|A shadow population in Hong Kong|
|Written by Marie Beatrice Gauthiez|
|Wednesday, 09 May 2007|
Without a doubt, they are here. They arrived one day, sometimes without any luggage, from their native country… India, Sri Lanka, Congo, Somalia, any place in the world where lives of people are jeopardized by authoritarian governments. They are asylum seekers.
Refugees' regulation in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has been a land of immigration for a long time. People from the mainland and then from the United Kingdom arrived and settled there. Thanks to these people from different horizons, Hong Kong grew as a prosperous city.
However nowadays, immigrants that arrive at the Hong Kong doors, are more than unwelcome: they are ignored. According to a Hong-Kong United Nations Refugee Agency report, at the end of April 2006, there were 1473 asylum seekers in HK waiting for a decision and 113 refugees waiting for resettlement in another country. 24, 7% of them were women and 23,9% were children, 90% of them are said to come from Asia (China, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Nepal). The United Nation High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) receives between 150 and 160 applications a month.
The Hong Kong Government tries to keep its eyes closed and even refuse to draft a refugees law. Hong Kong is not signatory of the 1951 Geneva Convention while China is. Therefore, they have any legal laws to respect. They are not obliged to give a status to the refugees, nor any kind of help actually.
Only the Hong Kong UNHCR is dealing with the refugees. They grant approvals to the refugees that allow them to get the refugee status. Some non- governmental organizations such as Christian Action help the refugees in their everyday lives and help them to prepare their case for the UNHCR interview. It takes months, sometimes years.
During this long period of waiting, doubts and pains, refugees are not allowed to work, they have little money, they miss home and most of the time have no news of their relatives.
Why is the Hong Kong government so reluctant to deal with the refugees issue?
Even if Hong Kong has not adopted the Refugee Convention, this does not completely absolve her of obligations in international humanitarian relief. Indeed, Hong Kong is obliged under customary international law (CIL) to safeguard the rights of refugees.
The principle of non-refoulement is generally taken to include non-refusal at the borders and a responsibility to provide temporary asylum. When attacked on this non respect of the international law, the Hong Kong government invokes the fact that Hong Kong is such a small place that welcome people is not possible.
The government is afraid of potential economic refugees, that come here in order to work, or even illicit intentons. Hiis doubts on the real motivations of the refugees are based on the fact that only 10% to 15% are declared as genuine refugees at the end. The really busy UNHCR also tries to get rid of some cases in waiting until the situation in the refugees' country of origin gets better to send the refugees back.
It may have been chilled by the vietnamese boat people experience. Flows of Vietnamese seek asylum in Hong Kong. Back then, the government lend money to the UNHCR to take care of these refugees. The UNHCR debt appraoches the HKD1.16 billion. Since they are still not able to pay the government back, the government tends to held its reluctant position.
Here is a video from a speech that Mark Daly, a human right lawyer, gave at the opening of the exhibition “A sense of Asylum”. He describes some aspects of the legal issue of refugees. He is fighting to push the Hong Kong government to recognize some rights to the refugees and provide them with more basic help.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 09 May 2007 )|
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