During these past twelve months, Vision First has expanded its services, the number of people assisted, including the number of countries of origin represented, its scope, dedication and international commitment to the just cause of refugees seeking asylum in ‘safe’ countries. As part of our development, and to put refugee protection in Hong Kong in a wider regional context, in November, Vision First participated in the third Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights, organized in Bangkok by APRRN (refugeerightsasiapacific.org) This is a network of non-governmental organizations, refugee advocates and researchers concerned with the inadequacy of refugee rights and services provided to refugees in Asia-Pacific.
APRRN3 was attended 117 participants from 22 countries! The wide and diverse representation of members, who gathered in Bangkok for the 3-day conference, is in itself a sign of the increasingly common problems that regional countries face in regard to asylum. To this extent, discussions and debates focused on building regional networks and sharing best practices to ensure and enhance protection and collaboration with UN agencies involved with refugees. This is especially important in urban environments, where people seeking asylum are often left alone in precarious conditions at the margin of mainstream society. Four principal issues were recognized as regional reason of concern:
– persistent use of immigration detention as a mechanism to deter arrivals;
– lack of adequate conditions for refugees in Asia, including access to health-care and education;
– lack of gender sensitive policies and practices;
– urgent need for free legal assistance to refugees.
Toward this end, the contributions of the Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network – directed by Dr. Barbara Harrell-Bond – and the newly launched Asian Refugee Legal Aid Network were both fundamental. Vision First is grateful for the opportunity to participate and learnt from other organizations working in the field. As part of our commitment to understand regional dynamics of movement and asylum, in order to develop into a better service provider in Hong Kong, Vision First will advocate for and further contribute towards regional engagement. We will also continue to tackle inefficiencies in the present system and advocate for feasible changes in all areas of operation. Finally, in the best interest of both Hong Kong and refugees, we will contribute to widen options for durable solutions in Hong Kong and abroad. While at the moment these might just sound like New Year resolutions, Vision First remains firmly convinced of their importance and practicality, and we will tirelessly work towards their realization.