The Refugee Union floated a new idea as reported by a recent post on Facebook. The SWD or ISS-HK should sign the lease agreements with landlords to house refugees. The proposal makes perfect sense because refugees:
- Are entirely and passively dependent on welfare;
- Did not determine the rent assistance of 1500$;
- Have no savings or income to handle economic transactions;
- Are prohibited from working under threat of 15-22 months jail;
- Have no bargaining power with landlords and agents.
The Hong Kong Government ensures that refugees suffer destitution with the aim of avoiding the creation of a ‘magnet effect’ that would encourage others to seek asylum in the city. As such, the authorities are responsible for their lodging, food, clothing and medical services of this group.
Given that refugees often scramble for cash to purchase necessities such as cooking gas and shoes, it is unreasonable to expect penniless people to sign a 12 to 24 month tenancy agreement for residences that, in today’s market, typically cost more than 2500$ when assisted with only 1500$.
No wonder estate agents and landlords are loath to rent properties to refugees. Property owners expect to be paid rent monthly and don’t appreciate chasing tenants for payments which might be indefinitely delayed due to lack of income. Who in his right mind would rent his property to an unemployed individual who has no savings and work rights?
By deciding that refugees should not work, the government denied the entire group participation in solving the problems relating to their livelihood. By doing so, the authorities effectively reduced them to ‘children of the state’, who can do nothing more than beg from charities and well-wishers. If that is the nature of seeking asylum in Hong Kong, then refugees are 100% dependent on the state.
There are other advantages to having caseworkers secure and sign lease agreements. First, they would experience the stress of flat hunting with a laughable 1500$ budget. Second, they would appreciate negotiations with wary agents and landlords unsure who will foot the bill. Third, they might become advocates for a better housing policy as they clash against the inadequacy of current arrangements.
It seems that refugees have had enough of the housing games and want caseworkers to handle the impossible task of renting rooms for a 1500$ budget and dealing with the complications that arise from forced cohabitation when several individuals share a tiny room. The question is how will refugees compel caseworkers to step into this minefield?