In January 2015 a refugee from an African country appeared before the interview panel of the Removals and Assessment Section of the Immigration Department in Kowloon Bay. The refugee informed the appointed lawyer that he did not have a clear understanding of French. The interview was duly stopped and he was advised by his Immigration officer that the interview would be rescheduled to a later date.
In January 2016 the same refugee received from the Immigration Department a “Notice of Decision” on his asylum bid informing that his claim had been rejected. The Refugee Union is informed that no other interview followed the first one mentioned above.
A week doesn’t go by without the Refugee Union receiving from its members a complaints about what we see as a deeply unfair treatment. Especially in recent weeks, some refugees are up in arms against a system they feel is against them, despite the Court of Final Appeal demanding the highest degree of fairness in the asylum process. This is clearly not happening inside Immigration offices.
The Refugee Union queries: May it be that the Government is attempting to clear the backlog of claims and close a quota of claims per year at the expense of a fair and just process? What monitoring system is in place to guarantee that the highest standard of fairness is observed in the asylum process?
The USM started in March 2014. Two years later it appears to have failed to differentiate between fake and genuine refugees and thus suffers a major credibility test. Importantly, it has not lived up to the expectations of many refugees who depend on it as a matter of life and death. With a rejection rate of 99.9%, it is apparent that no progress has been made. Further, Court rulings favorable to refugees have been watered down to the extent that such judgments are null and void.
Let’s be clear, refugees were counting on the new screening system. Yet the USM has turned into a circus of the absurd. The whole process appears to be little more than a FARSE, the purpose of which is to hoodwink the international community that Hong Kong is a respectable society that respects human rights. To refugees it sounds nothing more than a marketing gimmick that fails to protect those seeking sanctuary in this slickly hostile and deceptively repressive city.
On the one hand, it appears that only the claims of refugees who possess voluminous supporting evidence have been accepted. Nonetheless, it is reasonable that persons running for their life may not possess such documents, or may not have had the time and foresight to gather them, let alone obtaining them from the government authorities persecuting them.
On the other, it appears that the Government has escalated negative views against refugees, making it not just harder for us to present our case fairly, but also to live in this city. Some political parties have taken the cue that Hong Kong has been flooded by fake refugees and have supported the Chief Executive’s suggestion that Hong Kong may withdraw from the UN Convention Against Torture. Regrettably a social media forum has gained massive support calling for the deportation of all refugees.
The refugee community is now scared to the core and lives in fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Nobody is sure of what will happen next. Whether there will be changes to current policies remains to be seen, however we note that the language in official and media documents has become increasingly anti-refugees and aimed at discredit our credibility. We set up a Google Alert with “fake refugee” in the Chinese language (假難民). On a regular basis dozens of news articles are published. The Refugee Union is greatly concerned by the impact of such negative labels and the perceptions they create in the minds of residents.
We believe the Government is hyping up emotions by exaggerating a threat that is only partly generated by the so-called “fake refugees”. With a rejection rate of 99.9% would that mean everyone? What is sure is that negative sentiment generate a climate of intolerance and xenophobia which could lead to violence by the hand of misguided locals. What is the Government’s agenda in stoking hatred?