VF Report: Criminal intimidation and arson in a refugee slum

Post Date: Jan 12th, 2015 | Categories: Crime, Housing, VF Report | COMMENT

The video below shows thugs threatening refugee settled in a slum in the New Territory and what appear as throwing bricks at an apparently non-compliant refugee tenant. From the video it is understood the registered owner is required by the Lands Department to purge unauthorized structures rented to refugees through the government contractor ISS-HK.

Vision First believes the government should do more to guarantee the safety and protection of refugees caught in the crossfire between slum lords and Lands Department officials. After two years of yawning reactions to our reports on unauthorized structures settling homeless refugees (who are prohibited from working) it appears that lease enforcement officers are taking action.

While the official line remains “… this office is still gathering the necessary information about this case”, Vision First has been informed from refugee sources about increased inspection and enforcement action in several slums south of Yuen Long, from where dozens of refugees were coerced to hastily resettle last week.

This is undoubtedly a welcome development supporting our opinion that refugees were settled in 69 dreadful compounds, as well as dozens of lone huts such as this one ‘around a tree’, with blatant disregard for their well-being, public safety and human rights in general.

A dire warning must be raised. Although refugees lived in slums for lack of earning power and housing alternatives, the responsibility for this crisis falls squarely on the shoulders of SWD officers who failed to effectively monitor their contractor. An officer informally disclosed to Vision First that they still haven’t visited these slums and obtain their principle information from this website.

Vision First obtained copies of documents sent by District Lands Offices to registered owners (critically not always equivalent to the purported landlords in ‘collaboration’ with ISS-HK) warning not to “erect or construct any building or structure of any description on the Lot or any part thereof without having obtained the approval … Breach of the said covenant will give the Government a right to re-enter the Lot.”

A notice ordered, “I hereby require you to remedy the said breach by demolishing and removing the Structure in all respects to my satisfaction within 28 days from the date of this letter, failing which … the Government’s right to take lease enforcement action against the structures … re-enter upon the Lot … other actions as may be deemed appropriate …”

Problematically, landlords are made aware that they risk losing more than a gainful ‘collaboration’ with ISS-HK. If the Lands Department re-enters the land, owners will be struck off lands registries thereby forfeiting use and enjoyment of properties forever.

Here is where relations deteriorate and get ugly: In the case below, which Vision First has been told is not an isolated incident, thugs were summoned for the dirty work of threating and intimidating refugees to leave in a hurry, or else …

Is it sufficient for ISS-HK case workers to urge refugees to hastily relocate without offering affordable rooms, given they have no money and no right to work? Is it acceptable for SWD to wash its hands of a crisis they failed to avert and was foreseeable two years ago? Why are vulnerable refugees exposed to criminal intimidation of the sort they might have fled in their homeland?