Refugees are not people to pity. The fact that they might have been persecuted in a way or another in their home country does not mean they have to go through it all over again in Hong Kong. The persecution might be different; no one endangers their life here, but they are victimized. They are portrayed by some refugee advocates as helpless, poor and needy people who cannot look after themselves. Some of their friends reach out to government offices to provide them with dignity, so that they won’t need to beg for human rights. While the intent is noble, the result, I believe, further exclude the people who seek asylum in Hong Kong from mainstream society. The refugees among us are not people to feed; they are people to treasure for their skills and experiences. Furthermore, the fact that some of them choose not to work illegally because they fear they would jeopardize their meager chances of being resettled in another country, in my opinion, does not say anything about the genuineness of their case. Lack of sufficient provisions to refugees in HK, their family situation (yes, even refugees have children at home, once dependent on their fathers and mothers who were forced to leave them behind), and the considerable amount of money people borrow to travel make work the only way out.
Work is also a natural condition for human beings. People do not work only for money, but to relieve themselves of their worries and re-construct their soul giving meaning to their existence. Especially for people bearing trauma due to their past circumstances, their need to move on and put closer to those tragedies seems quite apparent. Is that even possible when they are constantly reminded that their life is dependent on the goodwill of charities, churches and the government? Refugees should not be considered a burden; if valued for what they can bring to our community, they can be an invaluable asset. If they were treated inclusively, they wouldn’t need to beg and trouble good-hearten locals. Instead, they would contribute to our international society and economy; something they might have already been doing for a number of years, though informally. Giving these people their dignity is not a matter of human rights. It seems just to be a wise decision, socially and economically. It would certainly help Hong Kong grow as a global city, allowing it to secure skills and labour the city is desperately in need of.
(A concerned VF supporter)
On November 28, 2011 the South China Morning Post published these two interesting articles:
- “Loopholes mean genuine asylum seekers suffer”
- “Denied the right to work”