In a rare comment on Hong Kong’s internal politics, Nepalese Consul Baliram Prasad Dhami spoke out on the issue of creating refugee camps in a joint statement with the BPA’s Priscilla Leung. Local human rights fighters were not impressed.
Last week, Baliram Prasad Dhami, the Consul of Consulate General Nepal in HK and Macao (the post of Consul General is currently vacant), has lent his voice, and presumably his government’s, to the idea of creating refugee detention camps to curb the inflow of illegal immigrants including those from Nepal.
Hong Kong human rights activist Law Yuk-kai (羅沃啟) has criticised Dhami, calling his words “unwise(不智)” and ‘misguided’ (被誤導) and argues “Dhami has been misguided by politicians with hidden agendas”.
Mr Dhami, publicly supported LegCo member Priscilla Leung’s (梁美芬, G-Kowloon West, BPA) call for the camps to deter potential illegal immigrants from entering Hong Kong territory. Mr Dhami and other Nepalese community leaders in Hong Kong claim the image and job opportunities of local members of the Nepalese community are adversely affected by illegal immigrants who abuse the inefficient torture claimant mechanism in Hong Kong. Other Nepalese leaders present who spoke out included Rita Gurung, Chairperson of Hong Kong Nepalese Federation, Pun T. Prakash, Chairman of The Gurkhas Group (G3S), and MB Gurung, Managing Director of Sino Gurkhas Construction Engineering.
“Unwise and ridiculous”
“Unwise comments, mis-allocation of diplomatic resources and a mistaken conception of human rights and diplomacy issues,” was how the Director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, Mr Law, characterised Mr Dhami’s statement. “It is ridiculous for a foreign envoy…to openly urge the Hong Kong government to detain nationals from his own country.”
Mr Law also indirectly accused Priscilla Leung of distorting the facts surrounding the refugee issue, by decrying politicians making false claims while in the same statement pointing to the joint press conference organised by Ms Leung that featured Mr Dhami and other Nepalese community leaders.
“The Nepal consul’s misguided statement is playing into the agenda of ‘fake refugees’ driven by some irresponsible politicians,” Mr Law emphasises.
High costs for detention camps
Hong Kong-based human rights lawyer Earl Deng also criticised Mr Dhami and Ms Leung’s suggestion to create detention camp by highlighting Australia’s experience with camps that are incurring large management costs.
“The Australian government spends 7 billion HKD annually on the offshore detention centres to detain just 1500 refugees, while it now only takes 600 million HKD per year for the Hong Kong government to support the basic needs of refugees and the running cost of verification mechanism under the Immigration Department.”
Besides the cost, Mr Deng explains HK cannot follow the approach of Australia as being bounded by Hong Kong laws and the Basic Law.
“Both Australia and HK are part of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) under United Nations (UN). While Australia is yet to ratify ICCPR by local legislation, ratification of ICCPR has been done in HK by referring to Chapter 383 (Bill of Rights Ordinance) of the laws of HK and the Article 39 of Basic Law,” says Mr Deng.
It’s the government’s duty, don’t blame refugees
According to the latest figure released by Immigration Department, around 11,000 cases of torture claimant applications are in still in progress. Another Hong Kong-based human rights lawyer, Mark Daly, LegCo member Dennis Kwok (郭榮鏗, FC-Legal), and Mr Law all point to the failure of current screening process of the administration leading to the bulk of unscreened cases.
The speakers reveal why the screening process can be lengthy. Torture claimants can seek judicial reviews to overrule the decisions made by the Immigration Department after going through the screening process. The Immigration Department can be caught between re-starting the screening process or lengthen it to avoid being dragged into a judicial review in the first place.
“[Examples of] successful judicial review cases show how inefficient the current screening mechanism is. The Immigration Department lacks enough officers who are properly trained to possess relevant intelligence,” Mr Law argues. “The screening time could be shorten by improving the current mechanism, while detaining refugees would not help the situation but rather fuel hatred and fear.”