors are insulting and disrespectful and humiliating. They are treating refugees and others like a slave or third-class citizens. I swear you that this is the real punishment when you have no money to pay phone bill, electric bill, buying gas cylinder, hear cutting, photo copy, postal expenses,transport money for going to Mosque, to your lawyer, to attend the court and for many more expenses which are not paying by I.S.S. Some time even we have no two dollars for photo copy and spending day & night in the room as a self confinement for weeks. Thank you Vision First for give us HOPE!

  18. Suffering father

    Thank you for highlighting our suffering. We rejoice to have a voice speaking for us. Our situation is still the same, there is no reply from the UNHCR Hong Kong about any progress of our cases despite our repeated request to to expedite on our cases. The day passing our suffering and hardship are more increasing here in Hong Kong and for the remaining family in the country. Believe me if we knew that after passing more then two years in Hong Kong our situations will be same, we would never come and we would have been prefer to be killed by the militants or by the establishment. The UNHCR prolongs our suffering year after year … year after year …

  19. Cut Short

    Thank you Vision First for giving us hope. We have prepared a list of things refugees used to be able to pay for when we received 1500 HK$ from UNHCR. Today we are reduced to 300 HK$ and we are very desperate.

    Before we could prudently spend our monthly cash on these items:

    – pay home rent balances (minimum rent 1800 HK$, but we receive 1200 HKD$ rent assistance)
    – save for home deposits (it takes months, but we used to manage)
    – pay utility bills (ISS only pays 140$ electricity and 50$ water)
    – buy used furniture in night markets (ISS/UNHCR provided nothing)
    – buy used beds and mattresses (many have slept on bare floors for months)
    – pay for van transport to move our stuff around
    – pay for home repairs (paint, leaks, bulbs, kitchen, fridges, water heaters, air-con, etc.)
    – buy used air-conditioner unit, fans in summer; heaters in winter
    – pay for home repairs after typhoon and flooding
    – buy used cooking stoves, rice-cookers, kettles
    – buy used fridge to preserve the fresh/frozen food collected
    – buy cooking gas (how can we cook the food we are given?)
    – buy discounted food in wet-markets and supermarkets
    – buy the ethnic food we require
    – buy fresh vegetables and fruit (not included in food rations)
    – buy used mobile phones
    – buy mobile-phone cards (HKSAR requires us to have one!)
    – repair mobile phones, replace batteries, etc.
    – buy used clothes, underwear, shoes, winter jackets
    – buy used pillows, blankets, sheets
    – buy reading glasses
    – buy suitable toiletries (deodorants, tampons, good razors and shaving foam)
    – buy female hygiene products and condoms
    – buy diapers and baby formula
    – buy medicines (diabetes, high-blood pressure, not provided by hospital)
    – buy Octopus card to get discounted bus fairs
    – buy school supplies and school needs
    – buy makeup
    – pay for transportation when looking for home and assistance
    – pay for transport to hospital, lawyers, courts, NGOs, worship, etc.
    – pay for hair cuts
    – buy suitcases when resettled
    – pay for photocopies, stationary, postage,

  20. Mothers Group

    Vision First, thank you for hearing our voices and helping our cause reach the public. As refugee mothers, many with children in school, we wish to add our comment about the Cash Cut. Before we had the option to buy the food our family needs at the best discounted prices we could find. After the UNHCR Hong Kong cut the refugee Cash Allowance to 300$, they forced us to collect food rations. Sadly these ratios are emergency food. They are basic, there is no choice and every ten days we are forced to collect the same supplies. There are no fresh vegetables and fruit. The frozen meat is so old that it cooks like wood. The canned food is the cheapest in Hong Kong. The quality of provisions is, in one word, awful. Before we could make smart purchases with the $1500 cash. Now we are forced to queue up for hours to collect our food, wasting precious time we need to take care of our family. The children cannot take lunch-boxes home as the food rations don’t have the correct ingredients. It pains our heart to say that our children are embarrassed to take this food to school as other students will tease them, seeing what terrible lunch they have. We don’t understand why UNHCR Hong Kong condemn us to this further misery and humiliation, when they collected 27,000,000 HK$ from the kind people of HK last year. Thank you for voicing our complaint and don’t give up this fight. We only have Vision First standing behind us!

  21. they think that many people dont go to school. in fact some of us are more well educated than them. Especially when you talk about ISS, whose case-officers now handle refugee. Because when you go there, there are things they dont pay, like utility bills, cooking gas and transportation. They will fight to see what you accept and if you dont fight back they will keep the money. They think this job is not important as it doesn’t concern Chinese people, only foreigner whom they don’t care about.

  22. Mr. Truth

    I am not a Refugee or Asylum seeker. I am an independent PI (private investigator) that some organizations such as UNHCR hire. They employ my services to collect information outside Hong Kong which UNHCR uses, in most cases, to quash asylum applications and to deny them protection. I am also a lawyer who cannot practice in Hong Kong due to jurisdiction issue. This message goes angrily to Mr. Choosin Ngaotheppitak (Head of UNHCR Sub-Office)

    In my years of studies, I learned that: the primary purpose of UNHCR is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. The UNHCR also has a mandate to help stateless people. And in an effort to protect refugees and to promote solutions to their problems, UNHCR seeks to reduce situations of forced displacement by encouraging states and other institutions to create conditions which are conducive to the protection of human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes. That UNHCR works in partnership with governments, regional organizations, international and non-governmental organizations to achieve these objectives. That UNHCR is an impartial organization, as per original definition. The UNHCR offers protection and assistance to refugees and others on the basis of their needs and irrespective of their race, religion, political opinion or gender. In all of its activities, UNHCR pays particular attention to the needs of children and seeks to promote the equal rights of women and girls. The Office has also been requested by the General Assembly to promote the 1954 and 1961 statelessness Conventions, and to help prevent statelessness by providing to States technical and advisory services on nationality legislation and practice. In Dec 2010 UNHCR was further mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. This prohibits the deportation of refugees to places where their lives or freedoms could be in danger.

