Monday, March 17, 2014

The Plight of the Refugees

It is estimated there are 5,000 refugees in Hong Kong.  Many have been stuck in Hong Kong for years, some as many as 10.  Most of them wish to be settled somewhere else, perhaps the USA, Canada, Australia or Europe.  In order to so that, they have to convince the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that they are escaping from persecution and torture for reasons such as politics and religion.  

It is notoriously hard to do that.  According to Vision First, a group who has been helping the refugees, Hong Kong has received 12,000 torture claimants in the last 21 years, and have accepted 5.  Even after their cases are accepted, they still have to wait for a host country to accept them, and there is no guarantee that it will happen. 

In the meantime, they cannot work in Hong Kong, or even do volunteer work without pay.  For a long time, until recently, their children - even those who are born in Hong Kong - cannot attend school.  Apparently, the Hong Kong government does not want them to live too comfortably here, for fear that more will be motivated to come to Hong Kong. 

Perhaps some of them are not really refugees or escaping from torture.  Perhaps some of them did come to Hong Kong for economic reasons.  But surely we can afford to treat them a little better?  Many of the refugee claimants I know are able bodied adults. Some speak English, some speak French. It is said that Hong Kong is facing a labour shortage in some areas and some business owners are even suggesting that we should import some workers.  Is there really no way that we can accept some of them to settle in Hong Kong? Or to allow them to work for their keep?

There are several groups who are helping the refugees.  They are all small and severely short of resources.  Some of the refugees are saying that they do not trust even these groups, except the newly formed "Refugee Union".  I talked with some of them and it seems that part of the information they have at hand may be a bit shaky.  

I hope that something can be done before things get out of hand.  But I am not very optimistic given past history.  


No comments: