Just tell me how do I survive, Professor?

Post Date: Apr 29th, 2014 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

The refugee community deeply respects Professor Gordon Matthew and his longstanding dedication to this discriminated group. The dear professor posed an interesting question on the Refugee Union Facebook page, which has been passed down to us for information:

“Why is Vision First devoting so much energy to defaming other NGOs in its blogs? Wouldn’t it be better if NGOs, whatever their different philosophies, could be working together along with refugees and asylum seekers trying to create a better situation in Hong Kong?”

We take the opportunity to once again clarify our position.

Vision First and the Refugee Union are not devoting energy towards defaming other NGOs. They are devoting considerable energy towards exposing the failures of a system that clearly pivots on the perpetration of social injustice.

The status quo is very much dependent and supported by NGOs that, while allegedly working to serve refugees, do little more than legitimizing inadequate government asylum policies.

Vision First and the Refugee Union are proponents of the principle that NGOs should aim at ‘putting themselves out of business’. This concept joins two complementary strategies, 1) ensuring the government meets refugees’ needs in full, and 2) empower refugees to be their own best advocates.

We appreciate it is evidently hard for non-refugees, people who enjoy comfortable homes, wholesome meals and monthly salaries, to walk in the shoes of destitute outcast who experience a sick system. As such we strive for the day this illness will be cured and NGO workers understand their true social function.

These are not revolutionary ideas. In the new paradigm genuine NGOs (as opposed to fake ones) would not have to meet physiological needs necessary for human survival (shelter, food, clothing, medication, etc.) which are government duties, but rather assist with non-essential needs and advise.

As a quick but powerful example, we report the narratives of Haider, a Pakistani refugee who was released from police custody on 28 April 2014. Haider was arrested for kicking ISS-HK’ shutter in frustration. He will plead not guilty for the following very understandable reasons, which nonetheless often fall on deaf ears of those who hide behind a humanitarian mandate.

“I am not a criminal. I am here as a refugee for six years and Immigration has never interviewed me. I try my best. I don’t break the law. Sometimes I work, but what other way do I find money to survive?”
[He shares a 3900$ room with another refugee and ISS only pays 3000$]

“The other money how do I find? I want to ask God. For six years I must find money. I cannot pay rent. I cannot pay electricity. I don’t have clothes. ISS steal my food and give me rotten fish to eat! They give me lady Pampers! They make me an animal. They make me crazy in six years!”

“When I protest they refuse to talk to me. They lock the door. Sometimes I feel I am not human. I feel I am animal. I just need answer. How do I survive? Food not enough. Rent not enough. Sometimes I smell nice food, I want an orange, I am thirsty in the summer … Where I get 5$ to buy a bottle of water”

“I walk six years around this city, nothing to do. I just need answer. Six years what did I do wrong? Just tell me how do I survive? Not me alone, but thousands of asylum seeker living like this. I want to fight for everyone, not just for me. We all are suffering too much!”

“Everyone turn away. Everyone just close their eyes. They close their mouth and don’t want to help. They nothing see. They nothing do to help us. I want to explain to the judge why I am angry. I want to explain to all Hong Kong people what they do to refugees – they just refuse us!”

Dear professor, any citizen who has no appetite to fight social injustice turns a blind eye to government abuse and the suffering refugees endure due to shortcomings of the authorities, government contractors and those that uncritically perpetuate the system.