SCMP – Refugees in Hong Kong struggle to buy supplies as panic buying over lockdown rumours sweeps food off shelves
We are the Refugee Union, Hong Kong’s only refugee-led society. There are currently more than 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the city. Not everyone is a member of our society but on this demand for change we probably speak for the majority.
In January 2014 Hong Kong Government introduced “food cards” valued at HK$1200 a month for refugees to purchase groceries at Park’n’Shop supermarkets. Refugees protested that prices were cheaper at other stores and especially at local wet markets. For the past eight years the policy has not changed, nor has the cards’ value increased with inflation. Regrettably our demands for change consistently fall on deaf ears.
The current pandemic made matters worse. Residents are stocking up on groceries ahead of the universal Covid-19 testing scheduled for the coming weeks. The mass testing will likely involve a week-long citywide lockdown which already caused panic buying across Hong Kong. Shelves in many supermarkets and stores have been stripped bare, especially at Park’n’Shop.
Panic buying is hurting refugees most because we don’t have family, social or community networks to help us when government assistance fails. Forcing refugees to use “food cards” only at one supermarket group greatly limits our opportunities to purchase groceries and maximizes food insecurity and hunger in our families. It doesn’t have to be this way.
It is laughable to suggest that refugees should not receive cash because we will buy beer and cigarettes … that is simply not the rational behaviour of hungry human beings. It is unreasonable to distrust refugees from managing HK$40 a day to buy the groceries we need at the cheapest prices we can find in the neighbourhood.
We respectfully demand that Hong Kong Government recognize the physical and psychological harm caused to vulnerable refugee families and urgently replace the “food cards” with stored-value Octopus cards accepted by all groceries shops and at some stalls in wet markets.
Hong Kong’s empty supermarket shelves scream against the economic injustice represented by these “food cards”. Please support our demand for change. Thank you.
We would be grateful if you could share this petition with family, friends and on social media as word of mouth is the best way to raise awareness and advocate for change.
CLICK TO SIGN OUR PETITION: https://chng.it/2QZz2N9cxL
The recent panic buying at supermarkets is especially problematic for refugees because we can only buy groceries at Park’n’Shop. Our government-issued food cards provide HK$ 1,200 a month ($40 a day) in electronic allowance that cannot be spent in any supermarket, wet market or grocery shop other than those in the Park’n’Shop group. So what are we supposed to do when we find no bread, rice, noodles, vegetables and fruits there?
The limitations of this inflexible policy are particularly glaring under the challenging conditions of this pandemic lockdown. A member from Yuen Long posted on our group chat, “So sad. No food to buy. Where will we use our foodcard?” A member from Kowloon added, “Sham Shui Po Parknshop is the same thing! No juice. No vegetable. No egg. No have any fruit also … oranges, grapes … anything I cannot find tonight!” Another member complained, “Mine is empty too. My case officer doesn’t even reply how to use the foodcard in quarantine. All Parknshop is empty. So Sad 😟”
In these difficult times we are deeply thankful for the generous support of donors who not only provide essential groceries, but also donate cash that allows us to purchase food wherever we can find it. It is tough enough to live in Hong Kong with empty wallets in normal times, but this pandemic has taken our suffering to another level. Frankly, without the support of residents, our families would be going hungry. The government is closed for us.
If possible, please donate to our crowdfunding program which helps us fight hunger. Currently online orders are backed up for weeks, so cash donations are the most direct and practical ways to help us today. We can then purchase what we need at wet markets and local grocery stores where supplies are still available.
Please spread the word with friends and on social media as the best way to raise awareness about our plight.
To support with cash please visit our crowdfunding program here: https://bit.ly/3qYFq5u
Dear Members, Donors, and Volunteers,
This month has been a challenging one to us and to other people in Hong Kong. The city is again put under lockdown following the fifth wave of outbreak of coronavirus disease. We are thankful to people like you who, despite all difficulties, still think about us and lend us a hand. This roundup presents you an update about our centre throughout the month.
We are the Refugee Union. Our organisation was founded in 2014 and is the first refugee-led organisation in Hong Kong. Our centre is currently based in Sheung Wan. We share the vision to safeguard refugee rights and have been collaborating with our community partners to improve the status quo of asylum seekers and refugees stranded in Hong Kong.
Urgent call for assistance
Activities at our centre were halted in view of the worsening and worrying pandemic situation. The lockdown does not hurt only local businesses but also us asylum seekers and refugees, putting us in a more vulnerable situation.
Government offices, churches, and many supporting organisations are now closed, meaning that we have nowhere to seek help. Prices go skyrocketing as people scramble for necessities under panic. For us asylum seekers and refugees, we can barely survive with very limited vital resources.
We sincerely seek your help to donate us the following items:
Cash donations are also welcome. We have a crowdfunding campaign here. Thank you to our friends at GIVE.Asia in Singapore for launching this crowdfunding campaign for us.
We would also like to thank media professionals at Hong Kong Free Press (read here) and South China Morning Post (read here) for featuring us and raising awareness about refugee issues during the pandemic.
Giving is a blessing
Asylum seekers in Hong Kong are prohibited from working and are solely reliant on a limited stipend of some HK$3,000 (US$385) and few necessities, to survive. Essentials such as baby’s items and toiletries are not (adequately) provided. Despite activities being halted, members are in need of necessities.
While we are calling for urgent assistance, this month we have received donations of wide-ranging items. We would like to take this chance to express our heartfelt gratitude to all generous Donors for lending us a hand. Your support means a lot to us. As always, we promise to deliver all donations we received to our members who are in need.
Please stay tuned to our official website and social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for the most updated information. You are also welcome to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting our centre during office hours (Mon to Sat, 10:00-18:00). *Office hours may be adjusted, kindly contact us in advance.
Thank you for your support of our initiative. We are refugees helping refugees.