One is not enough

Post Date: Mar 22nd, 2013 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

Today we have breaking news. We are delighted to announce that a Srilankan family’s torture claim was accepted by Immigration Department this afternoon. This event is a milestone in Hong Kong asylum history: they are the first recognized claimants at First Instance, the first family with children, the first victory since May 2008 (when the courts forced an acceptance), the first time that the right to work is talked about, the first case that wasn’t bumped to UNHCR for speedy acceptance … the first crack in the dam! Today the suffering that Karan and his family endured for seven years ends. Today Vision First and the refugee community celebrate a stunning victory! We heartily congratulate Karan’s family on this unforgettable day!

However, we shall never forget the prolonged, exhausting and desperate delay they suffered since seeking asylum in 2005. At this stage, to ensure anonymity, we cannot divulge anything about their background, case and protection process. Suffice it to say that Karan is one of the staunchest VF supporters and we have fought, side by side, many battles against the injustice that plagues the city’s disorganized two-track asylum system. Over seven years this family suffered unnecessarily the pains of exile – with insufficient support and even less compassion – dislocated by the failures of double screening: UNHCR with the Refugee Convention and Immigration with the Torture Convention. The day Hong Kong breaks the chains of this bipolar disorder can’t come soon enough.

It is great news that one family has had his torture claim accepted by Immigration department … but one is not enough. Putting this into proper prospective, one family out of over 3000 rejected cases since Jan 2010 remains wholly unacceptable and unreasonable. We are yet to see any acceptance rate that approaches even one percent. Today’s result yields a tiny fraction that, rounded off, remains effectively a zero percent recognition rate, no matter how you look at it. This statistic comes nowhere near international acceptance rates as found in other developed countries. Immigration still has a mountain to climb before the refugee community believes they are really implementing an informed, fair and efficient screening system clear of the culture of rejection we witness. For this results to be meaningful, we expect to see monthly acceptances. This small victory ensures that Vision First will double its effort to see Justice prevail in our city.