Asylum seekers demand ICAC probe contractor over food rations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 4:46am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 4:46am

Angry asylum seekers have called on the ICAC to investigate claims a government-contracted social welfare provider has embezzled money intended to provide food for 5,000 refugees.

More than 60 asylum seekers were joined by lawmaker "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and refugee rights charity Vision First. They chanted slogans and held up placards outside the anti-graft agency's North Point headquarters yesterday.

They later filed a complaint against the International Social Service Hong Kong.

A spokesman for Refugees' Union, a new pressure group, said a formal request was made for the watchdog to look into present and past services that it believed involved criminality.

They claim they receive groceries valued at HK$300 to $400 less than the HK$1,060 ISS-HK is contractually obliged to provide each month to each refugee. The budget was raised to HK$1,200 this month.

The ISS-HK has denied any wrongdoing, saying its food costs are affected by the high price of speciality items such as basmati rice and halal meat, needed to cater for the diets of the refugees, who are mostly from South Asia and Africa.

"ISS takes any allegations of improper use of public funds seriously," a spokesman said.

Leung said "there must be something wrong" for a contractor with a multimillion-dollar contract to treat asylum seekers in such a way.

Since Tuesday, the refugees have been staging a sit-in and hunger strikes at the ISS-HK office, demanding a price list, which the Social Welfare Department has declined to provide.

The asylum seekers, including 16 on a hunger strike, are occupying the ISS-HK office in Prince Edward.

A Social Welfare Department spokeswoman has said no irregularities have been found.