NewsHong Kong

Police investigate 'unfit' asylum seekers' housing

Investigation follows complaint that government-funded group accommodated asylum seekers in illegally converted poultry farm

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 6:38am

A police investigation has been launched into allegations a government-funded group responsible for housing asylum seekers accommodated one group in an illegally converted poultry farm.

The probe comes a week after the Sunday Morning Post reported complaints that the site, at Hung Shui Kiu, near Tuen Mun, was unfit for human habitation and had been modified in apparent defiance of land-use regulations.

Police investigators will examine allegations that the International Social Service Hong Kong (ISS-HK) provided "inappropriate accommodation" to asylum seekers.

Last week, the charity Vision First accused ISS-HK of presiding over substandard and unsanitary housing, which it likened to a shantytown.

"Wan Chai Police Station received a report on August 20 from a 47-year-old man who claimed that an organisation is suspected to have provided inappropriate accommodation with allocated funds," a police spokesman said.

The Wan Chai district crime squad was investigating, the spokesman said.

Cosmo Beatson, the founder and executive director Vision First, who filed the complaint with the police, said he welcomed the news that an investigation had been started.

Last week, Beatson's Vision First also filed a complaint with the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The ICAC declined to say whether it was conducting its own review into ISS-HK's conduct.

"We do not comment on individual cases," a spokesman for the commission said.

The Post approached ISS-HK's chief executive, Stephen Yau How-boa, and director of its migrants programme Adrielle Panares to comment. Neither responded to repeated requests.

A Post reporter who visited the site last week saw how a former pigeon shed had been subdivided into makeshift cubicles, held together by flimsy pieces of wood, corrugated iron and breeze blocks.

Residents had no drinking water and only cold showers, some of them outdoors.

The rent payable was HK$1,300 a month per person, of which ISS-HK paid the bulk - HK$1,200 - from funds it received under a HK$203 million contract with the Social Welfare Department; the rest was met by other charitable organisations.

Inspectors from the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department inspected the farm on August 17.

The government said a total of 4,700 people were receiving assistance from ISS-HK, of whom 3,300 were being housed by the group.

The HK$203 million paid to ISS is intended to cover asylum seekers' rental assistance, a pack of groceries every 10 days and other basic necessities.



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