Three months after the Occupation action against ISS-HK started, the stand-off continues. The Refugee Union consolidated its protest camp on the footbridge outside the IFC mall to maximize exposure and avoid the worst of the rainy season. Five comfortable sofas offer space for talks and presentations.
The protest started on 11 February 2014, when refugees demanded a halt to food manipulation, which detracted one-third of rations’ value, and the publication of the contract between the Social Welfare Department and ISS-HK. Neither objective has been achieved yet.
Evidence is mounting against a food distribution system that fails to deliver to 5700 hungry individuals the 1200$ stipulated by the SWD in the Provision of Assistance for Asylum Seekers and Torture Claimants, enhanced on 24 January 2014.
In a city as costly as Hong Kong, 40$ hardly provides sufficient food for three meals a day. When reduced to 25$ and exacerbated by sub-standard quality, expired dates, rotting food and faeces contamination, the ensuing hardship is intolerable for those banned from working.
Anyone who disagrees with this statement is invited to live off ISS-HK rations for 10 days.
Reliable sources informed Vision First that 80% of refugees sell their food as soon as collected to crafty middlemen who consolidate it in illegal, unrefrigerated storerooms prior to reselling it to residents, restaurants and, it is rumoured, back to the ISS-HK appointed shops.
The ripple effect caused the halving of prices in ethnic groceries stores of competing items.
The Hong Kong Government should be concerned about the annual loss of over 50,000,000 HKD this farcical, failed food distribution system causes the government purse. The hemorrhaging of tax-dollars could be instantly halted by giving 1200$ cash directly to refugees.
Vision First submitted evidence of this financial damage to the relevant authorities.
The Refugee Union’s Occupation was trigged by discontent with food manipulation and the questionable practices that supported it for many years. A broader scope was later adopted to also expose the slums and petition the SWD to terminate its agreement with ISS-HK.
To achieve these goals, protesters file complaints daily at the SWD head office, where social workers appear to be sympathetic with the refugee cause and mightily annoyed with the incompetence of ISS-HK case workers. The Union anticipates that SWD will not renew its contract with ISS-HK this August.
The fact that the SWD earnestly handles complainants without deploying security, unlike ISS-HK and other non-profits, gained trust that contributed to the Union shifting the protest camp to Central. Ultimately the SWD will be part of the solution, while ISS-HK will not.
In a short three months the Refugee Union established itself as an effective pressure group to lodge complaints with the Social Welfare Department and even write to the Security Bureau urging change.
Never before did refugees in Hong Kong emerged with a Union that can stand on its own feet before forces that encourage either voluntary departure, or compliant submission to unbearable treatment.
As days roll into months and the Refugee Union grows in experience and consolidates its presence, anyone supporting the social injustice of the past has reason to be concerned about their future.