Asylum seekers abused in HK, group alleges

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2007, 12:00am

Asylum seekers face physical and psychological abuse in Hong Kong detention centres as part of government tactics to force them out of the city, a concern group says.

The Society for Community Organisation, after interviewing former inmates from immigration holding centres, said people fleeing political persecution overseas faced 'torture' in detention centres where they were held for violating immigration laws.

Most of the 51 inmates interviewed said they were stripped in front of fellow asylum seekers and before officers who insulted them and joked during body searches. Many said they were denied medical care and psychological counselling and were given only Panadol for all types of medical complaints.

Those who objected were sent to prison mental hospitals or into solitary confinement as 'revenge', said the society's organiser, Annie Lin On-nei. 'Immigration officers would tell them 'if you don't like the treatment here, you can go back to your country',' Ms Lin said. 'We believe the government is purposely doing this to force the asylum seekers out of Hong Kong.'

An immigration spokesman rejected the claims, saying: 'Our officers won't tell the asylum seekers this. Also, we don't see them unless on visits for assessing their torture claims.'

Ms Lin fears the Immigration Department, faced with an increase in the number of torture claimants in Hong Kong from 186 in 2005 to 514 cases last year, will abuse asylum seekers more in detention to force them out. Two hundred asylum seekers are detained in Hong Kong, mostly for overstaying. Most are in Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre and Ma Tau Kok detention centre. The society urged the government to adopt a no-detention policy towards asylum seekers.

The Correctional Services Department (CSD) received 75 complaints from asylum seekers and torture claimants from April 2005 to December last year. Of these, 27 were processed and found to be unsubstantiated. The remainder are still being investigated.

Castle Peak Bay is managed by the CSD on the Immigration Department's behalf. A CSD spokeswoman rejected the accusations, saying under the department's rules, inmates 'must be treated with kindness and humanity'.

African former inmate Saidou, 30, who said he was persecuted in his country for being a member of an opposition party, said he wasn't allowed to shower for three weeks after he objected to having to undergo a body search at Ma Tau Kok detention centre in front of four officers.