The Refugee Union showed big support for Madam Lama in her fight for justice against ISS-HK and SWD in breach of their duties. The Union pushed back against an oppressive and abusive welfare system that fails to meet their most basic needs and leaves them destitute.
Madam Lama was represented pro bono by barristers Robert Tibbo and Mark Sutherland. Mr. Tibbo reminded the court that it is the government responsibility to meet asylum seekers and refugees’ material needs as they are prohibited from working.
Concerns were raised that without the injunction being extended, ISS-HK and SWD would fall back towards the dereliction of duty and egregious behaviour that made Madam Lama and family homeless twice in ten days. ISS-HK has lost all credibility with the refugee community.
These are issues of security of the individual, of both physical and psychological integrity, as refugees are marginalized and discriminated against as a clearly defined social group based on immigration status. As such Hong Kong government violates their rights to security.
Madam Lama and family required certainty that they will not be mistreated, mishandled and end up back on the street. It was noted that ISS-HK and SWD were in breach of fiduciary duties towards this vulnerable family.
Drawing attention to Madam Lama’s affirmation, Mr. Sutherland pointed out the absence of harmonious, uninterrupted welfare over three years of assistance that portrayed troubling gaps in services.
For years Madam Lama had to beg from friends and church to fill gaps that are the government responsibility, which was totally disgraceful. Welfare was sporadic and humiliating. It degraded this family by offering partial assistance, but not enough to switch the lights on.
The court attention was drawn to the government’s failure to meet refugees’ basic needs, an undesirable situation that left people desperately stuck in a corner without options, sufficient assistance or the right to work. Mr. Sutherland concluded, “We are here to seek proper justice in Hong Kong where the rule of law prevails.”
The Honorable Mister Justice Au was not persuaded that the injunction should continue and dismissed the summons trusting that ISS-HK would suitably house Madam Lama and family. It is understood that arrangements have been made for the family to view a two-bedroom flat on Monday.
The Refugee Union filed this High Court writ to warn ISS-HK to conscientiously perform their duty towards their members who will no longer passively submit to abuse and humiliation.
ISS-HK case workers are not likely to forget the lessons learnt from “Occupy ISS” and the High Court injunction. ISS-HK has been put on notice that refugees will strike hard when mistreated and have nothing to lose in the struggle for justice.
The emergency injunction phase of this court action is over. ISS-HK will certainly be more proactive in housing homeless refugees and ensuring that rent is fully paid for the most vulnerable. The case for damages now begins and ISS-HK staff will be made accountable for years of abuse.
The Refugee Union has emerging as a credible force to safeguard rights and interests.