    Let me remind you of this Mr. Choosin Ngaotheppitak. In case you forgot or didn’t know. Many asylum seekers come into other countries leaving behind comfortable lives; they are high or upper-middle class in their country, with large homes, cars, high schools, or university education and children attending both. Having lost everything, wives and families going through hell, they have no choice but to run anywhere they truly can. Furthermore, the article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to seek asylum in other countries and enjoy the freedom from persecution.” It is true that there are both non-legit claimants and genuine refugees, but how would you identify and how to differentiate the one from the other? The truth is that UNHCR Hong Kong has always given credibility to those who do not meet the real definition of the refugee in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

    In January of 2012 in typical deceiving fashion arranged by Mr. Choosin, refugees were informed that donations had shrunk in UNHCR bank accounts worldwide and the Hong Kong office had insufficient funds to continue its financial aid. The adult allowance was cut from HK$ 1500 to HK$ 300. How can UNHCR be so mean and inconsiderate to cut its support for refugees in Hong Kong by 80%? Especially in such difficult time for refugees while the UNHCR global receipts are at such high levels? I mean this is crazy … wait a minute, with all this brouhaha … Mr. Choosin, how much percentage money was deducted from your salary? Do you drive a car?? Of course yes and what kind of car do you drive? How much money do you spend on your outing with friends??

    Instead it is a huge struggle for refugees, who cannot even secure the cheapest rooms in town. There is the true issue of expensive rents over HK$ 1000 (provided by the government) as the cheapest room is around HK$1500. But HK$ 1000 assistance is less than enough to rent a room. Then comes the issue of deposits and set-up fees. Getting a fridge, stove, rice-cooker, kitchen utensils, and cooking also requires gas canisters. Refugees need warm clothes for winter and bad weather, shoes, socks and underwear. Other personal hygiene items, baby formula and children needs. Until December 2011 each adult refugee received a 1500 HKD allowance for groceries, utilities, toiletries and transportation. We believe the UNHCR is not doing enough and doesn’t meet the standards that the UNHCR themselves think other countries should be meeting elsewhere. The UNHCR’s global budget for this year is a record US$ 3.59 billion and 93% of its funding comes from government sources. Excuse me, but what do refugees in Hong Kong get? Less than peanuts! Very demeaning! Did this decision come from UNHCR Head Office, or Hong Kong sub-office?

    For further assistance Mr. Choosin, Head of UNHCR Hong Kong, redirects refugees to Christian Action and Vision First. Christian Action, what is this it? Are they really performing refugee duties as per their definition? Or are they just using their name to collect funds from Christians in Hong Kong and overseas? We all know Christian Action has been collecting funds, but where does the money go? I am sorry to touch another sensitive issue here, forgive me … I had the chance to be around Christian Action for a while and what I learned is that the money has been only serving for rent and big salaries … just like at UNHCR office. Honestly, what do they do for refugees?? You just go ahead and find out. Honestly it’s bogus …

    Now this Vision First, an NGO which has an overload of asylum seekers at hand plus a number of torture claimants and recognized refugees who are supposed to be UNHCR’s responsibility … This raises burning questions in the mind of everyone who is reading this article, including the donors from Hong Kong and around the world. Mr. Choosin, let me introduce you to this small NGO which, small as it is, is making a huge name and big difference in the eyes of the public. Let’s talk about their Mission: “Vision First, through community participation, promotes the welfare of refugees, irrespective of religion, race and nationality by advocating and providing shelter and access to medical, counseling and educational services – focusing on personal development with dignity and compassion. “ They are a true NGO with a *true vision* to empower and assist refugees through a caring and giving society. They wish to meet refugee needs, by helping them to eventually become skilled, happy and prepared for resettlement and future integration. Vision First is a team of eight diligent guys with athletic minds and a genuine love for the less fortunate: refugees and asylum seekers. All of them are volunteers with no salary. Vision First goes through the same private channels to raise donations. They have a maximum annual income of HK$ 1,000,000, which is 1/20th of what UNHCR is making – and they have to beg so hard for it!!!

    They are Cosmo Beatson, Executive Director, Danielle Stutterd, Centre Manager, Tiffany Sturman serves as Education Coordinator, Andrew Parkinson, Director, Counselor, Coach, and Teacher, Dr. Pak Ho Tsang, Director, Belinda Flanders, Director and Chairperson, Annabelle Singaram, Director and Treasurer.

    Let’s see what this team has achieved in just over two years:

    $90,000 monthly financial assistance
    3120 hot meals served on Sunday
    456 medical visits
    400 members served monthly
    182 dental visits
    102 members housed in homes
    42 nationalities
    35 detention visits
    15 children placed in school
    12 school presentations
    9 dedicated volunteers
    8 vocational training courses
    7 religions
    5 new-born babies
    1 football team
    1 online booking system
    1 temporary shelter – hk’s only
    1 service center
    1 passion to make a difference!

    Now let’s look back at UNHCR Hong Kong, their figures and their achievements:
    – number of recognized refugees in Hong Kong: 180
    – number of (UNHCR) asylum seekers in Hong Kong: 486
    – UNHCR managed to cut refugee’s 1500% allowance by 80%
    – UNHCR managed to save HK$ 2,592,000 by getting HKSAR to pay for food.

    Now let’s go back to the HK$ 20,000,000 donations. Bear in mind that UNHCR offices are subsidized by HKSAR. So where is the surplus? With fairness should we ask this question to Mr. Choosin? How do you explain this? How about accountability to Hong Kong donors who saved this money? According to UNHCR these funds were used to support its humanitarian work around the world, which have stretched the body’s financial resources to the limit. It was therefore unable to continue its “material assistance” for refugees. ”My office had to secure an alternative source of support to refugees and approached the government for assistance,” said Choosin Ngaotheppitak, head of the UNHCR’s Hong Kong office. This is bullshit or bogus justification! By the way, WHO AUDITS UNHCR EXPENSES?

    If I’m not mistaken, the function of UNHCR, as set forth in the UNHCR Statute and elaborated in the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution, is: to pursue protection, assistance and solutions for refugees. Here in Hong Kong there are refugees whose lives have been directly threatened and attacked by Mr Choosin, Head of UNHCR Hong Kong sub-office as well as his officers and staff. One refugee said to Mr. Choosin, and I quote: “I have bad audio tapes I will send to the media for publication, to show the whole world how the UNHCR has been roughing and bulling refugees around.” Mr. Choosin got angry with that refugee and told him, “If you ever do that I WILL SEND YOU TO PRISON FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!” This event shows how the Head and Staff of UNHCR Hong Kong use their power to ABUSE refugees and asylum-seekers. This is abuse of power! This is ill-treatment for a bad purpose! In that office there often are unfairly and improperly processed asylum applications, verbal abuse, mental and psychological abuse, violation of human rights, unjust practices; wrongful practice offense; crime, and otherwise verbal aggression. What is this?? This is life threatening and abuse of power. This is an unacceptable, systematic abuse by Mr. Choosin and his staff who simply create mental panic among Hong Kong refugees and claimants. Children usually see evil in one-dimensional terms. Evil is demonical. Evil comes in the form of warped or sadistic individuals bent on attacking God, motherhood, the flag and people they hate. In this case we see Mr. Choosin, along with his staff, running UNHCR Hong Kong like their household, abusing their power and never held accountable.

