Asylum seekers call for healthier food handouts for sake of children

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2008, 12:00am

Asylum seekers in Hong Kong have urged the government to provide sufficient fresh and nutritional food to meet their children's basic needs.

The human rights group Asylum Seekers and Refugees' Voice (ASRV) launched a complaint yesterday under the Legislative Council Redress System, expressing concerns over insufficient welfare assistance provided to asylum seekers' children.

They said continued poor quality food might cause or worsen malnutrition in the children.

Currently, the government provides food it says is worth HK$450 per month per child at designated food stores and HK$900 per adult. But it does not provide any cash allowance for asylum seekers or torture claimants.

A Nepali asylum seeker, who has been in the city for a year, is worried about his son's health.

'I collect the food every 10 days in Jordan, but the food turns bad just one day after I collect it. There is also not enough.'

Annie Lin, community organiser for the Society for Community Organisation, said half of the vegetables and fruit provided were rotten after a few days, leaving the families to share a limited food supply.

She added that most of the food obtained was overpriced, arguing that asylum seekers could get fresher food in greater quantities from supermarkets at the same price.

Asylum seekers said the government's treatment was disrespectful and not up to international standards.

They called for the administration to provide supermarket coupons allowing them to freely choose their food, thus ensuring their diet met people's nutritional needs.

They also raised concerns over school expenses not covered by the government, ranging from meal allowances to uniforms.

According to ASRV, 1,448 asylum seekers are receiving welfare assistance from the government.