By Alastair Pike.
In Hong Kong, nearly 10,000 migrants wait for asylum. Many of them are children. For their parents, asylum means the ability to work legally and support themselves beyond the basic sustenance of government aid.
But only 55 applicants – or 0.5 percent – were granted status since 2009, which is far below the world’s average recognition rate of 27 percent, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Three families await status from the crowded, diverse neighborhoods of Yuen Long and Mong Kok, known for their large and close-knit asylum-seeking population.
Families in the area live in poverty and are isolated from the general population as victims of politicized stereotypes – in 2015, for example, Yuen Long was littered with notices urging landlords to “avoid renting to South Asians.”
With little hope in a city where most residents are descendants of asylum-seekers themselves, the sons and daughters of Yuen Long face an even tougher road ahead.
Beyond language barriers and racial tensions, their futures are jeopardized by the long wait for recognition by the Hong Kong government, which will ultimately dictate whether or not they can work once they pass through more than a decade of public schooling.
“[My son] likes going to school,” said Saira, a 45-year-old mother of two from the Philippines. Married to a Pakistani man, she says that her own uncle refuses to call her 9-year-old son by any name other than “terrorist.”
But even though she’s been waiting for status for more than 16 years, she still holds out hope that her son will succeed.
“He’s smart and I know he can do it,” she said.
Alastair Pike is a half Chinese and half American photojournalist born in Hong Kong. He is currently studying journalism at Northeastern University in Boston. He works to be influential in an increasingly complex world where what’s popular seems to be more important than what’s right and works to make reading photos a part of citizenship. Follow him on Instagram.