News / Asia

Hong Kong Demo Shines Spotlight on Refugee Suffering

Ivan Broadhead
In downtown Hong Kong, refugees continue a six-week protest outside the social welfare department of the semi-autonomous Chinese city.  Denied the right to work, living on food handouts and apparently housed in accommodations unfit for humans, the protest is focusing attention on the harsh conditions faced by refugees and asylum seekers in one of the world’s wealthiest cities.

About 6,000 asylum seekers live in Hong Kong, perhaps hoping one day to share in the prosperity of a city in which the World Bank calculates per capita GDP exceeds that of the United States.

Barred from seeking employment even if granted refugee status, Refugee Union leader Saeid Mohammadi says asylum seekers in Hong Kong are marginalized and destitute.

In 21 years, he says, the government has approved asylum for only 11 out of 13,000 victims of torture.  He says he has been in a stateless limbo since fleeing Afghanistan seven years ago.

“Hong Kong signed the [U.N.] torture convention.  But their policy is to keep refugees in extreme poverty, destroy them mentally so they will commit some crime.  Then the police will arrest them and reject their case because they broke the law - this is what [they] want," said Mohammadi.

Early morning commuters rush to offices in downtown skyscrapers as a pregnant Nepali refugee emerges from a tent pitched on the sidewalk.

Lama Inu, 30, and dozens of her peers occupy a protest camp outside Hong Kong’s Social Welfare Department.

Their aim is to highlight the plight of refugees forced to choose between living in poverty in Hong Kong or returning to countries where their lives may be in danger.

In a city often cited as the most expensive in the world, most refugees survive on a rental allowance of $200 a month, and three monthly food parcels from the Social Welfare Department.

Food and rent are provided under a $26 million contract won by Swiss-headquartered NGO, International Social Services.
 
The food is cheap and often rancid, the refugees allege.  And last month, a judge issued an injunction ordering International Social Services to fulfill its obligations when its staff failed to pay Inu’s rent.

“My landlord kicked me out.  I begged them: we had no home, clothes, nothing.  For four days I did not change my dress or take a shower.  The doctor admitted me to hospital because I might have a problem with my baby.  We are suffering.  But I will fight," said Inu.

While International Social Services did not comment, a Social Welfare Department statement said its contractor has been providing [refugees] with in-kind services on its behalf since 2006.

It said this was “to prevent [refugees] becoming destitute … while not creating a magnet effect” that draws more refugees to Hong Kong.  

The Social Welfare Department added that before providing rent, “ISS would also conduct spot checks and home visits to premises to assess the hygiene, home environment and safety condition [sic].”  

But traveling into the countryside with advocacy group Vision First, VOA was introduced to South Asian refugees housed in a run down pigsty.

Asylum seeker Shahzad Khan, from Pakistan, points to his mattress lying beside a feeding trough.  Electrical wires dangle under a holed roof and an open sewer runs nearby.   

“We do not need anything from them, money or food.  We just want work.  When I came here I went to work, but spent 15 months in prison [as a result].  You can see, this place is for animals.  There is no future here," said Khan.

Angered by our presence, we are set upon by the landlords of the pigsty Khan shares with 15 other refugees.

While we are forced to leave, like thousands of other asylum seekers, Khan does not know how long he will be trapped in one of the wealthiest cities on Earth.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid