Education woe for asylum seekers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 5:21am

Young asylum seekers are missing out on kindergarten because the government will not pay the full cost - a problem campaigners say could leave them lagging behind their peers for life.

Government subsidies only cover tuition, and with asylum seekers banned from working, there is often no money to cover fees, books, transport and other expenses.

Asylum seekers, who can wait for a decade or more in Hong Kong, want government help.

"We've been borrowing from other people," said Sian, a Sri Lankan with two children in kindergarten who is waiting to have his application to be a recognised torture victim and refugee processed. "What's the use of paying for [tuition] but nothing else?".

Sian said her family needed about HK$700 per month for transport, HK$550 twice per year for books and HK$450 for school uniforms for his two kindergarten-age children. The family receives the maximum HK$1,775 per child tuition subsidy.

Cosmo Beatson, from the NGO Vision First, said many asylum seekers end up seeking illegal employment, but faced serious consequences if caught, including jail and deportation.

The Education Bureau did not reply to requests for comment by press time.