Project: Refugee Connect

Dec 22nd, 2020 | Refugee Community, RU updates, programs, events | Comment

Refugee Connect is a student project led by Sophia Zhang at ESF Sha Tin College. Our mission is to empower refugees and asylum seekers, particularly women. We aim to help them connect with families, society and most importantly, themselves. By law, refugees cannot work – therefore, they rely on the meagre government aid of $3200 a month to survive. This not only prevents them from accessing many essential resources in Hong Kong, but it also strips away an important aspect of their humanity – dignity. 
To alleviate this, Refugee Connect launched Project Link by Link (in partnership with the Refugee Union), a jewellery and crafts workshop for refugee women to help channel their creativity and regain their dignity with something they made with their own two hands. After a series of workshops, the end products are the handmade accessories, crafted with love and laughter, displayed in the order form below:
By purchasing these handmade products, you are supporting these refugee women and making a positive change in their lives. All proceeds will be donated back to our refugee participants to help them buy mobile data cards and other essentials, something that they often do not have access to due to lack of disposable income. This will help them stay ‘connected’ with their families back in their home countries, as well as with Hong Kong society in general. 
Please visit our website:
You can also donate to our cause here:
Follow us on Instagram @refugeeconnecthk
Thank you for your support!
Refugee Conect 1
Refugee Connect 2

Changes to Hong Kong immigration law could re-victimise those fleeing torture and persecution

Dec 16th, 2020 | Advocacy, Immigration, Media | Comment

SCMP - Changes to Immigration ordinance - 16Dec2020

November Roundup

Nov 29th, 2020 | Advocacy | Comment

Refugee Union was founded in 2014 with the vision to safeguard the rights and protection of the asylum seekers and refugees stranded in Hong Kong. Since day one, we have been working closely with our partners in the community and organising diversified programmes to improve the well-being of our members.

Fundraising Platform Launches

This month we are thrilled to announce that we have launched our fundraising platform on SimplyGiving. It also marked the beginning of our #beahero fundraising campaign. The fund raised will be spent on supporting the daily operation of our centre and serving our members. Don’t be a bystander, let us be a hero!

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Happenings in Our Centre

On 13 November, we were glad to have Harmon, Holly and Leslie from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) teaching children Cantonese at our centre. Thank you for helping our kids to integrate into Hong Kong, where they were actually born.

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On 15 November, we were delighted to have Sophia from ESF Sha Tin College organising a jewellery class for ladies at our centre. Thank you so much for your time and efforts.

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On 17 November, we were honoured to have an opportunity learning how to make soap with Soap Cycling. We are most thankful to your teaching.

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Donations Keep Coming

We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to all Donors for lending us a helping hand in times of the coronavirus pandemic. This month we received donations of wide-ranging items, which include daily necessities and personal protective equipment. We will be delivering all of them to our members who are in need. Thank you very much for your generous support!

Please stay tuned to our official website and social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for the updates, and feel free to contact us by visiting our office or sending us an email at should you have any enquiry.

October Roundup

Nov 18th, 2020 | Advocacy | Comment

Refugee Union was founded in 2014 with a vision to safeguard the rights and protection of the asylum seekers and refugees stranded in Hong Kong. Since our commencement of service, we have been working closely with our partners in the community and organising diversified programmes to improve members’ psychological and social well-being.

Blog Update

New articles for this month are now available:

Zhang, Sophia. ‘Crossing the red line.’ [Read here] (28-10-2020)

Chow, Vania. ‘When wasted time is the only certainty.’ [Read here] (18-10-2020)

Beck. ‘I will keep trying and never give up.’ [Read here] (11-10-2020)

We would like to send our acknowledgement to our writers for their great contributions.

Happenings in Our Centre

On 10 October, we were glad to have Sally coming to our centre and giving kids a drama class. Thank you for your time and efforts. We all enjoyed the class.


Community Engagement

On 4 October, we were honoured to host Project Spark HK at our centre. We appreciate their passion for providing quality education for children and look forward to the programmes they will be offering with our centre.

