Aljazeera: Hong Kong’s refugee shame
April 16, 2014

Zarina Banu writes for Aljazeera on 15 April 2014

Hong Kong must update its refugee policy to match growing image as an international city

Around 6,000 refugees in Hong Kong languish in a legal nether world, which prevents them from working, studying, or even volunteering. They live in wretched conditions, in rickety shacks or subdivided accommodations. Yet, just a few kilometres away loom the glitzy, multi-billion dollar highrise properties that define the famous Hong Kong skyline.

The refugees who do make it to Hong Kong have fled torture and persecution in conflict-ridden hotspots like the Congo, Central African Republic and Afghanistan. Sometimes they escape with their children in tow. They arrive in the belief that Hong Kong will treat them with the humanity and compassion in keeping with its status as a world city.

But once here, they find themselves churned around a legal system that one refugee group, Vision First, characterises as an “official culture of rejection“. Trapped in this administrative quicksand, it can take up to a decade for individuals to exit the system as legally recognised refugees or torture victims. In the process, their sanity, hopes and futures are crushed.

Hong Kong is flush with wealth, resources and world-class infrastructure. It has embraced financial globalisation with an impressive intensity. The presence of the headquarters of around 4,000 multinational companies has helped to stamp the city as a leading commercial hub. It’s done this on the back of immigrants, rich and poor. It can amply afford to house, clothe and give employment to the smattering of refugees already here.

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Refugees arrive believing that Hong Kong will treat them with humanity and compassion in keeping with its status as a world city, writes Banu [AFP]

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