    Furthermore, Mr. Choosin has been harassing Vision First. He called many times asking to speak to Cosmo but unsuccessfully. The motive behind his phone calls: to ask Cosmo to stop refugees from speaking to the media, despite his direct threat to them. One day last week I was visiting Vision First and a call came in asking to speak to Cosmo … we were having a little chit chat, Cosmo refused the call as he wanted answers in writing. This guy did not stop calling throughout the day. What I mean is this, trying to control who refugees talk to and what they say is abuse of power. This abuse of authority may be the prime source and true essence of EVIL – Evil is the ABUSE of power. Moral EVIL begins to exist when someone refuses to accept responsibility for the welfare of others, especially those naturally in their care. It can be said that someone has POWER, if that someone can decisively influence (the) reality (of others). In this context, AUTHORITY is power that derives from the United Nations Refugee Convention.

    Mr. Choosin was expecting that Cosmo will send his office keys and say “YES SIR!!!” The UNHCR Hong Kong Office is practicing the Abuse of Authority. ABUSE OF POWER is the illegitimate use of power.
    ABUSE OF POWER is that situation that exists whenever someone who has POWER over others unjustifiably uses that power to EXPLOIT or HARM others, or through lack of action, allows exploitation or harm to occur to others. It also follows that the main principle of human ethics and morality should be to avoid the abuse of power. From this it follows that it is extremely unethical to put in a position of conflict of interest, i.e., where one’s benefit or profit depends on harming or exploiting others.

    That being said, it is our business to know where the “Private Sector Contribution” received from HK donors since 2006 have been spent. It is true that UNHCR collected over 20 Million HKD in 2010 and 16 Million HKD till 19 September 2011. Yes it is well known that UNHCR has diplomatic immunity, but does that immunity extend to the right to sabotage funds donated by HK citizens? I guess what nobody expected this clash of giants (Abusive UNHCR) to become historical! Now the outcome is going to be troublesome! See you in the Public Domain – see you at a Press Conference!

  23. It is pathetic and sad! If UNHCR in-charge of these decisions had any integrity he would step down immediately!

  24. Sterling example – keep up the good work Vision First! This is what is called ADVOCACY!!

  25. thank you

    Never before has an NGO stepped up to defend and speak out so publicly in defense of us refugees. We appreciate the action you have taken. We appreciate your help, more than anything else. Vision First has made a remarkable difference in the life of hundreds of people, not only refugees, but asylum-seekers too. You are the only agency that truly treats everyone the same, no matter what their UN or CAT status is, no matter where they come from, no matter what is their religion or ethnic background. Keep up the good work Vision First!

  26. The refugee community is buzzing with delight. Vision First has joined their voice to the protest and finally the press is getting involved. There is a feeling that now refugees can speak up. We feel that we can hold our head high and tell the UNHCR to stop abusing us, to stop avoiding their duty to care for us, to stop reducing our life to begging. Perhaps with the media spotlight shining on them, they will be more careful about what they say and do. Thank you VF! You make us proud!

  27. Well done on getting the coverage into the SCMP regarding cuts in monthly allowances – I was out last night and people were actually talking about it, saying how awful that was and they were so shocked when they realized this is happening. It was about time the public were informed. Let’s hope the government will take action.

  28. Thank you for the great article. This is fantastic. It is shameful how UNHCR has cut their allowance to local refugees. How do they justify collecting many millions of dollars and dishing out peanuts to those most in need. Where does all the money go? Thank you for highlighting the issue – this is a matter of public concern.

  29. Hope Again

    Last week in Chung King Mansion refugees were down. Even the Somali were saying how bad it is and how they cannot cope without the 1500 dollars. Your action bring life back to the community. This is like having a second chance. There is a friend who step up for us and fight the UNHCR. Nobody had the courage to do what you did. We all have suffered too much their indifference and their abuse. There is new life blowing through the town. There is new hope and it is called Vision First. May all the blessings come to you – thank you.

  30. Refugee Affidavit

    The UNCHR called us for a meeting. We didn’t know what it was about. When we met they told us that they hadn’t received any donations in 2011. They asked us if we would accept to change from “1500 dollar allowance” to “food from ISS and 300 dollars.” They said “Even the 300$ a month is not confirmed, we cannot afford it” The officer Mr. Ron Lo was always talking to us rudely. He didn’t show us mercy or compassion. He wasn’t sorry about our situation or sorry about the cutting. We gave him some examples of why we need the cash to spend: the rent problem (NB: needing to top up above the 1200$), the food we need to buy, the health items and washing items (body, clothes, home) that all need cash. And RL said “I myself don’t usually use the items that you mention. I don’t need to buy soap” He was comparing himself to us and how we don’t deserve to use the basic things that we were mentioning. He made us feel ashamed that we made a request for soap to wash our body. He was so cruel. He left us stunned. We didn’t’ know what to answer. We thought that if we cannot buy the soap that Mr. RL does NOT use, then we have to find another way to clean ourselves.

    That is the way he treated us with great disrespect. He said, “The HK government doesn’t really want you to be here.” He was trying to convince us that UNHCR was doing something special to allow us to remain here with nothing. He suggested it’s better to accept the plan of Food + 300$, than get nothing. What he said is not true. HKSAR has given Recognizance Paper to more than 7000 asylum-seekers in HK. If they didn’t want recognized refugees here, they wouldn’t allow asylum-seekers to be here either. (NB: HKSAR clearly wants refugees to stay or they wouldn’t fork out 5.18M to pay for rent and food now) What was very painful for us to hear was that Mr. RL repeatedly said, “I don’t care if you accept this plan of cutting the allowance or not!”. I swear, that is exactly what he said. Mr. RL also said “We need the money to pay UNHCR salaries and because of the drop in donation, we lost some staff who had to leave already.” He said their priority was to pay the staff and he gave this as one reason to cut the 1500 dollars.

