Vision First voices the concerns of refugees who express their disappointment with ISS service and want to press Hong Kong Government to increase social support to a level where their basis financial and material needs are met. In this respect, we will press these demands on ISS and continue to expose the unsatisfactory service in all forums, until adequate assistance is provided to refugees who have neither savings, nor the right to earn a living.
1. Refugees are provided agreements in which both parties agree on the stated level of assistance. As many refugees indeed do not agree: Why does ISS issue “Agreements” and not “Notices? Why is rental assistance ordinarily capped at 1200$? Why aren’t home deposits paid when this is a basic requirement in the local market? How are refugees expected to move out of slums without money? What has ISS done to change rent and deposit restrictions with the government?
2. ISS contracts in the slums often show addresses different from where refugees live. ISS stated “The landlords in New Territories have document proof to show approval by the Lands Department for the structures in their properties.” Further ISS said refugees approach them for assistance when they already have a room and need help with rent: How and with whom does ISS check these documents? Isn’t ISS professionally bound to verify proof of ownership (with full address, not lot number) before authorizing the disbursement of government funds? Isn’t it ISS policy to ask clients to find a place themselves before ISS visits and confirms payment? Doesn’t ISS expect refugees to secure a room and pay the first month rent before paying the second month? How does ISS explain the discrepant contract address for clients ISS visited in the same compound?
3. ISS might argue that at times landlords falsify documents in order to receive payments for lodging refugees in other places. This would be a criminal offence. Doesn’t ISS have a professional duty to safeguard the wellbeing, and legal arrangements, of clients while their asylum claims are being processed? Why does ISS aid and abet the exploitation of refugees by slum landlords? ISS stated “Our staff are in contact with the landlords, during the negotiation for the rent and mode of payment and in handling clients and landlords’ concerns.” Is ISS complicit in these suspicious transactions for expedient and cost-saving reasons? ISS stated “ISSHK assists in … equipping the place with basic cooking and sleeping furniture and equipment.” Why do refugees complain they don’t have stoves and fridges?
4. ISS stated “clients are provided a forum to individually discuss their concerns with their caseworkers.” What tangible actions has ISS taken to deal with refugees’ complaints? If ISS is a true humanitarian agency, how does it justify its execution of an unfair, unsafe and inhumane policy that causes refugees extraordinary hardship without viable survival options? Isn’t it morally objectionable to promote a cruel government policy that perpetuates and exacerbates refugee suffering? Why doesn’t ISS rescind its contract with a government that punishes asylum seekers?
TVB reports on illegal structures and dodgy rental contracts in Ping Che slums