Vision First reported on the Slum like a Favela, south of Yuen Long, on 6 December 2013. Here ISS-HK paid from the public purse the rent of dozens of refugees. This compound, that defied belief with its unstable cubicles erected on metal stilts and piping, manifestly disregarded any health or safety standards or concerns.
Adding insult to injury Vision First documented that the purported slum lord recently expanded the compound – to maximize profits from refugees – with additional metal stalls jutting precariously off the second level, two meters over the footpath. It was shocking to see that a crawlspace, previously used as a doghouse, had been converted into refugee bed space! There is no end to this owner’s ingenuity and greed.
Regrettably, there is yet no sign of enforcement action by the Lands Department here.
However, according to initial documents gathered by Vision First, the purported landlord’s gainful collaboration with ISS-HK started in May 2011 and continued till December 2014, when suddenly, and for reason unknown, caseworkers pulled the plug on this compound. Why?
Indicative is that nine present residents displayed leases and ISS-HK contracts stating, “I confirm my address to be at Letter box 224, 18 Shek Tong Tsuen, Au Tau, Yuen Long.” Alarmingly there are other refugees living 15 minutes down the hill with documents showing the same address and signed by the same person. It is reported that many more are on the same books.
A refugee described being visited by an ISS caseworker in December 2014, the first time in three years. The refugee tenant says he was told roughly: “The downstairs structure is not OK. Your room is dangerous. January is last money coming for your room. This is ultimatum and you must leave.”
Not without reason, the refugee rebutted that he had lived in that same room for four years, not by choice but out of necessity, as he couldn’t afford anything better. If his room was deemed suitable for human living and conformed with regulations before, why leave now?
The officer apparently replied that this was not his problem. Rather it was “ISS team problem. They report to me. They said the structure is no good. This place is not safe for you.”
Where shall this refugee go when suddenly deprived of the social relationships he built over four years in the same slum and when not provided with the necessary assistance to find proper housing? Will another similar slum welcome him and the other evicted?
Another refugee commented, “ISS is making big drama for refugees. They want us to leave these rooms and be homeless. They think that stopping the rent solves the problem, but there are no rooms we can rent for 1500$. If I go working and police catch me, I tell the judge that ISS no help me and I have to go working. Then my case-officer come to explain to the judge?”
We can’t but wonder about the reasons why ISS-HK is suddenly keen to close down slums.