    We couldn’t believe what he was telling us. He kept repeating, “Because of the financial crisis in the world, we didn’t receive any money to support you!” and “The UNCHR doesn’t have any money.” He repeated this many time. He also said “UNHCR didn’t get donations last year, so we asked HK government to help you … and HK government doesn’t like refugees!” He wanted us to feel bad and scared. He was making sure we had no choice but to accept. We realized that somehow UNHCR needed our agreement to proceed with the allowance cut. He gave us five minutes to decide if we accept or not. We requested him to wait outside and he said, “I will not leave the room” and he stood there watching us discuss this matter. He was very angry. After these five minutes, based on poor health conditions and everything that we suffer already, because some of us cannot eat the food provided by the Pakistani shops, considering also the extra we have to pay for the extra cost, like rent, we said “We don’t accept the new plan!” It was obvious that we cannot say YES. We gave our opinion not to accept the UNHCR plan of cutting the assistance from 1500 to 300 dollars. We said we would not accept the government food. We said it was UNHCR’s job to take care of us. We clearly said NO and requested RL to go back to consult the top officer of UNHCR. We all repeated that we do not accept this new plan. At that point, Mr. RL said “It is up to you. I don’t care. You are free to leave now.” And we left assuming the plan was not going to proceed

    There were two meeting at UNHCR in November: first meeting was for Asian refugees and Somali refugee (this was the large meeting I am reporting about), second meeting was only Somali and a few African refugees. I have friends who went to the second one and know what they talked about. I know that at the second meeting, the refugees also said they did NOT accept the new plan. At the second meeting UNHCR did not offer a choice “to accept or not to accept the new plan.” They had experience from the first day and they didn’t want the refugees to discuss the offer amongst themselves. They didn’t want refugees to argue with them. At the second meeting the UNHCR presented the plan as they had unilaterally decided – reducing allowance to 300 dollars – saying that it wasn’t even confirmed. They even added, “You must accept it. We cannot do anything about it”

    [Signature withheld for fear of UNHCR retaliation]

  31. UNHCR Making Cents not Sense!

    Where is the money being re-allocated to? Perhaps people currently donating to the UNHCR should consider donating directly to organisations making a greater impact on the ground, like Vision First.

  32. I learned about Vision First from the story in the SCMP about refugee allowance cuts. I’d like to look into volunteering, I taught English to refugees in the US previously and I would be interested to do the same if needed here. I’m a corporate writer/editor so I’d be happy to help with any writing or editing you might need as well. Please let me know how to proceed and if you can use any other help.

  33. Good news for refugees. I’m not sure if they can be happy in Hong Kong, without the right to work, but at least the community now knows UNHCR Hong Kong is not helping them. It’s time for the Government of HKSAR to step into the picture with a comprehensive protection/well-fare system.

  34. ConscienceInHK

    I think it’s important to remember that since the HK government doesn’t allow refugees to work, they have little choice but to live on handouts. I’m sure all 180 would prefer a more dignified and gratifying way to stay alive if given the choice.

  35. Vision First Admin

    Vision First 是一個100%由志願者註冊的慈善團體,專為香港的難民提供最好的支援。我們通過參與社區活動,不論宗教,種族,國藉的情況下,為難民提供居所,醫療,輔導和教育等服務。我們亦努力地加強和協助難民利用社會的龐大資源,以填補在國際和公共社會制度上的差距。從社區的參與中,我們能夠支持每日在應付日常生活難題的難民,並且為他們準備未來。請遊覽

  36. 2008 / 0001

    Hi, now I am happy today reading this great news! Thank you for your continued efforts, participation, constant financial help and mindful support. Thanks a lot – God bless you.

  37. Hello sir, Thank you very much for opportunity you give our family and everything else your organisation does to assist us in HK. I have try before get more help from UNHCR but they treat me very rude. They just tell me go here, go there and treat me like a football. They are not care for refugee. Thank you.

  38. Thank you for the great work. We look forward to hearing about the next step. UNHCR is only business. Vision First is the best REFUGEE ADVOCATE in town – God bless.

  39. Thanks for making this happen. We are aiming to support Vision First more through our school and students

  40. Good afternoon. I thank you for your huge effort. please tell us if there is more action. We support VF. thank you

  41. It’s great that you finally got some coverage of this, on the front page of the SCMP, even if the article seemed to miss the point. I hope that this will indeed get the ball rolling!

  42. hello to everybody, this is a good news for the Hong Kong People and the Refugees in Hong Kong

  43. CKM group

    This is great time for refugee! Yesterday in every shop, in every restaurant in Chung King Mansion, everyone is talking about Vision First and the great action you take against the UNHCR Hong Kong. We are proud of you. We thank you. We send you all our prayers and support. VF is the best !!!

  44. civic power

    80% cut to refugee allowance is not just, it is not fair. UNHCR received so much money. We give them money to help refugee and they only give them 300$. How do people do that? They cut 1200 dollars and they say they are doing their job to protect the refugee. This world has so much evil. The rich oppress the poor and they vow to be protecting the poor. What were they thinking? This is business. They don’t help Africa. I worked in Africa and we rarely see UNHCR spend their money there. Truth is: the more money the rich get, the less they want to give away.

  45. Enough lies

    UNHCR Hong Kong is saying they receive the money and they send it to Geneva. But why do they collect money in HK? Donors in HK hear that there is UNHCR office and they believe they are taking care of refugees. Now we know that all the money is going to Geneva and some is going to Africa. But if you cannot take care of the refugees here, how can we believe that you are helping refugees in other countries? We know friends who lived 10 even 20 years in the refugee camps in Africa and they didnt see the money. They actually see people dying every day because there isn’t enough money. If UNHCR is sending 100M to 20 camps, that is only 2 billion. if their budget is 4 billion – we still have a 2 billion problem? Besides if UNHCR really sent all the money to Africa then they would have solved the problem and people shouldnt be still escaping to HK to survive. If the UNHCR had solved the problems in the camps, why are refugees escaping the camps and telling us that they get no help from UNHCR there? Hong Kong is a small place with only 180 refugees. If UNHCR cannot solve the small problem here, why should we believe they are solving the big problem in the whole African Continent?

  46. If UNHCR use the millions to resettle the HK 180 refugee, that is still OK. But we are still here. We are still suffering and the money is gone? Where did the money go? Africa? Afghanistan? Somalia? How do we know? UNHCR lied to us in the meetings. How do we know they are not lying to us again? We will never trust their lying words !!! Now we look their face and we know their heart is cheating heart.

