Asylum seeker fights Education Bureau's ban on son attending kindergarten

Education Bureau accused of ignoring the law after three-year-old refused kindergarten place

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 June, 2013, 8:26am

A government decision to bar a three-year-old asylum seeker from attending a public kindergarten is being challenged by his family.

The boy's 34-year-old father, who comes from Sri Lanka, says he is a torture victim and that the boy and his Indonesian mother are in the process of seeking refugee status.

The father said that should make his son eligible to go to school while their claims were being reviewed.

The family has been refused legal aid for a judicial review as the Legal Aid Department views the Education Bureau's ban as reasonable.

The father did not want to reveal his family's identity and would only give his first name, Januka.

"Under Article 20 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, my child has a right to education," he said. Every child, regardless of race, religion or national origin had the right to such protection.

Januka said the same right for the child to receive an education in Hong Kong was included under the Basic Law, Article 39.

Hong Kong was also a signatory to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, he added.

"I am a torture claimant and my case has just been submitted by the Duty Lawyer Service to the Immigration Department. I have not yet completed the screening interviews with the department," he said.

"But the Education Bureau made the decision to refuse my son an education in Hong Kong. I want to judicially review this decision."

Since last year, the family says that they have been fearful of attending the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Hong Kong, saying immigration officers had threatened to detain them.

Cosmo Beatson, executive director of Vision First, a charity that advocates rights for people seeking protection, believes there is a clear policy by the Immigration Department to take a hard line when it comes to asylum seekers.

"It is simply unreasonable that this boy is not being afforded the opportunity to get a fundamental education in Hong Kong," Beatson said.

"There are many such cases as this one, and parents - who might find themselves stranded in Hong Kong for years waiting for a decision - are understandably distraught."

The Immigration Department and Education Bureau said that they did not comment on individual cases.