Most Hong Kong respondents support cracking down on human trafficking: Poll

Survey by Education University Department of Asian and Policy Studies also finds majority of respondents had neutral, not negative, views on asylum-seekers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 11:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2016, 11:17pm

Policies such as allowing paid work, reforming a screening mechanism for non-refoulement claims and building a detention camp were some of the more popular ways to solve issues related to asylum-seekers and refugees, a survey has found.

Another to crack down on snakeheads and human-trafficking organisations received the most backing – about 65 per cent – from survey respondents, according to the Education University Department of Asian and Policy Studies, which commissioned the poll. The survey also found that nearly half of Hongkongers are misinformed on the issue.

The study came as the number of non-refoulement claims is climbing and political parties are floating the idea of a detention camp – a suggestion that had over 26 per cent of the public’s support.

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Hiring more staff to speed up unified screening received 30 per cent of support, and allowing claimants to work in low-end jobs after five years received 32 per cent. Meanwhile, nearly 37 per cent supported reforming the screening system.

While a quarter of the 1,001 Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong adults polled by the school had a negative view of asylum-seekers – major impressions included “fake refugees” and “criminals” – two-thirds were neutral on claimants.

This contrasts with the picture painted by some political parties and media outlets that Hong Kong society holds a one-sided negative perception of them. Those who saw the refugees in a negative light cited reasons such as danger and disturbance to society and a strain on resources.

“There is clearly still a lot of misunderstanding in society,” said researcher Andy Wong Kwun-nang. “Most people actually hold quite neutral attitudes [to asylum-seekers].”

He urged the government to improve civic education on the matter, adopt sensible and humanitarian approaches and promote a culture of mutual respect.

Some of the major misconceptions highlighted by the survey include the firm belief that most asylum-seekers and refugees were from Pakistan or “African countries” – but the top two countries for non-refoulement claimants are actually Vietnam and India.

Almost half of the respondents also believed asylum-seekers can become residents under the current immigration system.

Despite such views, the researchers said it was encouraging to see support for a more pluralistic and multi-cultural society.

More than 80 per cent of respondents, for example, agreed Hongkongers needed to know more about other ethnic groups. About half admitted the city was “prejudiced towards people of colour”.