On 13 September 2013, Vision First reported on the Slum on the Hilltop where ISS-HK paid rent for many refugees at least since 2010, according to the oldest resident interviewed. We were informed that other refugees had lived at this location earlier, under the auspices of ISS-HK, before moving elsewhere.
At this slum Vision First collected copies of numerous Agreements on Provision of Assistance, issued by ISS-HK and duly signed by caseworkers, confirming that the refugees in question were said to officially reside at the following addresses. We cannot but query if any of them is indeed accurate:
- 6/F, House 18, Chuck San Tsuen, Yuen Long
- 89 Shek Tong Tsuen, Yuen Long
- 18 Chuk San Tsuen, Yuen Long
- DD116, Lot 1896, 1892 39 Chuk San Tsuen, Yuen Long
- 2788 Kong Tau Tsuen, Yuen Long
- G/F, House 18, Chuck San Tsuen, Yuen Long
- DD116, 1732 Chuck San Tsuen, Yuen Long
On the most part, the refugees we interviewed were visited by ISS-HK caseworkers in 2013 at the Slum on the Hilltop that was approved as a suitable residential location. It may be assumed that the purported landlord provided ISS-HK with adequate documentation for rent assistance (1200$ a month in 2013) to be approved for each refugee. This arrangement continued into 2014.
Vision First emphatically condemned this illegal structure as unsuitable for human habitation, an opinion that obviously we are not alone to share.
Fifteen months later, in December 2014, a Notice by the District Lands Office, dated 29 August 2014 informed refugees that structures had been erected at that location without approval, in breach of the conditions in the Government lease. The registered owner was required to purge the breach by demolishing or removing the unauthorized structures. Further lease enforcement action was threatened.
Vision First has learnt that following the above notice, ISS-HK caseworkers have allegedly: a) discouraged new refugee from settling in this slum; b) encouraged refugee tenants to find suitable homes and promptly move out; c) refused to approve the renewal of tenancy agreements at this location.
When the last tenants move out in a few months, the Slum on the Hilltop will be history, but questions of public concern remain
- Did the register owner inform ISS-HK that the metal containers and wooden boxes employed to house refugees were unauthorized structures unfit for human residence?
- Did ISS-HK caseworkers conduct due diligence to protect the safety and health of refugees before approving their settlement in this dangerous and unhygienic compound?
- What proof of ownership did the slum lord provide ISS-HK to facilitate rental payments from the public purse and crucially were said documents furnished to the SWD monitors?
- What measures is ISS-HK taking to relocate refugees suddenly forced out of slums, given that the current 1500$ rent allowance is wholly insufficient to secure a basic, legal room?