Five families of Syrian refugees granted asylum in Uruguay last year protested outside the president's offices on Monday, demanding they be allowed to leave the South American country in search of better jobs, even back in the Middle East. Uruguay accepted the 42 Syrians fleeing civil war in October 2014, but the families said they felt the leftist government had failed to deliver on a promise of good incomes. Another group of 80 Syrian refugees is expected to land in the country before the end of the year.
Syrian refugees protest in front of Uruguayan presidential palace, demand US$1,500 a month
"I am not afraid to go back to Lebanon," said 36-year-old Aldees Maher, whose family had initially sought safety in a Lebanese refugee camp across the border from Syria before coming to Uruguay. "I want a place that guarantees me, my family a life." Their protests come as Europe struggles to cope with record numbers of asylum seekers escaping conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and illustrate the challenge host nations face integrating the often-destitute refugees. Since civil war broke out in 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country, more than any other refugee crisis in almost 25 years, according to the United Nations.
Syrian refugees: This is a horrible country, they don't give us enough to feed our large family, even Lebanon is better
In Uruguay, a secular South American country with a tiny Muslim population of about 300, the refugees receive housing, health care, education and financial support from the government. But even so, they have struggled to settle in and their relationship with locals have been strained. "I don't have any way of getting a job to earn enough money and look after the family. Before we came, the embassy told us we could earn US$1,500 a month," said Maher. But now the family got less than this.
Maher said he would demonstrate in front of President Tabare Vazquez' office until the families' demands were answered. Officials however, are less receptive. "If they want to go, they can. But it is not up to us whether another country allows them entry," said Javier Miranda, head of the human rights secretariat inside the Uruguayan presidential palace. "I think it's completely understandable if they say that they haven't been able to adapt to life here in Uruguay and want to move to a different country. We would prefer that they wouldn't protest and that they would sit down to have a conversation with us as we have done in the past. They can stay in the resettlement program," Miranda added.
Uruguay President: Did you realize they call me "the world's poorest president"?
"They told us a lot of things that never came true," says another Syrian refugees Ibrahim Ashebli. "They told us this country was cheap, and it's expensive. Money is not enough. There's no work." One 22-year-old Syrian who identified herself as Sanaa said she felt deceived by Uruguay's treatment of the refugee group. "It's not what they said it would be like here. We want to leave," she said. Uruguay is the richest country is South America in terms of GDP per capita. It was the first nation in Latin America to establish a welfare state, maintained through relatively high taxes on industry, and developed a democratic tradition that earned it the sobriquet "the Switzerland of South America".
Hong Kong says the first Syrian refugee has made his way to the territory and has filed for asylum seeker status. The Immigration Department confirmed to South China Morning Post that the Syrian has filed a non-refoulement claim - including both torture and refugee applications - with the government. Hong Kong does not make exceptions for war refugees. The claim is currently pending and will be given the same treatment as other applications. No further details of the case have been revealed.
Hong Kong to refugees: You can come, but you will have a very very hard life
"The fact there are Syrian refugees who have travelled more than 7,000km all the way to Hong Kong is testament not only to their extraordinary resilience and tenacity, but also to the level of desperation and devastation experienced by Syria's people," said Alexandra Chen, a child trauma specialist with the UN and a native Hongkonger. Roland Vogt, an international relations professor at the University of Hong Kong, said the Syrian case is expected to be isolated, due to the Middle Eastern country's geographical distance from the city and a lack of strong "people ties" between the two places.
However, he challenged Asian nations to assume greater responsibility in the global crisis. "Why should the responsibility fall only on Europe? Asian economies are some of the biggest and most prosperous in the world," said Vogt. "But Asian government here doesn't see it as a humanitarian mission to protect refugees from elsewhere." Hong Kong is not a signatory of the UN's 1951 Refugee Convention. "It is often a shock to [refugees] when they find out Hong Kong is actually not bound by the refugee convention and has such a restrictive asylum policy," said Victoria Wisniewski Otero of non-profit human rights group Justice Centre Hong Kong.