  47. Miss Caritas

    Before UNHCR work with Caritas? Why did Caritas stop working for UNHCR? Did they know their secrets? Did they feel uncomfortable with they way UNHCR handle the donations. Maybe they see that too much money go in and too little money go out. The Bible says, “If you say I love my God, but you never see your God, but you see your brother every day and you dont know how to love your brother. How can you say you love your God” The same for UNHCR: how can they say the love the refugee in Somalia, if they fail to love the refugee suffering at their doorstep at Room 911, Yaumatei Carpark, Hong Kong ??? We are watching your actions and we dont like what we see.

  48. Fools no more

    UNHCR Hong Kong play with us. They play with our lives. I feel so bad because they lie to me. I feel so bad because they cheat and trick refugees. Even if anyone think that 1500 is enough for survival life. I challenge them, why don’t you come and survive with us? Do you want to try? One week is enough for make them to cry like babies. We come to HK to live as refugee. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a good life before. We have a good life, but we have a big problem and we need to escape. Why do they treat us like animals? Even though they can manage to take care of us simply with those millions, they simply dont care. They don’t ever think about our human life. Why did they lie to us refugees in the November and December meetings? They already know donation is greater than in 2010, but they told us “Sorry we don’t have money!” In fact they collect 50% more than 2010. How do they dare say that “We dont have money!” How can we ever trust them again? UNHCR Hong Kong officer is liar. Big liar!!! I am very very happy the news come out in public now.


    The 1500 dollars is not enough for one month. Why UNHCR Hong Kong not show us how to live on that money? If they can succeed then we are happy to accept. If they cannot survive, why make refugees suffer with 50$ a day for extra rent, extra food, cooking, kitchen thing, home thing, transport, electric, gas, phone, washing, bus, medicine and everything for school and children ??? This treatment is not human! UNHCR is torturing refugee in HK. UNHCR should close office. Thank you.

  50. This is a scandal. This is a huge scandal. UNHCR Hong Kong become rich on the good name of refugees. They collect 20,000,000 every year and they give peanuts to refugees. We need to send this to Geneva and to New York. We cannot accept that refugees are treated like this.

  51. Last year a resettlement country accepted several hundred extra refugees. When I went to tell UNHCR Hong Kong about this, their reply was “It is not necessary that you read from the website and come to this office to tell us. What you need is to wait for our call” They don’t want us to get information. They want to keep us ignorant, so that it’s easier for them to do their job. That is why last weeks they were telling us not to go to Vision First. They don’t want refugees to have power to decide what is going on. They want to keep us in the dark like chickens in an egg farm that don’t know when it is nighttime or daytime outside. We are sick of UNHCR abuse and disrespect. Thank you Vision First for giving us courage and a strong voice.

  52. NGO worker

    I am so angry. I cannot accept how UNHCR lied to refugees and lied to NGO workers about their fundraising. They told us the had no donations in 2011. Instead they collected more than ever. How can they lie to us? What are they thinking? Don’t they know that lies have short legs and don’t make it very far? Why would we trust them ever again? I have nothing but contempt for their work and their policies. What an absolute failure!

  53. Recognized Refugee

    I also am refugee for many years. Last year they give us 1500 dollars, but how much is minimum salary in Hong Kong. Over 6000! How is my level? They no compassion put me into the beggar society. Condemn me like a beggar. They say they can do that only. They say they don’t have funding. UNHCR officers are very slow, they don’t care to help refugee, they are very helpless people. Their job is very ridiculous. I call sometimes, they say “Officer busy, he call you back.” But they never call me back. It’s like a flood that wash everything good away. This kind of life is crazy life. This situation makes people crazy. UNHCR know that HK police are always targeting refugee, thinking that we do illegal things, that we are poor without any money. UNHCR know that HK people they understand refugee like beggars, no clean clothes, no job, everything old, always walking the street. UNHCR Hong Kong don’t help. UNHCR keep all the money, shut our mouths and do nothing to help our life. Hopeless only give to refugee. Suffering only give to refugee. We are very sad. We are very suffer because of UNHCR

  54. Refugee since 2006

    Thank you very much Vision First! I am refugee for six years. I was recognized in 2006 and my life went from bad to worse. I rely on UNHCR Hong Kong to protect me as they accepted me. But nothing they do for me! Nothing they do! That’s why I’m begging money from outside every day, every week, to survive my life. When I ask for help to buy clothes, shoes, find a home, they just say “Wait for resettlement!” I have been waiting for six years and I never did illegal work because I trusted United Nation something do for me. It is their job to protect me and to make better my life.
    But they don’t care anything. They don’t care about my life. They have NEVER come to visit my home. HK government help me 1200 dollars for rent, but UNHCR Hong Kong extra nothing they give me. When trouble with electric, water, gas, mobile I many times ask them for help. They say “Nothing we can do for you. We don’t have money”. Now we have proof they collected in 2011 HK$ 26,900,000. How they said to us dishonestly “We don’t have money?” They think refugee is stupid, is mad, is foolish, is uneducated beggars. That’s why they can cheat. That’s why they can hiding everything. This is the truth and now everyone know this truth.

  55. Impressive result. I serve refugees pro-bono through friends who work for related NGOs. I find them to be exceptionally sensitive, considerate and intelligent people who have suffered more than their share of the horrors of the world. Perhaps UNHCR staff should learn to walk in refugee shoes, even experienced the nightmares they suffered, before behaving in such an uncivilized and degrading manner with their protected persons. Public officers should take an Oath of Compassion before allowed work with the vulnerable. If they fail it, best send them to work at the Post Office. Shame on the UNHCR Hong Kong!

  56. What a pleasant to surprise to read about little Vision First in the paper yesterday. You are making waves and speaking up for what is unjust and need addressing by the public. Nothing goes unnoticed or unchallenged to your sharp eyes. I’m proud of you people.

  57. This is great news. Blessings and CHEERING for the great work that you are doing. I will scan SCMP article because I didn’t get the newspaper. I will use that to start my own campaign amongst friends now that Vision First is more famous and they will be more interested and supportive.

