Story of the Month - September 2016

Story of the Month - September 2016 

每月故事 - 二零一六年九月

In 2015, there were nearly 11,000 asylum seekers in Hong Kong with outstanding claims. While Hong Kong does not resettle refugees locally, the city has the obligation to screen and process asylum and torture claims. Yet asylum seekers and refugees are prohibited from working, studying, and volunteering while their application is being processed - sometimes for longer than 10 years. Meanwhile they live on a meager support of $1,500 rental allowance, $1,200 food coupons, and minimal utilities support each month. This has created conditions of enforced destitution for asylum-seekers and refugees - even though they have many skills and talents to offer. Mainstream media tends to portray them as criminals, and academic studies often depict them as oppressed persons doing everything they can just to survive. One of the myths is that asylum-seekers are getting married with locals for the sole purpose of getting a Hong Kong Identity Card. Centre member and anthropologist Prof. Sealing Cheng's research about the intimate life of African asylum seekers and refugees in Hong Kong shows a different side of the story.



Prof. Cheng shared the experience of David (pseudonym), an asylum seeker from West Africa and a decent looking and trendily-dressed young man in his twenties. David was pursued by an older wealthy local woman, who treated him with expensive meals and even invited him to come to her house afterward. Most people may expect that an asylum seeker in his situation would be eager to develop a romantic relationship with any local woman to obtain Hong Kong residence. Yet David said he was "afraid" when he was with her, indicating his lack of interest in this woman who could offer him not just HKID but also material comforts. His true love, as Prof. Cheng later found out, was a younger woman, who had a more humble lifestyle.



Through stories like David's, Prof. Cheng shows that asylum seekers, just like anyone of us, have love and desire. It is important for us to recognize the humanity of asylum-seekers and refugees, and formulate policies that facilitate the exercise of their basic human rights, as well as to address problems of discrimination against them because of their race and immigration status.



[Click here to view all  Stories of the Month]