No solution in sight for refugee housing crisis constructed by SWD

Post Date: Mar 25th, 2015 | Categories: Housing, VF Opinion, Welfare | COMMENT

“My home burned in the Tim Sum Tsuen fire. One month already I just sleep here and there. No one helps me to find a home. I really don’t know what to do. Actually there are many homes, but for $1500 where I can find one? When I try to ask ISS officer, they say only, “I will try to find room for you”. But when will they find it? Also one day a friend told me there was a home near the area of Tim Sum Tsuen. I was very happy, but it was too expensive at $4000. So I tried (to share with) two people, but ISS saying again, “You put $1000. You pay home balance yourself.” (The 2 person allowance is $3000). How I can pay? I have no work, no salary. Still I try to ask ISS, “OK you cut my food money by $500 and my friend’s too.” However again ISS officer said, “I can’t. So sorry,” and closed the phone.” (edited for clarity)

Vision First received this message from a refugee woman who lived in the slum with the rusty gate in Tim Sum Tsuen before it burned down in a blaze on 25 February 2015.

On 24 March 2015, the Refugee Union posted on Facebook rooms for 1900$, 2500$, 2700$ and 4000$, ranging from coffin-size with no window, to a one-bedroom suite. These are current market prices. Guesthouse rooms are no longer provided for homeless refugees, forcing many to share beds or sleep on the floor in the rooms of others. Contrary to what the authorities claim, very few rent subdivided rooms for 1500$ and such old contracts are probably coming to an end. What alternatives are there for refugees?

A new arrival slept on the sofa at Vision First for several months, “I want to get my own place, but the cheapest room is 1900$. How can I pay the 400$ difference every month? Will the government increase the rent allowance?” As a computer engineer he could get a job, but he is afraid of being arrested and being incarcerated for 15 months.

A couple from Sudan wrestled with the exorbitant prices of the cheapest flats for months, “ISS will only pay 3000$ and the smallest place we found was 3800$. I can get a medical certificate to raise my allowance to 2000$, but what about other refugees? Do they have to be sick to get more?”

Since refugees are destitute, the suggestion made by the Refugee Union to the Social Welfare Department is worth exploring: “We request the government, through its appointed officers in SWD, find suitable living locations for refugees and take part in the signing of rental agreements, creating a relationship between SWD and the landlord to ensure safe and practical living conditions are met.” Alternatively, Vision First advanced the proposal of a concerned volunteer who introduced the case for cheap temporary housing – “Refugee-led Settlements Project

The plight of the disposed tarnishes the reputation of Hong Kong that hoards a surplus of US$ 8.2 billion while its most vulnerable citizens suffer. From cage people to struggling elderly and street-sleepers, the administration has little compassion for the downtrodden. It’s a bleak existence for those eking out a living at the bottom of society and, without work rights, refugees are the hardest hit. A genuine humanitarian consideration is regrettably lacking.

No solution in sight for SWD’s constructed refugee housing crisis