  58. barack obama of asylums seekers

    First of all, I think we urgently have to open a small donation fund at Vision First for UNHCR, to help them increase their begging, or we can say, their budget to number 3 million US dollars! Secondly, the reason behind UNHCR deduction of money from refugees is their policy of pretending that there aren’t many asylum claims in HK. They say that HK has few refugees, so they need not spend their money here. This way they can manage their office easily without headaches. The truth is the opposite. You only have to find out the REAL number of asylum-seekers (including thousands of genuine cases UNHCR rejected over the years!) and compare that to the number recognizes. How can a city of 7 million, with 250 million visitors crossing the border, the Hub of Age have only 180 refugees? That is a statistical impossibility! Then you will realize there is something wrong compared to any other international city in the world. You will discover the real issue …… so this kind of manipulation and fraud is connected to the Administrative Board of UNHCR Hong Kong ………….so our conclusion precisely is the problem regarding the $$$$$$$$$ of UNHCR Hong Kong. Who is supervising the $$$$$$$ and what’s going on inside their bureau ???

  59. just smile

    UFO nation, oh sorry, I mean UNHCR – they provide protection by throwing refugees into the street, calling the police when we protest, barring us from making complaints, threatening us if we go to the press and allowing public to watch us so they don’t hurt themselves of get hurt 🙂

  60. usamobama

    As far as piracy goes, according to a UN report there were over 700 fishing vessels in Somali waters at any one time in 2005, illegally taking out $450M worth of fish annually… majority of these companies are based in the EU and far east Asia… the “international community” turns a blind eye to that international piracy!! Over fishing, cutting the nets of Somali fishermen and the dumping of toxic wastes on the Somali coast for the last 20 years drove some of those men to pick up arms to protect their livelihoods and draw attention to their problems and NOW they want to label them “pirates”? Anyway please be informed that I run away from Somalia to find peace and protection I let the whole country in your hands UN, in return all I asked for is protection due to if I say no to you I am a tarriest I really don’t know what to do maybe I am in the wrong world. Even after you accept to be labelled as asylum seeker or refugee all you get is just a name and in silane words the UNHCR and the developed world will just ask you to die in pain without a word, I ask every free human that reads my words stop being hypocrite and hegemonic on human rights. We are all protected under the universal declaration of Human rights. It’s not only about funds here it’s about being human and respecting human life’s that is to UNHCR I know that there are a lot of good people that works in this universal Organisation yet there are people with no experience on global problems and they think everyone is an economical immigrant to become a refugee or asylum seeker is an easy task but to life for one day like one is a kill thing. For the Hong Kong Government we are did not seek asylum in a country called UNHCR we seek asylum in a country named Hong Kong, be informed that there is a great responsibility that is in your hands, and one day history will tell. Please keep in your minds government and people of Hong Kong that there is something called The Universal Declaration of Human rights and if you don’t respect it history will never respect you

  61. usamobama

    This is a very good start but it is not new to most of us we are from devastated country under war hunger and every extreme psychiatric fear and pain that a human being can face, for almost 22 years my nation have suffer what the world acknowledges it as worst humanitarian crisis in the world. I always ask myself why we are away like this for 22 years but time gave me that answer the reason we fight is due to international labelling, the reason we are hungry is due to the local farmers cannot compete with first world commerce farming if you go to collect food from the World food program only if you look like your rich person, because of international politics my people have to suffer and because the world want us to depend on aid is very clear depending on foreign aid can also have another definition donation and you know what they say beggar have no choice, yes we’re beggars today, and I have left my entire country for whom I could not defeat for 22 years I asked myself if the rest of the world is like this, after all this pain I was informed about the Universal Declaration of Human rights the best of all was #1 the right to be free from Hunger and also the right to be free # 30was the best of all NO one can take away your Human rights, but it’s very clear that the UNHCR is one more time labelling me under hanger and pain one more time with un clear further today I ask the UNHCR were is human rights and the international bill of human rights, please and please in the name of every human thing stop killing us with pain and help us after all not only the issue is the money with also looking at cases in a human way with little of professionalism in human kind i am not informing that you are not doing a good job but you are asked for more just think of who are in Hospitals for mental issues they are refugees or asylum seekers they only had the chance of losing their life’s back home but it’s a sham to humanity that they are yet under extreme psychiatric fear from the Hong Kong Government and the UNHCR. Stop killing us please you and your countries are also human and change can come let us all love a universal Human rights and respect it is never too late

  62. Is it absolutely necessary to donate to UNHCR Hong Kong in order to help refugees in Hong Kong? If the UNHCR Hong Kong is not getting it done (more like swindling donors and refugees), then let’s donate to a Hong Kong agency that will get it done. How about Vision First? There is a choice, right?

  63. I suggest a survey be conducted by NGOs to assess exactly what services are received by UNHCR applicants and refugees. The survey will knock down barriers of communications between charities, who might think that needs are met by other parties. The survey could be back by sworn affidavits by refugees who fear retaliation by UNHCR and therefore need to preserve their anonymity. I have no doubt the results will be a damning accusation of UNHCR failings despite the donations and trust they received from HK people.

  64. There is sufficient evidence UNHCR Hong Kong is conniving against the interest of the refugees they are paid to support. They must be accountable to their donors, to refugees and, above all, to HKSAR who welcome them here. It is time for them to call a PRESS CONFERENCE and offer clear explanations of their actions. They have lost all credibility before the eyes of the Hong Kong public. Thank you Sunday Morning Post and Vision First for shedding light on this suspicious activity. What is required now is an independent inquiry – thank you.

  65. UNHCR refugees

    We refugees will unite in our action with Vision First. We refuse to be subject to the forceful practices of UNHCR Hong Kong, who cut our subsidy by 80% when their collections IN OUR SUFFERING NAME are millions and millions of dollars. The UNHCR doesn’t see the difference between helping us and forcing us to suffer as beggars to every church, NGO, charity and neighbor. When we voice our complaints, they THREATEN TO CLOSE OUR CASE. This is not humanitarian work. This is a shame to the United Nations. We feel there is no hope with UNHCR Hong Kong and ask for an immediate investigation of their fundraising, salaries, expenses, management and policies. We are tired to be treated like animals. It is time for all refugees to unite and speak to the press about the true conditions we suffer in Hong Kong.Thank you Vision First for opening the door!

  66. mike fung

    There is an urgent need to address the fundraising at UNHCR Hong Kong. No agency, no matter local or international, has the right to raise millions of our savings to do what it likes with it. We need public audits of the expenditures, even if such expenses were made abroad. We have been victims of too many scandals with the Sechuan Earthquake, Haiti Earthquake and Pakistan Flooding to trust anyone’s word – UNHCR take the appropriate action or step down!

