Young Hong Kong citizens who have fled police brutality in their country are “endangered” in Britain’s asylum system because they have been arbitrarily excluded from the Home Office settlement route because of their age.
In the wake of Beijing’s national security law last year to amend the rules of the British National Overseas (BNO) scheme designed to provide a path to citizenship for Hong Kong people after they were exposed to people under the age of 24. Ministers are facing calls for this. Cannot avail this as they do not have BNO passports, which were issued in 1997.
Teenagers and youth of the city state told Granthshala Instead they have had to claim asylum in the UK, waiting a year or more for a decision while being banned from working and often from studying.
MPs and campaigners said it was a “scandal” that young people, who have often been on the front lines of pro-democracy protests, were kept out of the BNO route for reasons “totally beyond their control”, and Now he is facing a “painful wait”. in the asylum system”.
Home Office figures show that there were 124 asylum claims by Hong Kong citizens from 2021 to June 2021, compared to 21 a year ago and just nine in the 12 months to June 2019.
Fourteen of them were minors alone in the past year – marking the first time on record that the UK has received asylum claims from Hong Kong children.
The BNO visa scheme, which is estimated to receive approximately 422,000 applications from Hong Kong in its first four years, requires applicants to have a BNO passport. These documents were issued to citizens in 1997 after Hong Kong was handed over from Britain to China.
While the scheme allows applicants to bring relatives, including adult children, to the UK with them, many young people have had to flee alone because their parents want to live in Hong Kong.
Venus, 19, fled Hong Kong in November last year after it was revealed that police were “looking for her” after her involvement in pro-democracy protests on her university campus. She hurried away with only two backpacks so as not to arouse suspicion.
The teenager, who did not wish to disclose her full name, would be eligible for BNO status if she had come to the UK with her parents who hold BNO passports – but did not agree with the protest, which they said That “generational divide” in Hong Kong.
Venus initially stayed with friends who were studying at UK universities, but moved to an asylum in May 2021. She was kept in an east London hotel being used for asylum seekers, where she said she was on a floor with only men.
“Some of them were not very well behaved. People will vomit in some common areas like corridors,” said the 19-year-old.
“Only Hindu or Halal food was provided. I am allergic to spices. My feet used to swell when I used to eat food. I asked if they could arrange for some western dishes – even just plain pasta – but they didn’t.
Venus bought herself an electric hob and less supermarket food with the £8 weekly allowance given by the Home Office.
“I lived on a very, very tight budget. It wasn’t enough. I’ve been so spoiled emotionally. I used to be so sad every day. I used to get hungry sometimes. It was very tough,” she added .
The teenager recently received a scholarship to the University of Glasgow and is now living in the student hall, but she is still struggling.
“I’ve been in the asylum system for almost a year with no response. I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait. I want to go for some internship or work. I want to be free,” she said.
“This is really unfair. Many of my colleagues and friends born after 1997 are the most active generation in the movement. Those are the groups that will be most targeted by the police and the government.”
Statistics show that the average waiting time for a preliminary decision on an asylum case in the UK is currently between one and three years.
Hi Yin Ngan, 19, said he came to the UK in June 2021 after nearly being arrested by Hong Kong police. His parents have a business in Hong Kong, so they were reluctant to leave, meaning he could not benefit from the BNO route.
“I can’t work. I’m staying with friends. I’ve already been there three times since I arrived. I found a place to study philosophy at the University of Nottingham, but I couldn’t complete the registration process Because I haven’t checked my asylum yet. I can’t do anything,” he said.
“A lot of frontline protesters were born after 1997, we need some help. We feel hopeless. I want to be able to work and get hired and live a normal life in the UK, but I’ll probably have to wait a year or more before I can. “
Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for foreign affairs Laila Moran MP said it was a “scam” that the government was “ejecting” some youth from the BNO route for reasons “totally beyond their control”.
“Many of those who protested the illegal power grab of the Chinese government were young people. We must give life to all Hong Kongers who need it,” he said. Granthshala.
Johnny Patterson, policy director of Hong Kong Watch, which supports young Hong Kongers in the UK asylum system, said these youths were subjected to “painful waiting” in the asylum system, and that barring work was “actively theirs”. was hindering capacity. Integrated”.
He called on the Home Office to expand the visa scheme to any Hong Kongers who have at least one BNO status parent, and to lift restrictions on work for asylum seekers in the UK.
A Home Office spokesman said the BNO visa scheme was an “unprecedented and generous offer that reflects our deep ties with Hong Kong”.
“We have a statutory duty to provide assistance to all asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute. Supported in initial accommodation where food and other items are provided in kind, they get an additional allowance to ensure that other needs can be met,” he said.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /