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Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifies that "everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum abroad from persecution." At the end of April 2006, the UN refugee Agency, also called the UNHCR[1] stated that there were 1473 asylum seekers in Hong Kong waiting for a decision. 24,7% of them were women and 23,9 % were children. The Hong-Kong UNCHR receives 150 to 160 applications a month. Ninety percent of the asylum seekers in Hong-Kong come from south Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippine, Nepal), 9% come from Africa (Congo, Liberia..) and 1% come from other regions. There are few Non Governmental Organizations who take care of these refugees in Hong-Kong. The most active one is Christian Action which provides shelter, food, counsel and medical aid. RSD Watch[2] estimated that of 798 cases decided by UNHCR in Hong-Kong in 2004, there was an 18% success rate. Some cases can make an appeal, but due to the UNCHR's backlog, some asylum seekers spend years in HK waiting for their case to be processed.

Who is a refugee? According to article 1A(2) of the Geneva Convention, a refugee is a person who ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside his country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.'

Assistance to the refugees The director of immigration provides accommodation, food, transportation allowance, clothing, medical help and daily living needs to asylum seekers. In 2004, Christian Action opened a service center and a shelter at Chung King Mansions in Kowloon, Hong Kong to help the refugees. Churches and other faith based organizations continue to provide housing, breakfast, hot dinners for 40 to 50 people daily. They also provide Internet access, Language (English, Cantonese) and computer skills courses and provide homework support for the children. Sports activities are organized. Refugees also benefit from physical and mental health assistance. Many asylum seekers suffer from trauma due to persecution and torture, as well as due to poor nutrition and physical injuries, consequences of being homeless. They suffer sometimes from insomnia, memory loss, and digestive problems. The UNHCR has staff to cope with refugees that have suffered from sexual and gender related problems.Another group dealing with North Korean and Uyghur refugees in the region is Human Rights Without Frontiers South East Asia. Mr Steve Buttell, fundraiser for North Korean and Uyghur Refugees,Room C,Level 8 Xiang Xing Building,267 Hennessey Road Wan Chai,HONG KONG ph +852 606 84950 www.hrwf.org.Another notable organisation which provides assistance to asylum seekers in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre. The Centre was founded in 2005 as part of the Refugee Advice Unit of Christian Action but became "independent" from Christian Action in 2007. The Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre ('HKRAC') offers free advice to asylum seekrs in relation to their refugee status application and in most cases, will designate a proper case-worker to prepare their testimony, accompany them during their interview with UNCHR, and make representation on their behalf at the end of the interview. HKRAC is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation and is completely independent from the UNHCR and the HKSAR government.

Domestic law and treaties Hong-Kong has no domestic legislation to determine the fate of asylum seekers. Though China is a signatory of the 1951 Geneva Convention[3] or the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (The Refugee Convention [4]), Hong-Kong even after the 1997 handover is not bound to these treaties. In the past, the Hong-Kong government put into force some legislation toward refugees but only for targeted actions, such as to control flows of Vietnamese refugees in the late 1990s[5]. This legislation was ended in 1998. Asylum seekers are sometimes detained for overstaying their visa. In June 2006, some refugees detained in the Castle Peak Detention Center went on a hunger strike to protest against their very long imprisonment.

The task of the UNCHR As Hong Kong does not have its own refugee status determination system, the UNCHR of Hong Kong is responsible for determining asylum application pursuant to the mandate given in its statute to provide international protection to refugees. There are different steps in the application process: 1.Claim is made and the asylum seeker is interviewed (request for advisers or legal representatives to be present has sometimes been denied) 2.Status is determined by the UNHCR. 3.Status is granted or denied (no detailed reasons are given if denied) 4.An appeal can be made within the field office.


Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre

UNHCR Hong Kong

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