Project Spark HK

On 21 October, the sixth anniversary of our centre, we were delighted to host Maggie from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Claire from the Hong Kong Baptist University at our centre. We appreciate their efforts


Donations Keep Coming

We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to our donors for lending us a helping hand in times of the coronavirus pandemic. This month we received donations of different items, which include daily necessities and protective equipment for our members. Thank you very much for your generous support!

Please stay tuned to our official website and social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for the updates, and feel free to contact us by visiting our office or sending us an email at should you have any enquiry.

Live Like A Refugee Challenge

Nov 5th, 2020 | Advocacy, Refugee Community | Comment

This December 6th, Asylum Action will be hosting the “Live Like a Refugee Challenge” in which you will have the opportunity to try to live according to the budget of a refugee or asylum seeker in Hong Kong.
Through this challenge, we hope to raise awareness for the challenges experienced by the refugee community on a day to day basis.
Sign up for more details!
The sign up link is available on:
@asylum.action Instagram

Profiles of asylum – Crossing the red line

Oct 28th, 2020 | Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | Comment

“Sister, there is a red line in my country. If you cross it, you cannot go back.” To an outsider, Youssef* had it all in his home country of Egypt – a job as a software engineer, a loving wife and three children. But he had to leave it all behind. “Everyone has a reason for leaving their home,” he said, “mine is religion.” Fingers shaking, Youssef traced a long line on the table. “There is no talking, no touching, nothing between Muslims and Christians. I had no choice but to leave.” 

In Egypt about 90% of the population is Sunni Muslims and the rest is Christian. According to Youssef, the undercurrent of discrimination is undeniable – he described it as a “culture of rejection”. Like many other Middle Eastern nations, religion is stated on identity cards. This makes discrimination and persecution easy – for example, Christians are consistently overlooked for jobs. “Some jobs, like the police force, or oil companies, are impossible for Christians, no matter how talented you are,” said Youssef, “my uncle didn’t get a promotion in twenty years because of what he worships. My cousin was turned away from his lifelong dream of being a policeman because of it.” Religion defined every sphere of Youssef’s life, and the ostracization became increasingly painful.

In recent years, Christians in Egypt have faced unprecedented levels of persecution, with attacks on churches and the kidnapping of Christian girls by Islamist extremists to force them to marry Muslims. Youssef recalls his church being vandalized and burned down by Islamist extremists: “I saw my sacred cross being eaten by flames, and my dear pastor beaten by thugs. I was angry, angry like the burning fire – but what could I do? If you are a Christian, even the police cannot protect you from the Muslim Brotherhood, and a court will only discriminate against you.” This feeling of powerlessness increased when his church community attempted to apply for the construction of a new church, but was told that the process could take up to ten years. “Egypt welcomes Muslims. But Christians like us, we are not welcome even in our own home.”

When Youssef’s wife, a Muslim, decided to convert to Christianity like Youssef, their situation took a turn for the worse. They began to receive messages of hate at their door, which soon escalated into death threats. “Converting is unheard of,” Youssef sighs, “I heard that one girl tried to do so and was immediately killed. Her family, friends, and pastor were also killed, many in broad daylight.” Fearing for their safety, Youssef, his wife, his two daughters and his son fled in search of a place with security. They arrived in Hong Kong. 

Four years later, Youssef is safe. However, he now faces other challenges as an asylum-seeker. “I do not regret the decision I made to move here. I am safe, although I am not happy.” Although Youssef was a talented computer software engineer in Egypt, by law, he cannot work here. During our interview, this became a subject that he circled back to with increasing anxiety. Living on the scant government subsidies, he feels he cannot provide enough for his wife and three teenage children. “When my wife’s glasses broke, I could not fix them,” he says, “when my daughter had a high fever that required $1000 for treatment, I could not afford it. It is the worst feeling in the world.” Often Youssef lies awake at night in his tiny one-room apartment in Sham Shui Po, stress churning his stomach, feeling very much alone. “Every day is the same, and I see no way to improve our situation as asylum-seekers,” he frets. In the last four years, Youssef feels he has been stagnant, standing still and watching helplessly as life passes him by. He lamented, “I crossed the red line back home, only to arrive here to a never ending circle.” 

