I am scarred because I don’t want to go back to prison. I was sentenced to 15 months for working to support my family, but I didn’t do anything criminal. In my mind, it was political persecution because refugees don’t have a straight road to walk. We go the wrong way because we don’t get enough assistance. We work to pay rent and buy food, but the police arrest us for “unlawful employment”.
I am a South Asian refugee mother with two daughters. Honestly I tell you, it is impossible for us to live with 3000$ rent and food coupons. Refugees need cash for many things, like going to the market and buying Pampers, clothes and school supplies. That is why we must do part-time job for our families in the day to day struggle. Also, my mother back home is sick, but I have no money to help.
In 2012, I was arrested at a fish restaurant in Tuen Mun. The police catch me and my offence is taking unlawful employment. Now I wish to unburden myself and tell the truth that the judge did not consider. The ISS assistance did not pay my full rent and utilities. I have no husband so I have to worry about my girls and everything I have to buy for them. That is why I have to do work before and now.
I tell my problems to my case officer but she cannot help. “This is the rules”, she always tells me so I know that I have to find a way by myself. If the landlord kick us outside, what will happen to my girls? My friend introduced me to a boss who paid me 400$ to wash dishes all day. There is other work for women, but it is not acceptable for me because it is very dangerous and I have children.
Why inside prison have so many refugees working? Many resident prisoners refuse to work, or have mental problems, or do drugs before. Refugees are strong and hard-working. Inside prison we work for the Government of Hong Kong, for example, washing and ironing uniforms and hospital sheets. They pay us 5$ a day and get cheap labour from thousands of men and women refugees who cannot work outside. Why does it happen like this?
Before I am outside and I work for my family. When police catch me they send me to prison. Then I am inside prison and I work for the government. But still I am working: outside it was illegal because I cannot help the government, but inside it is legal because I can help the government. Would it be fairer for Immigration to let refugees work outside to buy what we need and not do crime?
Inside prison I cannot refuse to work because the officers shout at me. I must do the jobs that they give me all the morning and afternoon, also on Sunday. So please tell me if this is fair to refugees? Outside I cannot do work, but must survive without enough assistance. Inside I must do work like a slave for the Government for 15 months without a holiday and without choice. Is this right?
I don’t want to go back to prison. The police tell me that if catch again, next time they will fine me 50,000$ and put three years in prison. Now I don’t know how I can buy something that my daughters need. Every day and night I am going mentally sick and depression. Refugees are always scared of going to prison, even if their children are born on Hong Kong land and never see their parents’ country.
Also refugees have dreams for their future. I want a safe and healthy life for my children. I want them to be happy and not suffer like this. But what can I offer them? We cannot go back to my country and Hong Kong does not let us stay. I dream of a better future when I can do something good for children, because today they suffer too much.