My name is Cartier Dieodo and I am an organizer of the Refugee Union. I have a family in Hong Kong and I can never return to my country where the government murdered my father and brother.
I often ask myself the question: “Do refugees have the right to a future and if so, what type?” Any parent will appreciate these burning questions moving in my mind when I look at my children and worry about their future as refugees in Hong Kong.
There are certain observations that have stuck in my mind. I have often reflected upon them in over a decade of asylum in Hong Kong. I have also shared them with my friends. Our lives are awash with events we cannot control. But do we learn from them? Do we learn from the experience we gain?
To turn an event into an experience, we have to reflect upon it, which takes time and focus. Only then can we learn from what happens in our life. I may be wrong, but this is what I believe. The stress and challenge of asylum make me think that if children have the right to education, then what about the parents? What kind of future can we expect raising children like this? How can parents train and raise children without prospects?
An international psychologist taught me that a balance of education, work and family should be a person’s focus. It is the major issue around which so many problems arise. It is therefore relevant for refugees stuck in Hong Kong to ask: Do we have the right to a future? Is the past our future? What future can we offer our children? What will happen to them? I don’t have the answers.
To raise a family in these harsh conditions is very hard. To live a life without a future goes against the nature of being human, because everyone strives for progress in life. To have no future as a refugee is a very challenging and complex situation when no solution is offered by the local government.
Most refugee parents chose to ignore the issue as long as possible. They burry their head in the sand because they have no solution. Many refugee parents maybe do not fully understand the challenge of parenting their children in a fast-paced and dynamic cosmopolitan city – without hope.
The complexity of daily life rises to a degree that calls for new mental capabilities and skills. We cannot live today how we lived yesterday, ignoring the future. It is desirable for all members of the refugee community, those with children and those without, to carefully consider what the future holds.
Parents in particular ought to take special considerations as they are responsible for their family. Without organization the majority of parents will be unable to grasp the new opportunities and rise to shape the future to the fullest of their ability. Those who fail will unfortunately regress.
As parents we need to gain some knowledge to handle properly our children and ourselves for a better future, or there will be none. Strong parents can and will become progressively stronger. Weak parents will one day be challenged by their children asking: What’s my future, Dad?
To be a refugee in Hong Kong is one of the worst decisions one can ever make in life. Why one may choose to seek refuge in Hong Kong might be a matter of life and death. Most of the times options are also limited and the majority of refugees have no choice about where to seek asylum. Yet many will agree with me that it’s not easy to manage as a refugee in Asia’s World City.
In a bid to control and select the flow of travelers into Hong Kong, the Government has put into place a very strict and rigid immigration policy that ensures that only those visitors who are well endowed with resources are welcomed in. As such it’s a city for the rich only. And understandably the Hong Kong Immigration Department aims to prevent undesirable visitors from entering. In this they have been successful.
On one hand we are here, arguably demonstrating failures of border controls. On the other, the refugees who manage to get into Hong Kong find themselves between a rock and a hard place. We must contend with a harsh environment that depicts us as illegal immigrants who should be removed as soon as possible. It’s important to note that refugees cannot lodge an asylum claim while their visitor visa is still valid – which forces us to overstay and thus commit an offense. The Immigration Department will turn you away with firm instructions to come back after your visa expired.
The Government thus turns refugees in to overstayers by forcing us to break the law and become illegal. The law is thereafter used against us as we are branded illegal immigrants. As a consequence we are subjected to psychological torture through a Removal Order that constantly hangs over our head.
As illegal immigrants, refugees do not have legal status, nor do we enjoy many rights as enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We are stuck in limbo with no future prospects. Having no working rights forces us to lead a miserable life, of hopelessness and despair. We are made to depend on government welfare that is grossly inadequate. No surprise that many refugees resort to other means of survival to make ends meet.
We are told by the government that Hong Kong never signed the Refugee Convention. Therefore it does not have an obligation to assist refugees. Using this strategy, authorities continues to marginalize and frustrate us by ensuring that we are not economically empowered, arguably in a bid to force us to give up on our asylum claims and leave this city.
Those refugees who start a family soon realize they are condemned to a cycle of poverty that is next to impossible to break. First, parents are not financially stable to afford a decent life for their children as they are limited by what the Social Welfare Department refers to as “Humanitarian Assistance”. Secondly, children are refugees as their parents. That means they are in same category and cannot enjoy equal rights as resident children.
The term “Humanitarian Assistance” is a euphemism used to avoid taking responsibility for (and arguably punish) refugees criminalized for earning a living. The cycle repeats itself for the refugee family as the children follow the same route as their parents through the humanitarian assistance program that fails to meet their basic needs.
What will happen to these families who continue to live in abject poverty?
The government is courting disaster. Truth be told, the chickens will eventually come home to roost. The next generation of Hong Kong-born refugees is highly disadvantaged and marginalized. It will eventually form a section of society that cannot support itself. They will resort to other means of survival to make ends meet.
It appears that Hong Kong is unwilling to care for, nor does it empower refugees to compete effectively for opportunities in this competitive city. The government and its policy-makers have continuously ignored and brushed aside the truth, which one day will come back to haunt them. The neglected children may one day become an even greater social problem than their parents.
A practical example which can provide a good case study for Hong Kong is given by the French riots and the tangle of poverty and lack of security in the suburbs of Paris. It is a global world after all.