To celebrate the launch of Vision First’s revamped website we take a step back to take a broader look at the challenges we face together with the refugees we strive to support and defend.
Ancient cartographers were accustomed to drawing dragons and mythical monsters on uncharted regions of maps where exploration stopped or from which adventurers failed to return. Some maps warned unambiguously that in those inhospitable places “Here Be Dragons”.
Dragons play a traditional role in local culture and Kowloon (九龍) literally means “Nine Dragons” in reference to the green hills in which the creatures were thought to live, though for refugees the name might present to the mind the “Nine Dragons” that threaten their existence –
First Dragon – the appalling 0.15% acceptance rate that since 1992 recognized just 20 claimants, including their children born in Hong Kong, out of more than 14,000 asylum seekers
Second Dragon – the prolonged wait for decisions by the Immigration Department generated by the failure to establish a comprehensive asylum mechanism prior to USM (launch 3 March 2014)
Third Dragon – the draconian policies that prohibit any form of employment, paid or unpaid, depriving refugees of opportunities to lead dignified lives while they sit idle for years
Fourth Dragon – the lengthy imprisonment that punishes refugees arrested for work with 15 to 22 months jail for first offenders and a maximum 36 months and 50,000$ fine
Fifth Dragon – the shortcomings of legal representation that fails to robustly counter the generally accepted 99.85% rejection rate raising doubts about the credibility of the process
Sixth Dragon – the grim living conditions ranging from months of homelessness to years of forced residence in squalid shacks and miserable huts that shock the conscience
Seventh Dragon – the substandard food allowance distributed through a widely criticizes supply-chain that seems to pilfer one-third of allocated value from hungry refugees
Eight Dragon – the agonizing medical services that frequently offer Panadol pills as the universal remedy for all ailments and reduce refugee patients to a bothersome inconvenience
Ninth Dragon – the creeping despair that diminishes most refugees who seek asylum in a city where international protection remains a vague promise rarely gained in reality
Vision First believes in pushing the boundaries to discover precisely what dragons hide in the hills of Kowloon, so that the dangers they represent may be vigorously confronted and eventually neutralized to progress the legal and human rights of all refugees.
We do not accept an ineffective, oppressive asylum regime as inevitable and unavoidable, but rather empower refugees to resist these dangers and become themselves agents of change. It is in this spirit that we engage the refugee community and strive for meaningful change.
We are reminded that only through pushing the barriers do we learn the precise contour, strength and weakness of a system that fetters the rights and liberties of many disenfranchised social groups in Hong Kong, refugees included.