Hong Kong in the past had accepted Mainland Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese fleeing war, and Southeast Asian Chinese, particularly Indonesian escaping ethnic persecution
The prosperous Asian financial hub, who in the past had accepted refugees from Mainland China and other Chinese fleeing ethnic persecution from the region, has a very selective immigrants policy. Preferences are given to wealthy investors and entrepreneurs, and also highly educated professionals. Priorities are offered to Caucasians and East Asians. There are however, a large migrant worker population, mainly from Indonesia and Philippines, who work as domestic helpers. But according to the city's International Social Service branch, Hong Kong does also have refugees, and there are 9,900 of them.
Among the refugees in Hong Kong, about 20% each come from Pakistan and India. A further 15% are from Vietnam, 13% from Bangladesh, and 11% from Indonesia. The remainder come from other countries in South Asia such as Sri Lanka, and some from as far afield as Somalia, Eritrea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The government doesn't provide them with other benefits than food, utilities and rent. Of the 19,844 applications for asylum Hong Kong has received since December 1992, only 31 have been granted, a recognition rate of just 0.16%. Globally, the average recognition rate for refugees is approximately 27%, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Refugee shacks in Hong Kong, converted from pig-farm
There is no refugee camp or good living, as many would later find out. For Rashad, a 27-year-old pharmacist from Pakistan, and nearly 10,000 other refugees within the territory's borders, slums are the only home they're allowed. A combination of draconian local laws with international treaties has them caught in a grim bind: They cannot get asylum, cannot work, and cannot leave. The place he lives in is formerly a bare wooden siding of the converted pig-farm.
Hong Kong: Thank you for coming, this is where you will live for years or decades
"We live here worse than dogs," Rashad explained as reporters walked through the compound he lives in, more than two hours outside of Hong Kong's city center. "I cannot believe that a city so rich offers so little to those who come to it looking for help." Rashad has been in Hong Kong for six years, first entering the city illegally on a raft from Shenzhen in 2009. Each month, he gets a monthly living stipend from the government: HK$1,500 for rent, HK$1,200 for food, HK$300 for utilities. Converted, it totals US$387, in a city consistently cited as one of the world's most expensive. On top of it, rules say the food allowance may be spent only on a prescribed list of foods, and not on toiletries.
Hong Kong: Drink from sink, we will give you just enough food require to survive
Hong Kong's harsh attitude towards refugees is ironic. Many of the city's residents are themselves the descendants of refugees who fled from either the Japanese occupation of China during World War II or Mao's China. The way it seems now is that Hong Kong doesn't want to open its doors because they're worried they'll be swamped like they have [been] in the past, such as the more than 200,000 Vietnamese who arrived by boat during the 1970s fleeing the war with America. Of those who arrived from Vietnam, only about 1,000 were allowed to stay in the city; 143,700 were resettled in other countries, and 67,000 were deported back to Vietnam.
Bangladeshi refugees regretted coming to Hong Kong: We thought it is rich and can provide us with welfare!
Life for people caught in this bureaucratic purgatory is demeaning. Rashad arrived in Hong Kong when he was 21. Now, six years older at 27, he exudes a depressing apathy about his existence. "Most of us are young people, who had hopes and ambitions," Rashad said. "We left our homes looking for some place better, some place safer. But instead we're met with nothing, and Hong Kong doesn't even try [to help us]. We're just left to sit here and wait and rot. This isn't life."
Refugees protest on streets, demanding better living
Mohammed, who fled to Hong Kong from Sri Lanka 10 years ago, said the territory treats its prisoners better than those seeking asylum. "I lost 10 years of my youth in Hong Kong," said Mohammed, who has dark circles beneath his eyes and a restless, nervy manner despite his smile. "I came as a youth and now I'm old. I'm not married. In another 10 years? I'll be 42. Better that I will die. The Hong Kong government doesn't care. To them, we are not people."