Contributed by Sophia Zhang

Crossing the red line



Profiles of asylum – When wasted time is the only certainty

Oct 18th, 2020 | Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | Comment

Fadil sat on the airport bench, his wife on one side and his children on the other. They did not know where to go: immigration had just denied their claim to be refugees in Hong Kong. Thus, he had to stay in the city for three months until his visa expired before he would become eligible to apply for asylum seeker status. This was the case for most asylum seekers in Hong Kong as the city is not a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention and has vowed not to recognize refugees.

Fadil had watched people -locals, tourists, officials- rush to and from in the airport for three days already. Some bore large, weighted suitcases; others nothing but a handy briefcases. Fadil wondered where all these people were going. Were they going home to visit family? On vacation with friends? Or were they running from danger like him? Regardless, it did not matter, for all these people clearly had a destination to look forward to, whilst he him did not.

It was amidst this confusion that a man approached Fadil. He was a burly man, face framed with a curling, short beard, with the expression resembling that of a kind, fair parent. He sat down on the airport bench directly opposite Fadil, leant forward in his seat, and crossed his arms. “What are you doing here?” the man inquired, directly meeting Fadil’s eyes. “I’ve seen you stay here for three days and three nights now. Why are you still here?” The man’s question did not come with judgment, rather with genuine curiosity and concern.

Seeing that his wife and children were sound asleep, heads rested on laps and armrests at awkward angles, Fadil leant forward and told his story. The man listened attentively, nodding and sighing until Fadil finally finished. The man was a practical one: he understood the many tragic events that had happened to Fadil and his family, but did not focus on them. Rather, his primary concern was what Fadil could do at this moment in time.

“Look,” The man said, “The NGO I work with runs this shelter where you and your family could stay until your visa expires. You can think about going there.” With that, he handed Fadil a flimsy brochure and wished him good luck. He was soon on his way to his destination.

However, the next three months were far from easy. The NGO separated asylum seekers by gender into two shelters which were located an hour or so away from one another. Thus, Fadil and his son stayed together in one whilst his wife and two daughters lodged in the other. The shelter they stayed at was only open at night, so they would leave at 8am and return after 6pm. The meals and many hours in between were left to Fadil’s own resourcefulness.

Fadil sat in the coffee shop of the mall, his family huddled around him on the small table. The sweet scent of brewing coffee and hot pastries overwhelmed him. Fadil was a mechanic back home, and thus his income then was sufficient to afford their family an adequate middle-class lifestyle: a large farmhouse, mostly home cooked meals, occasional celebrations in restaurants. However, upon arriving in Hong Kong, not being able to work, he had to suddenly become accustomed to a life without these comforts. Like today, as they sat, all they could do was lavish in the aroma of good food and watch others devour it, without being able to get so much as a single bite.

They certainly did not do this because they enjoyed being reminded of all the privileges that they had given up seeking asylum, but instead they only sat there to escape the scorching heat and humidity outside. It was unfortunate that Fadil had arrived at the worst of Hong Kong’s weather- July.

 “Excuse me.” A young barista, perhaps a university student with a summer job, peered at their table. “Sir, you can’t sit here without buying a drink.” Despite being young in age, she was authoritative in words, her arms folded firmly before her chest. Without much choice, Fadil and this family got up, packed up what little they had brought with them, and were forced out of the café – once again kicked out of a temporary home.

This was how Fadil and his family spent the majority of their time during those three months: loitering aimlessly together in the day and separated at shelters in the night. Six years later, Fadil and family still wonder how to make sense of their lives and misfortune as their asylum claims remain unresolved and wasted time is the only certainty.

