HK protesters want better system for asylum seekers

Posted at 04/29/2013 8:23 PM

HONG KONG - Keana plays on a roof in Hong Kong. Her mother, Vanessa, from the Philippines, is an asylum-seeker and torture claimant in the semi-autonomous region.

Vanessa's boyfriend, Sukum, an asylum-seeker and torture claimant from Sri Lanka, lives with them in a small rundown flat, as do another woman and infant.

Sukum says life is difficult because they cannot work. If caught working illegally, he faces 14 months in jail.

Keana's family's plight is shared by many. Around 500 asylum-seekers, torture claimants and supporters demanded more protection in Hong Kong, Saturday.

"It's been 21 years with only four protections in Hong Kong out of more than 12,000 cases. So obviously this is a case of social justice. And people are just demanding that, protection," said Cosmo Beaten, organizer and executive director of refugee  NGO Vision First.

The recognition rate of .02 percent lags far behind other liberal democracies, which range from 25-40 per cent, according to Vision First.

The NGO says the average waiting time for a claim in Hong Kong to be processed is three to five years, but know one former asylum-seeker whose processing took 17 years.

They also say the ineffective screening mechanism of asylum-seekers and their poor legal representation often leads to hasty rejections, resulting in some being sent back to their home countries to face possible persecution.