OUR 5th 3C ForumUniversity of Hong Kong | 3C Forum
CAPRS | Center for Asia Pacific Refugee StudiesAuthor: OUR (Opening Universities for Refugees) now runs under CAPRS as a program
The joint OUR/UNHCR Hong Kong 3C Forum was held on May 23rd, 2019, at the Law Faculty, University of Hong Kong. The aim was to bring together those concerned with tertiary education and access to higher education opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong. The focus of the forum was identifying key target areas of concern and forming active consortia and projects that could function together to achieve tangible goals in the short, medium, and long term. Hong Kong is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 protocol.
Therefore, it does not follow the international legal framework to process the granting of asylum or refugee claims. However, prior to March 2014, UNHCR was responsible for conducting all refugee status determinations on claims from prospective asylum seekers, providing assistance to the government of Hong Kong. However, in March 2014, the Hong Kong government initiated the Unified Screening Mechanism (USM), a process to determine the merit of asylum claims and non-refoulement cases.
This released UNHCR from all responsibility in determining the merit of protection claims. UNHCR now works to explore new approaches to support a large number of refugees and asylum seekers who are facing extended periods of waiting time in their second country of asylum. UNHCR has begun to support the government and NGOs in Hong Kong on protection issues, comprehensive solutions, and private sector partnerships. The limited welfare assistance from the government and the inability to seek employment for the majority of asylum seekers creates financial and social barriers for many, unable to pursue activities that could provide pathways to mobility.
One such opportunity is higher education, which although legally 31 available to asylum seekers, is not free. As a result, many asylum seekers are unable to pursue educational opportunities after primary and secondary school. In Hong Kong, various community-based organizations support refugees with financial costs related to education. While NGOs work to support refugees with these financial challenges, the high cost of registration fees, tuition, transportation, and school materials limit the number of prospective students these organizations can support. Consequently, the majority of asylum seekers cannot pursue professional degrees, negatively impacting their ability to engage in the workforce if and when their asylum claims are processed.
*To read other stories from the 2019 CLCC Yearbook, click here.