SWD officer said “I don’t care. You wait for ISS.”

Post Date: Aug 25th, 2014 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

My name is Odilon and I fled violence in my country to save my life in Hong Kong, where I am currently an asylum seeker. I arrived in early June 2014 hoping to find international protection as well as physical and psychological security. I didn’t expect to suffer great hardship without food or shelter for many weeks. I have to beg for assistance from penniless refugees to survive day by day. That’s very hard.

I don’t think it is right that Immigration Department delayed the issuance of my papers for several weeks after I surrendered as that caused me more suffering. In late July after I was issued with an Immigration recognizance form, I approached the Social Welfare Department in Yau Ma Tei, as I had no money, no food and no shelter. A refugee friend guided me there to get help.

The SWD officer photocopied my Immigration paper and said, “You must wait for maybe two months or three months.” I couldn’t believe what she said and I had no idea how to survive for three months because I am not allowed to work. I complained, “But now I don’t have place to sleep, I don’t have food. So what can I do?” She replied, “I cannot help you now. You must wait for ISS and ISS can help you.”

I told the officer that I had no money for food, but she said “I don’t care. You wait for ISS.”

I returned to SWD Yau Ma Tei twice the following weeks. I told the officer, “Now I am sick I need to go to hospital.” The officer replied that he could arranged the hospital. I told him that I was sick because I was sleeping outside and needed a place to sleep and food to eat. The officer replied that they can help with the hospital, but they cannot provide food or shelter. I was told again to wait for two or three months for assistance from ISS.

For the first time in early August I went to ISS Mongkok as many refugees I knew were assisted by them. The security guard allowed me inside even though I had no appointment. A staff took a photocopy of my Immigration form and asked me to wait. I noticed that many refugees went to that office to meet case workers and get rent and food assistance. I was hopeful that somebody would finally help me!

Later I spoke to a male case worker whose name I do not recall but with phone number 23924726. He said, “If you need emergency food, call me and I will give you.” I asked him, “If you give me emergency food, where can I eat, where can I sleep?” He replied, “Now I cannot help you. Maybe next month I can give you guesthouse.” I lamented, “I cannot wait till next month. I need help today.” He replied, “Now I cannot help you, maybe next month.” He did not give me an appointment or any further advice.

I never imagined seeking refuge in a developed and prosperous city and being made a beggar. Everywhere I go I am told they cannot help me. Everyone says that I must wait a few months. Now it has been three months and I am still sleeping in the streets. Sometimes I spend the night in Kowloon Park, other times at the Star Ferry. When I am lucky a refugee offers to share his bed, but that is only if it is raining and he has pity on me. Hong Kong is very cruel to refugees.