  67. I wanted to contact concerning the article I read in the SCMP about the UNHCR cutting the stipend to refugees by 80%. I had this idea and I don’t know if it is reasonable or even helpful but I thought I would pass it on. I am an older woman who now lives alone. I live in Tai Po and the place where I live has two bedrooms. Maybe I could offer that room out to someone who has no longer the ability to pay rent and has nowhere to live. I’d expect there’d be the need for us to agree on some things and maybe it wouldn’t work out as there are a number of issues to consider. Anyway, it is a thought of what I could do for one person while more general efforts to relieve this outrageous situation continue. Please let me know if this seems like something that would work out. I look forward to hearing from you on this.

  68. I read your article and the bitter comments with much interest. Who is in charge of refugee policies at UNHCR? Is it run long-distance by administrators in Switzerland who only want to count the money bags? Or do local officers have the power to demand priority is given to those suffering in the field? The 80% cut in allowance sounds stupid. Who would authorize that? It seems surreal enough to be some kind of sadistic joke. Further investigation is required as something doesn’t make sense in these circumstances.

  69. I am one of the refugees with a UNHCR certificate in their pocket. We are not asylum-seekers and we are not citizens. We are in limbo. Trapped between a past we had to escape and a future we are denied. I have no prospect of good future. I have no hope now. Without the right to work, we DEMAND support from UNHCR, but they refuse even the basics we need for survival. Why do they collect big money for other offices and not care for desperate refugees in HK? Do we need to return to the refugee camps in Africa, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan to get some help? If the answer is yes, please send me to your camp. I’m afraid that there I will be told that all the money is spent on refugees in Hong Kong. Disgrace to UNHCR who abandon us!

  70. As they say you can steal for a long period of time, but it will take only one day to catch you! I think it’s really a good time for the people of HK and government of HK to take this matter seriously. What is happening at UNHCR Hong Kong is kind of a vicious cycle … they even don’t have a good argument to defend themselves. Refugees are almost DYING they suffer so much here (one of the most expensive city in the world). How can they claim to be contributing help around the world??? … these are just lies, we need them to be audited about their financial expenses. BRAVO VISION FIRST

  71. Miss_gotcha

    Who would have said this day would ever come!? Those United Nation types always think they are better-than-thou. I used to work for one of their agencies and I had to run away to keep my soul, to keep human, I would say. They assist 10.5 million refugees, but let me guess, everywhere you go, it’s in another country hahahahaha

  72. It is terrible how refugees are forced to beg for everything they need every step of the way. How does UNHCR justify collecting 20 million dollars in donations and ignore the clients they themselves recognized in HK? Isn’t that comparable to a father refusing to support his young children? There is something very wrong with this picture.

  73. right on – and here we were thinking there was a Press Conspiracy for a news black-out on this topic! UNHCR Hong Kong have some tough nails to suck on tonight! No rest for the wicked, man!

  74. As a UNHCR donor I am deeply concerned about the information published in Sunday Morning Post today. In particular what pertains to the wellbeing of refugee families in Hong Kong, that I assumed my contributions assisted. I have met several such families through fellow parishioners and know first hand the hard life they face, in particular single mothers with several children. An inquiry is urgently required to uncover the rational behind UNHCR punshing policies towards its clients. It is unacceptable that an international humanitarian agency ignores and ridicules the suffering of those itself recognized.

  75. Zebair 72

    Congratulations Vision First for raising this matter of great public concern. The amount involved is considerable and warrants detailed clarification. While it is too early to call it a ‘Donation Scandal’, we must call on the Hight Commissioner’s office to urgently clarify both the deployment of the millions donated, and, the reason HK refugees are left to languish in misery.

  76. Gautam Singh

    there is no clear path for UNHCR Hong Kong out of these alegations, except through a global audit. There’s no point saying these millions were sent to Geneva, if they remain unaccounted for. Further, there were 1,800,000 HKD collected for the Pakistan flooding at AMC. Where these sent to the Islamabad office? The devil is in the details. We must call for a swift investigation.

  77. Truly, the sole reason my family donated to UNHCR last year was because we met refugees at our church and wanted to extend our help to them directly. The greatest insult is UNHCR claiming to be “unable to continue its material assistance for refugees for lack of funds” – what a travesty. It makes me sick to the stomach!

  78. Where's the Chinese press?

    Somebody P_L_E_A_S_E get the Chinese Press onto this party !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  79. Alesia TST

    The crucial question is: how much did UNHCR clean out of Hong Kong in 2011?
    They need to update their website and give us straight answers.
    Did the Hong Kong Buddhist Association expect all their funds to be siphoned overseas?
    Don’t think so! This is going to be interesting. VF you should get in touch with the Buddhist Association IMO

  80. I have some *helpful* friends that need to visit your website. I believe they will help you take this action to another level of concern. This is a very good start, Vision First, and I sure it was mighty difficult to get the ball rolling this far. There are powerful groups that support the UNHCR, but they are not above the law. They will learn that actions do have consequences. thank you

  81. Thanks for this … It would be great to examine the true financials of UNHCR Hong Kong and the impact their policies had on refugee families. We plan to get our own reporter on it.

  82. Facebook #345

    ahhh … a breath of fresh air … the UNHCR Hong Kong is not looking too clean today! Rough night la!

  83. Ummm I am not sure this really happened. What’s the Sunday Morning Post circulation? Probably a few hundred thousand copies. That means that hundreds of thousands of citizens now know the truth about UNHCR. That’s a reason to celebrate today. Thank you Vision First! My check is on the way 🙂

  84. Vine Church

    What an rocking article SCMP printed! I’m buzzing with excitement. Our refugee friends at church could not believe their eyes. They were like WOW this is really happening! HK people now know the facts! They suffered silently for too long, oppressed by UNHCR tight-fisted, high-handed tactics. Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord. Amen!

  85. Congratulations. Hey this is the boost your campaign needed. It was time the press caught on with your activism. Keep it up Vision First

  86. VF refugees

    We speak for a group of refugeees assisted by Vision First. We thank you from our heart for assistance and concern over the years. We thank you very much for listen to us when nobody cares what we think or need. We thank you very much for give us a voice when nobody cares about us. We know you risk to fight for us and we proud of you. Vision First give refugee hope ! Thank you !

  87. SCMP reader

    Chief Executive Donald Tsang yam-kuen was attacked for taking trips in private jets and luxury yachts, buying himself luxury homes. Other CE hopefuls have been lambasted for their excesses and secret basements. These are lifelong public servants used to the glare of the TV lights and flash photography. Who can say what happens in the secret lives of UNHCR officers, enjoyed far from media investigation and public interest? Private investigators and unscupulous paparazzi are easily hired in Hong Kong. Give it a shot Vision First!

  88. Wow – some great news to start the day. That should inspire UNHCR Hong Kong to treat their clients with more respect and dignity. Good job guys!

  89. Hold on – explain this to me! Vision First alleges that after received 40 million dollars in two years, UNHCR Hong Kong explained to refugees and NGOs: “We didn’t receive enough donations!” That is ridiculous! How am I supposed to believe that? Furthermore, today the Sunday Morning Post claims that UNHCR begged for help at government offices and secured HK$2,592,000 subsidy for food rations. That’s impossible! You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you? Why would the government help them knowing they collected 40 million? The two figures simply don’t jive, unless … unless UNHCR didn’t tell HKSAR about it’s lucky strike … oh, that would leave some people with egg on their face, wouldn’t it? Let me guess … UNHCR doesn’t report its donations to HKSAR – is that correct? Oh my … Oh my … what will they do now???

  90. Interesting read. Thank you. If the UNHCR is responsible for the welfare of HK refugees, then their actions amount to DERELICTION OF DUTY. Boosted by such lavish donations, how do they explain such a drastic cut to an already pathetic living allowance? Nobody can survive in our pricey city on 1500$ without resorting to begging or stealing. What calculations did UNHCR make to reach 300$? It would be interesting to see that spreadsheet, even assuming rent and food are covered by other channels.

    Why does this website only show the total collection until the 19 September 2011?
    Did their servers crash on 20 September 2011?
    Did their accountants resign in droves on 20 September 2011?
    Did they receive some massive donations between 20 September 2011 and 31 December 2011?
    Today is 26 February 2012 and they still haven’t had the courage to update the 2011 total? Strange … very strange! I smell a rat and I don’t like rats!

  92. Your article raises deep concerns in the community about the legitimacy and effectiveness of UNHCR presence in Hong Kong. Exactly who is doing what at UNHCR and how much are they being paid for their blatant incompetence? Who allows them to save HK$2,592,000, while collecting HK$20 million in 2010. How much did they collect in 2011?

  93. Citizen Power

    Effectively we Hong Kong citizens are supporting refugees’ rent and food. Why doesn’t the government take over refugee screening and protection, instead of limping around the UNHCR Hong Kong’s ineffectiveness? Why allow these donations to leave HK wholesale when they should first benefit local refugees? What is the Justice Department doing about this?

  94. There seems to be a grave lapse of judgement by whomever decided to increase the suffering of local refugees, who escaped grevious bodily harm, even death, to find sanctuary in our generous community. Clearly our funds are going into the wrong channel of distribution. An overhall of UNHCR Hong Kong is sorely needed!


    Thank you for going public with this story. Ignorance of these facts makes refugees, donors, supporters, charities, NGOs and the general public weak before the UNHCR’s manuverings.

  96. We need to repeat this again and again. We already know the amount of the Donations. That is not the problem. We want to know exactly how UNHCR use these donations and that can only be done by an audit. Let’s pray that government investigation start now. That’s all !!

  97. stukker-Z

    That’s awesome Cosmo! Thanks for making this happen. Now we can look forward to some changes at UNHCR and their ridiculously selfish policies. Time the refugees had their day in court, I say. Over and out!

  98. I suffer as a refugee of UNHCR Hong Kong and I oppose their work. They should close office and not abuse refugee more and more. They don’t know what our life is. They don’t care what our life is like. They are not humanitarian workers. They are salary boys!

  99. I am refugee since 2008. I am sorry to say that all this UNHCR is doing is for show. And i believe they have very deep connection secretly with Hong Kong government under the table. They only care about own benefit and can sell up any refugee to deal with them. I know that they try to help them self. What UNHCR Hong Kong say is not important. We have to look what they can do for true – absolutely nothing….

  100. After reading Vision First’s Open Letter I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the discrepancy between the UNHCR’s budget, which has totaled billions of dollars and paradoxically its reduction in the care and funds which are afforded to the most vulnerable, refugees. It seems that the UNHCR is not doing its job, and is merely an over-funded capricious institution, which lacks accountability. The fact that funds for refugees was cut by 80 percent by an agency that receives a large amount of funding does not add up. To me it seems that the UNHCR needs to answer some tough questions about why it is cutting funding, where all this money is being spent and why Hong Kong is not receiving its fair share. Although the UNHCR may point to the current economic crisis as a reason why private donors did not contribute enough, it is ludicrous as one only has to look at the fact that at least 2.1 million dollars was raised. The UNHCR needs to be more transparent with its finances and accountable to where its finances are spent.
    Even more saddening and disastrous are the cuts that the UNHCR has made to refugee aid. It seems that the UNHCR lacks any compassion and is simply unconcerned about these vulnerable people. Namely the switch of food not cash, seems to have been taken without the consultation of other NGOS and refugees who suffer from these cuts. But it is the direct effects that the UNHCR needs to think about, these refugees may be forced into prostitution, crime and may lead to suicides because they do not have the means to survive. Such a decision will directly cause the deterioration of these refugees, risking their health, mental and physical, and leading them to make desperate choices.
    Overall like most of the United Nations institutions and agencies, the UNHCR seems to be nothing more than a bureaucratic black hole which is over-funded and does little to fix things on the grassroots level. What is the point of having staff that receive high salaries when it is the poor that suffer on the street? What is the point of flashy suits and nice offices when the poor and vulnerable are forced to eat little and sell themselves or steal just to survive? The UNHCR needs to take a good hard look at its self and realize that its cuts do have REAL life consequences, these people are not statistics, they are living breathing humans. The UNHCR needs to increase its funding, consult with grassroots NGOS and also become more democratic and accountable by releasing financial information. This is unjust to those refugees in Hong Kong, the UNHCR and other ngos need to work towards peace with justice which is an elimination of structural violence, such as economic inequality. The UNHCH in its actions and lack of action is participating in structural violence, leading to the severe deterioration of this vulnerable group.

  101. You inspire us to be the best we can in service of the most vulnerable in the community – Thank you Vision !!!

  102. yes! Finally the facts are out. Those refugees had their $$$ cuts severely and they had no way to protest or have their voice head in public. Thank God for Vision First. UNHCR should go find a hole to hid in – LOL