South China Morning Post
28 February 2016
Two years ago a new system was introduced to deal with people arriving in Hong Kong to seek refuge from what they say is persecution in their homeland. “The unified screening system will enhance implementation of our policy objective to process claims for non-refoulement protection … and at the same time prevent abuse by economic migrants who aim to protract their unlawful stay in Hong Kong,” said a government spokesman at the time. Fast-forward and the exact opposite appears to be the case.
In fact, 24 months after the new system came into effect – following legal rulings by Hong Kong’s highest court – the system is subject to an official review. The available facts and evidence from people who know the system suggest the cure has made a bad situation worse. It has, they say, created a process that is open to abuse not only by bogus asylum seekers but employers, lawyers and people-smuggling gangs.
For the government, blame lies predominantly with the very people the system was set up to benefit. Others paint a more nuanced picture of a slow, skewed and byzantine system, which at times looks like it was designed to fail.
The bogus claimant blame game has gained traction in recent months with the government making public several cases linking people seeking refuge – formally known as “non-refoulement claimants” – to illegal work and other criminal activity...
The security bureau is considering fresh visa restrictions, a tightening of the time frame for screening claims and enhanced Immigration Department powers to detain claimants. Lawyer Ho said these “are measures that erode the most basic human rights of some of the most vulnerable persons on our planet”.
Puja Kapai, professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said a change of mindset – not an enforcement clampdown – was the answer.
“For as long as there’s the attitude that we need to keep certain people out, to block people because they are fake claimants or they just want to access our labour market pending the review of their claims, regardless of the system we have in place, invariably it will remain inefficient ,” she said.
If the government was “intentional about achieving justice and fairness, we would have a more transparent system with clear criteria that signify the hallmarks of meeting the threshold for screening,” Kapai added... Click here to read the full article.