On 28 January 2014 Vision First wrote to the Security Bureau urging Hong Kong Government to provide full assistance for kindergarten children because refugees cannot work or engage in other income generating activities. We questioned the paradoxical situation in which the authorities oddly waved school fees without providing transportation for children and accompanying parents.
The orthodox NGO approach was fundraising to fill this welfare gaps, year after year pleading for donors to have pity on and support little boys and girls missing out on an early education for lack money. The Vision First approach instead was to press the authorities to live up to obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“UNCRC”), thereby ensuring that all children went to school, not just a few lucky ones favoured by NGO workers.
It is noteworthy that such solutions take considerably more time and effort than passing round hats, but the outcome is significantly more satisfactory when a level playing field is establish that stops disadvantaging families with weaker NGO ties, Muslims who do not attend church and parents whose dignity is affected by begging. Refugees should not have to humiliate themselves to receive what they are entitled to.
Despite its abundant wealth, Hong Kong Government has shown not just a flagrant disregard for the plight of refugees, but a complete disrespect for domestic and international law by avoiding its constitutional obligations. Vision First reiterates that as long as refugees are legally banned from working, the government has the duty to meet this population’s basic needs – including kindergarten education.
There is good news for distressed refugee families at last. Refugee Union parents report that ISS-HK started to refund transportation for children and accompany parents, not only for last month, but from February 2014 when the Security Bureau copied this letter to the Secretary for Education, the Director of Social Welfare and the Controller of the Student Financial Assistance Agency.
Vision First strongly encourages parents to request full refunds from ISS-HK and not be discouraged by unjustified excuses that such assistance is provided on a “case by case basis”. Refugees are becoming increasingly aware that if all refugees are banned from working, then all refugees qualify for full government assistance that must not make a beggar of anyone!
Refugees are reminded of these steps to achieve welfare goals and break NGO dependency:
- Write politely to ISS-HK case workers demanding assistance (this relates to all basic need);
- Write firmly to ISS-HK supervisors and managers, making copies of letters;
- Complain in person at the SWD Head-office at 8/F, 213 Queen’s Road East, Wanchai;
- Request advice and support from the Refugee Union at firstname.lastname@example.org.