The Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) today (6 November) hosted a forum entitled Educating Hong Kong’s Refugee Children: Policy and Practice, with various stakeholder groups joining the discussion, including teachers, representatives from nongovernmental organisations, refugee parents and members of the public.
Organised by the Centre for Governance and Citizenship and supported by the Faculty of Education and Human Development (FEHD), the symposium recognised that although Hong Kong receives limited numbers of refugees, refugee children in particular pose challenges for society and the government. International agreements commit the government to providing access to schooling for these children, but school fees and other purchases make that access difficult for some families.
Dr York Chow Yatngok, Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission, opened the Forum. Professor John Lee Chikin, Vice President (Academic) of HKIEd, then stressed that ‘education can transform societies and individuals, including refugees. Asylum seekers, both here in Hong Kong and elsewhere, struggle to be self-sufficient, and it is education that can equip them develop the necessary skills and knowledge’.
A number of Hong Kong schools have opened their doors to refugee children. Ms Olivia Lo Tinoi, Assistant Education Officer from the Education Bureau’s Newly Arrived Children Support Unit, introduced the current services provided for refugee children, and Dr Rizwan Ullah from Delia Memorial School (Hip Wo) discussed his experience teaching them.
Among the panel speakers was Ms Adella Namagembe from the Refugee Union, who discussed the perspectives of refugee parents and their experiences in seeking educational opportunities for their children.
Dr Terence Shum Chuntat from the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong, who has been studying the situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong, discussed his observations of the current policy direction.
Dr Isabella Ng Fung Sheung from the Department of Asian and Policy Studies, who also volunteers at the Hong Kong Society for Asylum Seekers and Refugees, presented her analysis of policy implementation and the difficulties faced by refugee children and their parents in Hong Kong.
Professor Bob Adamson, Chair Professor of Curriculum Reform, concluded the forum by highlighting that ‘Hong Kong, being an international city, needs to reach out to its refugees and asylum seekers to demonstrate its social responsibility and compassion’.
The Refugee Union is in talks with Urban Refugees (France) www.urban-refugees.org
URBAN REFUGEES was created in November 2012 as a French NGO. Its mission is to improve the lives of urban refugees and IDPs in developing countries by supporting refugee led-organizations in urban settings, by facilitating networking between key stakeholders and by advocating at the policy level.
Until now, our activities focused on raising the profile of urban displacement situations using online tools, building key partnerships with organizations including the UNHCR Urban Refugee Task Team (URTT) and gathering civil society organizations, academics and experts into a central network.
The Incubator project will be our first program in the field. Upon completion of those 4 first incubation programs, a thorough evaluation will be conducted and the program will be replicated to serve other refugee-led organizations. Incubation of refugee organizations outside camps will become the main activity of our organization.
We have two branches, one in the USA (New York) and one in France (Paris). Each brand has its own Board of Directors. An executive committee brings together directors from the French and USA branch for strategic decisions.
Refugee Union was honored by a visit from the Ajuntament de Barcelona, Mr Miquel Mateu Balleste (Programme Director – Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Spain
Mr Mateu found Refugee Union through the internet and says ” I was very much impressed by what your Organization is doing to help asylum seekers and refugees in Hong Kong”
After following us on face book he decided to come and visit us in the office during one of his tours in the Asia Pacific region. “The city of Barcelona has opened its doors to the refugees who are running away from torture and wars” Mr Mateu continued.
He commended the Refugee Union and Vision First for our role in defending the rights of refugees in Hong Kong. “I will come back soon with other People who are willing and ready to work with you in helping refugees all the World”. He said.
Refugee Union promised him that we will vigorously continue to advocate for a comprehensive policy change on refugees in Hong Kong to enable them to live in dignity and respect as human beings. This includes but not limited to RIGHT TO WORK, A CREDIBLE and OBJECTIVE SCREENING PROCESS or FULL WELFARE PROVISION in the absence of Right to Work among others.
Photo with Mr. Miquel Mateu, Director de Programa Àsia-Pacífic, Programme Director Asia-Pacific, Direcció de Relacions Internacionals, Department of International Relations, Ajuntament de Barcelona, Spain