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Hong Kong: new rules threaten asylum seekers with deportation


After more than five years in the maze of Hong Kong's refugee system, John faces a new fear: deportation on behalf of...

After more than five years in the maze of Hong Kong's refugee system, John faces a new fear: deportation in the name of a recently changed '

removal policy


When you flee for your safety, you never know where you are going.

You just want to go where you can be safe

”, breathes John, an African in his forties, who wished to conceal his real name and nationality to protect himself.

A “hostile” speech

The man is worried about new rules adopted in December, which allow authorities to deport people whose asylum applications have been rejected, but who are still awaiting the outcome of their appeal to the court.

Since they came into effect, 27 people have been expelled and another 1,100, like John, now face immediate deportation, according to official data.

It gnaws at our minds, our souls

,” he laments.

Many refugees view Hong Kong as a step towards permanent resettlement elsewhere, often unaware that over the past decade 99% of applications have been rejected by immigration authorities.

According to official figures, nearly 15,000 asylum seekers hope to be relocated.

However, the UN Refugee Convention does not apply to Hong Kong, which does not offer asylum.

China is a signatory to the text, but has not extended it to the city.

On the other hand, the Convention against Torture is in force there: France has an obligation not to return people to their country of origin if they are persecuted there.

Unsuccessful claimants can appeal their decision in court, and in many countries they normally do not risk deportation while they await a decision on their appeal.

The new rules in Hong Kong mean, however, that an asylum seeker has, in effect, only one chance to plead their case.

In December, Undersecretary for Security Michael Cheuk accused some applicants of "

using legal proceedings to prolong their illegal stay in Hong Kong

" and of being "

a burden on society


The official rhetoric is very, very hostile to requests for non-refoulement

,” noted Surabhi Chopra, a law professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

She believes that deporting an asylum seeker and expecting them to follow up on their non-refoulement request from a distance is an “

inherent contradiction


Read alsoHong Kong: three organizers of a vigil for Tiananmen sentenced to four and a half months in prison

"Question of life or death"

The rule change is causing anxiety among the asylum-seeker community in Hong Kong, according to Mark Daly, a human rights lawyer whose firm handles non-refoulement cases.


(The government) takes away their right of appeal on a matter of life and death

," he told AFP, adding that the changes were made without consultation with the public or the legal sector.

None of his clients have yet been deported based on the policy, but he says immigration officials have used the new rules to justify longer detentions.

Last year, authorities unveiled plans to increase the number of detention centers to four, which include asylum seekers on arrival.

Former detainees at these centers have criticized poor conditions, prolonged periods of solitary confinement and severe beatings, accusations which the government has strongly denied.

Prohibition to work

The majority of asylum seekers are released, but are legally prohibited from working.

Most have to survive with difficulty on government allowances of around 3,300 Hong Kong dollars (394 euros) a month.

In 2021, the authorities arrested 438 applicants for illegal work who requested non-refoulement, returning many of them to detention.

Hong Kong deported 1,097 asylum seekers last year and officials say that with the resumption of post-pandemic international flights, that number could rise.

The Immigration Department told AFP that it would "

continue to take a multidimensional approach (...) with a view to expediting the deportation from Hong Kong of asylum seekers

" whose claims are "


under the new rules.

Looking through his old court documents, John recalls making his first asylum claim in Hong Kong unaware of the high deportation rate.

He also says he has trouble finding officials who listen.

It depends on the judge (…) Some judges can simply reject you, and it is so painful


He is not, however, disappointed with his life in Hong Kong, where he has bonded with those in the same situation as him.

We discuss, we give each other hope

,” he concludes.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-03-20

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