Community & Education HKFP Voices

‘Dirty and unwanted’: Reflections of a Hong Kong asylum seeker on World Refugee Day

John, an asylum seeker in Hong Kong, fled the political turmoil in his home country back in 2012. In a new video from Amnesty International Hong Kong to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, John opens up about his deadlocked situation.

He said that he wishes to be a normal person who contributes to society and helps others.

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John told Amnesty International Hong Kong that he wishes to be a normal person who contributes to society and helps others. Photo: Amnesty International Hong Kong.

Embroiled in the global refugee issue, John feels stuck in a systematic failure. But what hurts him more is the reality that he is not understood by Hong Kong people.

As much as John wants to work and contribute to society like a normal person, a general right to work for asylum seekers and refugees has been refused by the Hong Kong Government. He also knows very well that illegal work is a criminal offence. “It’s not about doing something illegal, it’s risking my life,” said John.

“Those politicians, instead of improving their system, improving their policies, they just clean up all the problems but not deal with it.”

While there is clearly a sense of reluctance by the Hong Kong Government to shoulder their responsibilities, John has also been disappointed by the reaction of the media and the general public. “What I saw through media, some people and politicians made me feel dirty and unwanted,” John added.

In recent years, the Hong Kong Government has embarked on a smear campaign against asylum seekers under the new Unified Screening Mechanism (USM). Thanks to some of the local media and politicians who fanned the flames for electoral purposes, the government has successfully shed its responsibility to provide adequate protections to people fleeing persecution in their home countries.

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Photo: HKFP.

This is reflected in the low recognition rate in Hong Kong (0.5% as of 2015), way behind the global recognition rate (38% as of 2015), the recognition rates of nearly all countries documented by UNHCR in 2013, and even that of the European Union in 2015 (46%), a year when the world witnessed one of the biggest refugee crises in history.

In an age where we fear violence and fight for the freedom and liberty of every single citizen, asylum seekers and refugees are symbolic of extra vulnerability. Instead of hatred and discrimination, they need love, protection and a chance to live their lives afresh and break from their horrific past experiences.

The Hong Kong Government, which has the power, has the key role in this global responsibility-sharing system. Bound by international law principles, it ought to make wise use of resources and talents to demonstrate that it deserves every reputation it enjoys.

This is the fourth year of John’s pending claim. To him, they are not four years spent on decision-making, but four years of his valuable lifetime wasted.

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'Dirty and unwanted': Reflections of a Hong Kong asylum seeker on World Refugee Day