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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs