Asylum seekers protest food shortages after change in collection service

Post Date: Sep 26th, 2013 | Categories: Advocacy, Media | COMMENT

Danny Lee writes for South China Morning Post on 25 September 2013

A fresh protest outside the offices of a government contractor dealing with the welfare of asylum seekers has passed off peacefully. More than 50 asylum seekers joined rights group Vision First to complain about a new distribution policy they say is leaving them hungry.

International Social Service Hong Kong (ISS-HK) recently increased the number of times asylum seekers can collect food from the service, from three to six times a month. But users of the service say they are not receiving any more food than they were before the increase.

One asylum seeker, who wished to be identified only as Jenat, said yesterday she could not manage to feed herself or her three children. “It’s punishing,” she said. “We can’t eat all the time, sometimes only once a day because we don’t have enough.” “Most of the service users are satisfied with this change,” said ISS-HK in response to the protest. “There are individuals who … consider it troublesome to collect their food six times a month.”

The contractor will address “legitimate” concerns, it said. “This new policy oppresses refugees through the manipulation of food supplies,” said Cosmo Beatson, executive director of Vision First. “The alteration [in collection times] masks a reduction in groceries supplied.” A previous demonstration ended in scuffles with police as protesters attempted to storm ISS-HK’s office.

Asylum seekers plan to go on hunger strike next month outside Legco offices ahead of the expected announcement by the government of sweeping changes to welfare provision.

Asylum seekers clashed with police in August after the International Social Service Hong Kong Branch refused to meet them. Photo: Felix Wong