Contributed by Vania Chow

 Wasted time

Profiles of asylum – I will keep trying and never give up

Oct 11th, 2020 | Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | Comment

• My Journey from my home country – I’d like to start from my childhood. I had a very rough childhood as we had to face such a hard time in my own country as there were a lot of people whom never liked our existence. Due to religious persecution, it was dangerous for us to stay there longer. While my father was trying his very best to get us to him in Hong Kong, which is why my family had to leave our country when I was 11. My father wanted us to have a better life. I grew up thinking someday our family’s destiny would change…

 • A big change in life – The day we came to Hong Kong was one of the best day of my life as we met our dad whom I hadn’t seen for years. My younger brother and I started our school life here we got to know so much more about other people. We were safe here and the danger had stopped. We were happy since we were just little kids back then. But now we’re all grown up. The only thing we worry about is our future which is absolutely depressing and stressful. 

• My personal feelings of being a refugee – Sincerely I’ve always had lots of negative thoughts about being a refugee around resident students as it was very embarrassing for me. In the past some students used to make fun of me and didn’t treat me equally. I used to be very distress by the behavior of my schoolmates, though I never gave up in any case. I’ve been very determined since then. I used to be ashamed of showing my Immigration paper in public. It is a gray A4 size document with my photo and particulars. Nothing like a Hong Kong ID card. I used to get very irritated showing to people. But now I’ve understood that this is how I’m going to fight for myself. It is the greatest beginning to acknowledge my identity and not hide it with shame.

• Experiences of being a refugee – There are innumerable things that the government has forbidden for us in Hong Kong; for example, we can’t work and we’re not able to take our siblings/ kids to specific places (theme parks). For people like us we can’t afford it as the price of the tickets is very high. It is very disappointing for us. All parents want their kids to go to theme parks and be happy. Unfortunately we are helpless at the moment, therefore I’d like to be the voice of refugees and give our community positive vibes, to each and every person who is surviving and staying home and banned from working. Hong Kong really needs a change of heart on refugees. It should think about the future of second generation.

• My future plans – Everybody has dreams which they want to come true. Yes, me too! I’ve dreams and plans I’ve made in my mind, but logically “refugees can’t work” puts a full stop to everything which is very frustrating. I always wanted to go for further studies after high school. As we all know universities in Hong Kong are very expensive. Students even work part-time to pay their fees. And here I am, a person who cannot work. Nevertheless I’ve never lost hope. I’m always trying my best in every situation. I remind myself that impossible is nothing.

• My advice to all youth refugees – We are in this together no matter how hard it is. We are all going to face it with a positive attitude, because there’s always hope when we keep trying. Although there are a number of biased people around us, we should never lose hope, but endeavor to change people’s negative perspective towards refugees. I have a feeling that someday we will be treated equally and fairly too. I understand that refugees are experiencing an extremely stressful and hard time. Most of all Refugee Union has always been there to support me and my family. I will keep trying and never give up.

Contributed by Beck 

 Profiles of asylum - Beck

September Roundup

Oct 10th, 2020 | Advocacy | Comment

Refugee Union was founded in 2014 with visions to safeguard protection claimants’ rights and to ameliorate their prospects. Since our commencement of services, we have been working closely with our partners in the community and organising diversified programmes to actualise members’ psychological and social well-being.

Profiles of Asylum

New articles are now available on our blog:

  • “Anna’s choice” by Vania Chow 06-09-2020 (read here)
  • “Burned out of their homes” by Vania Chow 13-09-2020 (read here)
  • “Learning to let go” by Vania Chow 20-09-2020 (read here)
  • “Frozen in place while time moves forward” by Pedro Cortes 27-09-2020 (read here)

Thank you to all contributors for their time and efforts.

Virtual Engagement

We, asylum seekers and refugees, are active learners. We cherish every chance to learn even in times of immobility. This month we would like to show our acknowledgement to volunteers for organising an online Cantonese course (a total of four sessions) for both adults and children. Thank you for your efforts.

Donations Keep Going

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to our donors for lending us a helping hand in times of the coronavirus pandemic. This month we received donations of different items, which include daily necessities and protective equipment for our members. Thank you very much for our donors’ generous support!

Please stay tuned to our official website and social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for the updates, and feel free to contact us by visiting our office or sending us an email at should you have any enquiry.