Hong Kong: We are not Europe where you can come in and demand everything
Arif, 26, a wiry, long-haired asylum-seeker from Bangladesh, lives in a place that is barely more than a few slabs of sheet metal propped against decaying beams, runs along open sewers. Flies circle near the improvised toilet - basically a hole in the kitchen floor. The water is dirty and the electricity supply unreliable. With only a shoddy air conditioner salvaged from a garbage dump, he mostly wilts in the humid summer weather and freezes in the winter cold. One night, while sleeping, part of the roof dropped onto his head. "I need to live in a better place," he says, with a hint of irritation. The allowance provides just enough food for them to survive. "Many of us came here to save our lives," says Arif. "But I think better die. Better die than live like this. How we're living is not life."
Turn on thread page Beta
So how are refugees doing elsewhere? watch
- Thread Starter
- 10-09-2015 16:07
- 10-09-2015 16:48
want want want
why do these people think the world owes them EVERYTHING
- 10-09-2015 17:38
Hong Kong's treatment of refugees is pretty foul. Keeping them in slum-like conditions while not even allowing them to earn money and better their lives and then claim ungratefulness when they complain is pretty silly.
- Thread Starter
- 11-09-2015 01:58
One of Asia's richest country, Japan, says it has no immediate plans to accept refugees from Syria, despite earlier pledging financial and political support for the military campaign against ISIS. Tokyo insists that while it was "cooperating" with its international partners over the crisis, it is not preparing to change its policy to accommodate Syrian refugees. As Europe opens its gates to hundreds of thousands of refugees, Japan, which took in just 11 asylum seekers last year, is looking to clamp down even further.
Middle East and African refugees march in Tokyo calling on Japan to open its door
The government is now taking measures including deporting failed applicants, curbs on repeat applications and pre-screening of new asylum seekers are being considered as part of changes to the country's immigration system, a Japanese official said on Wednesday. If implemented, the changes would make Japan an even harder-to-reach destination, activists say. The country is already one of the developed world's least welcoming countries for refugees, accepting only 11 out of 5,000 asylum seekers in 2014.
"We're not looking to increase or decrease the number of refugees coming to Japan, but to ensure real refugees are assessed quickly," said Hiroaki Sato, a Ministry of Justice official overseeing the proposals. He could not say when changes would be finalised. On Wednesday, around 100 foreigners on "provisional release" from immigration detention - many of them asylum seekers - marched through Tokyo's government district in the driving rain, calling for refugee visas.
UN refugee agency calls on Asian states to open their doors for Syrians
Among them is Ali Jafari, a 54-year-old Iranian coming to Japan as refugee. "The (refugee) system in Japan is so difficult already, to make it tighter is just cruel," he said. Human rights group are already accusing Asian states of being incompassionate towards Syrian refugees. According to Amnesty International, Asian states have so far accept little Syrian refugees, while high-income Asian countries such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea have offered zero resettlement places.
Peter Sutherland, a special representative of the UN secretary general for migration and development, called on Japan, the US and wealthy Gulf states to "face their responsibilities" towards Syrian refugees as the exodus from the country intensifies. But Japan's government does not see escaping war as a legitimate reason for claiming asylum, and has no plans to widen its criteria to include flight from conflict. Most Japanese don't feel they have any cultural ties to the Middle East, refugee policy experts say.
Posted from TSR MobileLast edited by HucktheForde; 11-09-2015 at 01:59.
- 11-09-2015 12:45
Well if you don't understand the language and don't understand the culture, you will have trouble finding a job. Did that not click before deciding to set sail?
- 11-09-2015 14:06
I'm not entirely sure what some of them are expecting...Ever if Hong Kong were a signatory, they wouldn't have been eligible. Definitely not the first safe country unless they are from Mainland China or Macau.
- 11-09-2015 14:13