Refugees are the most resilient people: their very determination to survive against all adversity is testament to their tenacity and endurance. When stranded in Hong Kong, our beneficiaries’ most painful realization is they are POWERLESS to do anything to better their life, besides sitting and waiting, begging and praying. The consequence of stranding so many helpless and impoverished people on the street is depressing for an affluent, progressive, open-minded society. Because refugees lived productive and active lives in their countries, with jobs, careers and good prospects, they now find perpetual idleness exceedingly disheartening. We are often told that “lack of work” is the one most painful reality they can never get used to, compared to their previous life, in a metropolis famous for its workaholic mentality. There really is only so much time anyone can sit on a park bench without going crazy! Yesterday’s court order has made their waiting even harder, their future even more impenetrable. By denying refugees the opportunity to support themselves, the HKSAR is condemning them to poverty and exposing them to the social ills stemming from such a coerced existence.
The Court of First Instance ruled that the Director of Immigration has the right to decide on a case-by-case basic if refugees can work and we all know the answer is always negative. This verdict is most traumatic for refugees without resettlement options, condemned to remain stateless in Hong Kong, with their families and young children needy of everything. Yesterday we delivered 50 nappies to a mother who gave birth before Christmas. She was at her wits ends to solve her infant’s pressing requirements. She whispered in despair “What can I do? Do I have to steal food and nappies for my baby? I can’t just sit here in the cold and do nothing while my baby gets sick. What will the police say when I explain that I had no other choice?” Fortunately we were there, but there are a hundred more moms beyond our reach. Let’s be clear, the court didn’t deliberate on the 6600 asylum seekers, but only for the 105 Mandate Refugees, recognized as deserving international protection, who would hardly put a dent in the local work force, if ever they got a job. Today they learn that a two year court battle was lost and an appeal is as remote as unlikely. The judge spoke about not giving a ‘ray of hope’ to illegal immigrants, but he’s confusing his apples and oranges: illegal immigrants are here by choice and have an option to return home – refugees arrived by duress and have nowhere else to go. In our opinion, political and economic concerns trumped humanitarian decency and for Hong Kong refugees the descent into grief accelerates.
South China Morning Post – “Refugees denied right to work” by Chris Ip, Jan 07, 2011