Monday, 15 May 2017

Asylum Denied to Refugees who Sheltered Snowden

Lawyer Robert Tibbo with the refugees who sheltered Snowden in 2013
Is it a coincidence?

Four people who came to Hong Kong at different times and filed refugee claims were recently rejected at the same time. They have 14 days to appeal, but could face imminent detention and deportation.

One is from the Philippines, and the others are from Sri Lanka. The one common thread is that they helped house NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden for two weeks in their homes when he was in Hong Kong in 2013.

Edward Snowden hid in Hong Kong for two weeks
"The Immigration Department rejected their cases on the foundation that the department did not believe the asylum seekers assisted Mr Snowden... The decisions are completely unreasonable," said Robert Tibbo, their Canadian lawyer, accusing the government of not complying with international obligations.

It seems the Immigration Department reactivated these four cases after the story of the four harbouring Snowden was revealed last September in a story in the National Post and in Oliver Stone's film Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has also appealed for help for the refugees.

The movie and the media have shone a spotlight on the plight of refugees in Hong Kong which is hardly a walk in the park. Many refugees are in limbo in the city for many years, unable to work, waiting for their cases to be processed. Some get desperate and start dealing in drugs which increases their chances of getting caught and if they do, they can find themselves in even worse situations.

Joseph Gordeon-Levitt in the movie Snowden
In the case of these four, Tibbo believes his clients were singled out for helping the former NSA and CIA contractor.

"I felt they already had the decision to reject the clients written up a long time ago... Their screening was expedited not to protect them, but to dispense their cases," he said.

However, a spokesman for the Security Bureau said the "accusation that the Immigration Department targets any particular claimants or categories of claimants is unfounded and not true."

He said the Immigration Department will continue expediting the screening of claims "with a view to clearing the backlog of claims pending screening as soon as possible."

As of March, there were 8,956 claims pending decision.

When the four heard their fate, they have been terrified ever since, worried that they may be deported at anytime.

They have already lodged applications to Canada and are waiting to hear back -- and we hope for their sake they will hear some good news very soon.

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