Cover (Sep)

Profiles of asylum: When she’s older I can’t always be around for her

Oct 4th, 2020 | Crime, Personal Experiences, Refugee Community | Comment

Dara slammed the home door shut and pressed her back against it as her daughter’s hand clenched with fear around her wrist. Yells and screams resounded from the men in the street below, so furious they seemed to make the walls shake. Dara knew that she and her daughter were powerless if these men wanted to enter her home yet a part of her still clung to the belief that by leaning against the door, her daughter would be better protected.

As the sound of hurried footsteps drew nearer, her daughter’s fingers cinched tighter. Although Dara could feel her hand slowly weakening, she was thankful to feel her daughter’s grasp. The words yelled in the corridor were unrecognizable. Perhaps because muffling by the door, perhaps because they were foreign, for these men were also asylum seekers; or perhaps because they were so drunk they had little self-control in their speech.

Dara looked at her daughter who had now thrown herself onto her, wrapping her arms around her waist, thrusting her head into her stomach, as if trying to block out the noise. “Go.” Dara whispered, “Stay on the bed and do your homework.” Arms slowly loosening from Dara, the girl lugged a laden school bag from under the table, and pulled out her homework. This was the usual drill for the two when fights broke out: listening together at the door until it dragged on for so long that it was better for her shaken daughter to be distracted by something else. Then, Dara would have to listen, anticipate, guess at the men’s every move. It was something she had grown to be accustomed to.

Hong Kong is often referred to as one of the safest cities in the world. With security cameras covering almost every street, this image of chaos is not the one that comes to mind for most people. Indeed, the area where Dara and her daughter live is most definitely not representative of the city as a whole, but moving here was a difficult decision that the mother had to make in the search for a better living. Their last home was a dingy room in the center Kowloon, right in the hustle and bustle. There were positives and negatives of living there: the good being that everything they ever needed -school, grocery stores, transport links- were accessible, but the bad being that rents were incredibly high. They shared a bathroom with the twenty who lived on their floor, some elderly living alone and other asylum-seekers. That room was acceptable when Dara’s daughter was smaller, but as she grew older, now eight years old, the space was insufficient and a poor environment to study. Thus, they decided to move away.

The footsteps grew louder. Dara could feel the floorboards of her apartment vibrate with the men’s footsteps. A burley man, perhaps in his late twenties, passed Dara’s door. Behind his back, he held a package wrapped in a piece of dirtied black cloth. The package had the length and width of a long ruler. A feeling of dread swept over Dara as she already knew what the package was even half hidden from sight. Thankfully the man did not stop at Dara’s door, instead continued upwards, shifting his grip on the package so that he now clenched one end of it in his fist. Dara stopped looking. There was no point anymore. She already foresaw the ending of that frightening incident.

As Dara returned to join her daughter who was now engrossed in her schoolwork, a dreadful scream rose from above then something metallic clattered onto the floor. The cold sound, like that of an out of tune cymbal, of dropping metal rang through the whole building and momentarily captivated attention. After that, there was nothing: no yells, no commotion. It was as if everything had once again returned to how it usually was.

The next day, as Dara went up to the garbage room, she found the man’s hidden package lying on the floor. Cautiously, she kicked aside the cloth that shielded it. Underneath it, lay a blade: long, sharp, and blood stained. There were splatters of blood, but no body. Where was the victim? Who was he? What fury had come between him and the assailant? Dara had no answers.

During our interview, Dara frequently circled back to this incident, clearly an issue that troubled her. She expressed that she was not overly worried about her own personal safety, for she “was already accustomed to dealing with people and seeing things like this” and that “a woman of her age would unlikely be of interest to those men”. Instead, she was more concerned for the safety of her daughter particular as she got closer to becoming a teenage. Dara said, “When she’s older I can’t always be around for her” and “as you know, girls of that age are more likely to attract trouble.” However, as her daughter is already well integrated in her school and doing very well, Dara is reluctant to relocate again. Thus, in the meantime, before there are any allowances for change, the two must remain vigilant all the time, especially at home.


Locked door