Refugees want to speak for themselves

Post Date: May 2nd, 2014 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

Often we are told of refugee populations suffering famine and genocide in remote countries, miles away from our peaceful and wealthy community. We are shown photos of frail children looking blankly into the distance, as their emaciated, sick bodies tear at our sense of guilt.

Successful fundraising campaigns are often structured upon an imaginary of ‘refugeeness’ that portrays vulnerability, starvation, disability and voiceless inaction. We are thus told of these people’s fatigue, mental disorder and difficulty to integrate into new surroundings.

In short, the refugee is constructed as someone to pity; someone who should be cared for and provided with assistance; someone who would find it extremely hard to survive without the efforts of NGOs raising money (or accepting government funds) for their welfare.

What we are not told is that refugees do not need this assistance. Other than in the most extreme cases, most refugees display enviable resourcefulness, courageous and determination in seeking sanctuary.

Their agency is demonstrated by the thrust that propels them across fortified borders, by enduring what is often a long and difficult journey and by overcoming dangers resulting from agencies responsible to interdict their passage.

When we hear these refugees’ narrative, these people are often depicted as undesirable individuals travelling to Hong Kong to seek illegal employment, abuse welfare or worse, to commit crime.

Vision First believes there is a disconcerting correlation between the widespread depiction of refugees in Hong Kong as economic illegal migrants and/or criminals and the work of NGOs that appeal to the inherent vulnerability of refugees to justify their existence.

There is an obvious linkage between NGOs allegedly discouraging refugees from protesting against unacceptable policies and the perpetuation of such policies that force refugees into conditions of silence and subjugation that legitimize the work of said NGOs.

There was a time when Vision First reached out to offer these NGOs a helping hand, to open their eyes to the suffering their work exasperated contrary to humanitarian beliefs. We were shunned as controversial and confrontational.

In fact, we proudly serve a community of people who are perfectly able to express themselves. We serve them by providing advice and logistics to organize a struggle against the forces that plunge them into destitution and wish to relegate them there in perpetuity.

Day after day the refugee struggle in Hong Kong is gaining more attention and legitimacy. Newcomers are instructed in resistance tactics by three-month veterans, as the movement only started in February 2014.

Vision First provides the ideological framework and connections. Refugees then dictate the line of attack against a system that aims to render them voiceless. Refugees fight against marginalization and demand social participation.

Refugees are not ghost. They seek inclusion in society. They demand to be stakeholders in decisions and policies that shape their future. The Occupy movement gave rise to a sense of self-determination which can no longer be suppressed. The genie cannot be pushed back into the bottle!

A new paradigm is born that challenges head on the old NGO structure centered on maximizing staff salary while minimizing refugee benefits. The establishment is predictably countering this new prospective with lawsuits and yet appears frantically hopeless before the collapsing damn.

Irresponsible NGOs are attempting to subjugate and control refugees exercising a fundamental right to resist a failed welfare system that only guarantees theirs and their children’s perpetual immiseration.

Negligent NGOs, when unsupported by a drive to fight for social justice, are complicit with government departments that exasperate the plight of refugees by failing to meet their most basic needs.

The Occupy movement has reached a wider audience and changed the way refugee rights are being perceived. It is not an issue of immigration control, but of upholding human rights. It is not refugees who are the problem, but how policies fail them. It is not a question of welfare, but of justice.

It is no longer a question of food and shelter, but of a democratic struggle against injustice.

Vision First strives to preserve values of universality in human rights and is proud to safeguard such rights with refugees who dared to rise, unite and fight against a corrupt system.