Call for review on asylum screening

Local | Yupina Ng 12 Apr 2016

More than 170 individuals and nongovernment organizations have called for a review of the unified screening mechanism for asylum seekers to reduce the number of pending asylum claims.

They also urged the government to provide more training for frontline staff in decision making.

In a joint statement, the 172 individuals and groups called on all parties, including the government, to stop discriminating against refugees and to keep calm on the debate driven by "inaccurate and irresponsible comments" by political groups and the media.

Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who met with Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok yesterday along with other alliance members, revealed that the government had promised to study the feasibility of re- establishing a detention camp.

Leung also quoted Lai as saying that he hopes lawmakers would be open to the idea as such a plan has to be backed by every political party.

The alliance listed 11 recommendations such as imposing electronic travel authorization on countries where many asylum seekers come from.

She said the government had also placed advertisements in the countries of the asylum seekers to make it clear Hong Kong is not "a paradise for refugees."

Civic Party and legal-sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing- hang, who signed the joint statement, criticized the pro-establishment camp for placing offensive banners on the street that targeted ethnic minorities. "They should stop using ethnic minorities as a political bargaining chip," he said.

Kwok accused some politicians of exaggerating Hong Kong's refugee situation.

On the review of the mechanism, human rights lawyer Mark Daly suggested the government provide training to frontline staff to weed out claimants who do not meet the criteria.

"We recently saw a 57-page rejection decision by the Immigration Department," he said. "Try to think why did the person have to spend that much time on a rejection decision.

"So we think there is a need for more front-end expertise on training by the decision makers."

Refugee Concern Network representative Victoria Wisniewski Otero said: "There should be more transparency in the system. We have never been given access to see the breakdown [on claimant figures]."

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