Wednesday, February 25, 2004


Perspective is a really interesting thing. Many people in the world would consider the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) a lovely organisation which does great work to help refugees.

To the asylum seekers in Hong Kong, the UNHCR is a bunch of unsympathetic people who don't care either that they are currently homeless or that they have been through incredibly horrible experiences in their respective countries of origin.

To many human rights lawyers in Hong Kong, the UNHCR office here lacks transparency. It does not even follow the recommendations that its head office makes to governments around the world who are dealing with refugees.

Dealings with the UNHCR have come to dominate the lessons of my twice weekly English classes for asylum seekers. Most of my class is Ethiopian and they are concerned that their cases with the UNHCR are progressing very slowly.

When they ask about the progress of their cases in the UNCHR, they are told that they won't be given an answer unless they write a letter. To this effect, we have been working towards writing such letters for the last few lessons... through a lot of activities and games.

I actually called the UNHCR this week and asked someone why the Ethiopian cases are progressing so slowly. They were very honest and told me they didn't have a translator. they haven't had one for quite some time and they haven't been able to find a new one.

Please pray that this happens soon! Until it does then these guys will remain homeless with no help except what they recieve from our centre and another group providing a meal five days a week.