Sample the refugee life in TST park

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2006, 12:00am

Mock camp gives a taste of hardships displaced people face

An emergency refugee camp has been set up in Hong Kong, with tents made of plastic sheets and bare essentials crafted from scrap materials.

The camp, erected by the international aid group Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), has been set up in Kowloon Park to tackle a special kind of emergency - ignorance.

'We want Hong Kong people to be able to see, feel, touch and even lie down in the tents to really understand what it is like to be a refugee,' said Gloria Chan, head of press and public affairs for MSF.

The 3,300-square-metre exhibition features three types of tents for different climates, nutrition demands and health-care needs. It even has makeshift latrines.

The exhibition runs from today to October 4 at the Piazza in Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui. It has toured various countries in Europe and North America, as well as Japan.

Alice Chow Kin-tak, a civil engineer who has volunteered with the group and travelled to emergencies in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Banda Aceh in Indonesia, described the process of building a community from scratch.

'We obviously don't have flushing water in the latrines ... They are one metre by one metre holes in the ground that are about two metres deep, and we create a kind of chimney and fly nets to avoid infestation by flies,' she said.

Without paper or water to clean themselves after using the toilet, many people use small, thin stones to do the job.

Inflatable water tanks called 'bladders' are set up and Ms Chow said water has to be rationed out.

'We sometimes ration just five litres of water a day for each refugee,' she said. 'Do you know how much Hong Kong people use a day? We use 364 litres of water daily.'

The tents include the kinds of daily necessities that would be at the refugees' disposal, including shoes made of car tyres, toys made from rusty scrap iron and rudimentary water filtration devices made from a sieve, sand and rocks.

Visitors to the camp are welcome to taste the high nutritional value biscuits, called NRG 5 or BP 5, and will be issued ration cards to entitle them to the handouts.

'People are welcome to bring friends and try lying down in a small tent,' Ms Chan said.

'Refugees sometimes have to share such cramped spaces with strangers for months on end. It is important for us to feel for a minute what they have to endure.'