Community & Education HKFP Lens

HKFP Lens: The plight of refugees living in slums in Hong Kong

By Emmanuel Serna.

Emmanuel Serna was born in Lunel, France in 1973. After graduating from a photography school in Paris, he spent some time photographing in the Balkans, particularly in Serbia and Kosovo. Since then, he has focused his work on Asia. 

The plight of the refugees of Hong Kong is the consequence of a system that isolates and leaves them in unsanitary slums, waiting out of sight from the rest of the population.

refugees Hong Kong slums

About 10,000 refugees live in of Hong Kong. Most of them come from the Indian subcontinent, but there are also some from Vietnam, Indonesia or Horn of Africa.

refugees Hong Kong slums

Most of them have fled persecution in their country, hoping to find refuge in Hong Kong.

refugees Hong Kong slums

But the city isn’t the haven they were hoping for. Hong Kong hasn’t signed the Geneva Convention, and very few are given refugee status.

refugees Hong Kong slums

Paradoxically, Hong Kong has signed the Convention against Torture and can’t expel people risking torture.

refugees Hong Kong slums

Upon their arrival in Hong Kong, refugees are registered as asylum seeker or as a victim of torture and their passports are confiscated.

refugees Hong Kong slums

Normally, it takes three years to process their applications, but some are still waiting after eight years and aren’t allow to work.

refugees Hong Kong slums

Refugees have access only to tiny rooms in slums in the New Territories.

refugees Hong Kong slums

Initially these slums weren’t made for housing; these are shacks, pig or chicken farms built or refurbished by unscrupulous owners.

refugees Hong Kong slums

refugees Hong Kong slums

refugees Hong Kong slums

refugees Hong Kong slums

Serna’s photos were featured in photo festivals in France and published in newspapers. He enjoys photographing individuals, and their relationships with each other and their environment. He has been living and working in Hong Kong as a freelance photographer since 2010. View more of his work here.

HKFP Lens: The plight of refugees living in slums in Hong Kong