International Social Service Hong Kong (ISS-HK) has resumed full provision of toiletries and sanitary products to the refugees under its case, almost four months after it suspended the service.
ISS-HK is contracted by the government’s Social Welfare Department to provide humanitarian assistance to the city’s non-refoulement claimants. The organisation assesses each of its clients and distributes toiletries and sanitary products accordingly. The items include washing powder, shampoo, soap, toilet paper and sanitary pads. Refugees rely on such services as the government forbids them from working.
ISS-HK is contractually obliged to provide clients with toiletries appropriate to their gender and age. It told HKFP that it had been experiencing issues with its supplier since May.
“During the period, ISS-HK has notified eligible service users of the shortage of toiletries supply. Apart from registering the number of toiletry packs owed to service users, necessary toiletries items were provided to those with emergency or special needs, such as babies, children and medical cases.”
ISS-HK said it resumed the provision of toiletry packs on Thursday.
Executive Director of NGO Vision First Cosmo Beatson complained in July to the government about the service disruption. A spokesperson from the Social Welfare Department told HKFP that, once it was informed of ISS-HK’s inability to provide for all of its clients, it immediately urged the organisation to remedy the situation.
Reliant on donations
KK, a member of NGO Refugee Union, told HKFP that refugees in the city had found it difficult to access necessary daily necessities over the last few months.
“It’s like me – I have my own family, we are six people, so it is really very difficult. We have no choice to do anything, so we have to get donations from our church friends who will give things like soap, washing clothes liquid, and shampoo every month,” he said.
“For people these are very important things… Every time we went to ISS, they said: ‘Sorry, we don’t have, we can’t give you, we don’t have any order, wait for the order.’ But we need these material things.”
Psychosocial Programme Manager at the Justice Centre Chloe Martin told HKFP that, as a result of the suspended service, refugee clients had been made to spend the little money they had on sanitary products and daily necessities rather than on other living costs. Martin said that the provision of clients with their outstanding toiletries would not solve the problem of their past needs.
“They’ve had to scrounge and spend money that they would’ve used for other things – we have clients who have been unable to pay for their kids’ school fees, who haven’t been able to buy uniforms or books for their kids, because they’ve had to spend it on shampoo and conditioner. Some organisations such as Christian Action have been good at gathering supplies and giving them out but there’s no way that that can cover all clients.”
“It is worth noting that the ISS does not give clients actual cash, rather, they are paid everything in-kind – rent is given directly to landlords, and clients are given cards with which to pay in a supermarket that limits them to only food,” said Martin.
“[W]hen they [ISS] are unable to supply these things, to not give them some way of affording these materials is inhumane because they cannot save money from elsewhere to purchase them.”