How ISS-HK cheats the Social Welfare Department

Post Date: May 23rd, 2014 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

Iqbal was a human rights activists in Pakistan before he fled for his life in May 2007. His torture claim is still pending seven years later as he languishes in the welfare hell that Hong Kong Government offers asylum seekers. Based on the evidence he brought with him, his case appears to be meritorious.

For seven years Iqbal suffered abuse and humiliation at the hands of his case workers at ISS-HK. The litany of complaints is as long as it is detailed, a shameful confirmation of how a failed welfare system oppresses all those unfortunate enough to be trapped in such a cruel and inhumane system.

The rent crunch is hard for all Hong Kong residents, but brutal on indigent refugees without the right to work. A resourceful person like Iqbal, with the advantage of not having a family, might raise a few hundred dollars here and there, but still struggles to make ends meet month after month.

In September 2013, a rent increase forced Iqbal to move out of a tiny room (without kitchen or toilet) at 107 Tai Nam Street. He cooked on a bench outside the front door and showered in a shared bathroom, but felt secure in this legal structure, where ISS paid 1200$ a month in rent assistance.

Unable to secure another room for 1200$, Iqbal had to rent the next best thing: an illegal structure on the rooftop of 137 Un Chau Street in Sham Shui Po. It should be noted that in 2010 ISS-HK issued guidelines to case workers not to confirm illegal structures in Kowloon, though this rule was clearly not implemented in the New Territories.

Vision First visited the illegal structure Iqbal calls home where conditions are as dangerous and unhygienic as in the slums where ISS-HK relegates refugees with no concern for their safety or the SWD tender specifications, “The Contractor shall ensure that Service Users … are provided with accommodation (including electricity, water, gas supply and other basic utilities)”

In September 2013 Iqbal signed a tenancy agreement with the landlord and submitted the documents to case worker Rhoda Despabiladeras for approval. From that moment Miss. Despabiladeras was fully aware that her client had moved out of the room on Tai Nam Street and into an illegal structure on Un Chau Street.

For reasons that must be investigated, Miss. Despabiladeras failed to update the ISS-HK records with the change of address. The old address in a LEGAL structure was retained on the Agreement on Provision of Assistance from October 2013 until today. The new address in an ILLEGAL structure was conveniently concealed from the contract that ISS-HK submits to the SWD for documentary inspections. Why?

On 17 April 2014 Iqbal raised his concerns with Miss. Despabiladeras who refused to change the address in the agreement. At this point, Iqbal remarked that he would make the change himself on his own copy as evidently ISS-HK was uninterested to reflect the truth in the official government documents.

Vision First is deeply concerned about such questionable practices that might amount to fraudulent behaviour on the part of case workers who are fully aware of agreements bearing false information. It is suspected that ISS-HK might engages in such a manner to cover-up an undesirable reality from SWD inspection.