Asylum seekers need education, say legislators

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 October, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 October, 2006, 12:00am

Asylum seekers have a right to education regardless of their immigration status, a group of legislators said yesterday.

Speaking to some asylum seekers gathered by the Society for Community Organisation (Soco) at the Legislative Council Complaints Unit, the Civic Party's Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said Legco was concerned about the issue of education for young asylum seekers. The 10 asylum seekers present were all over 16, thus not entitled to protection under the Education Ordinance for compulsory education for minors.

'We do care,' Ms Ng said. 'The question to concentrate on is what we can do about it. The right and the need for education and vocational training have to be de-linked from immigration matters.'

Soco co-ordinator Annie Lin said young refugees and asylum seekers often had to wait years for their claims to be processed and needed education or vocational training to give them some chance at a future.

One asylum seeker, aged 17, said he had been in Hong Kong for a year but spent his time 'doing nothing'.

'I tried to contact the Education Department but they said you need recognisance papers from immigration, but if I go to immigration, I'm scared they will detain me.'

Another asylum seeker said he was worried he would 'decay away' without education while awaiting determination of his refugee claim.

Democrat Yeung Sum said education officials should grant schooling on humanitarian grounds. Lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said it was unsatisfactory that asylum seekers had to 'report to immigration before they can be considered for schooling'.

'According to Security Bureau statistics, there is a 27 per cent chance they would be detained if they presented themselves to immigration,' Mr Cheung said.

An Education and Manpower Bureau spokesman said the bureau had to consult the Director of Immigration to ascertain whether a child was 'likely to be removed from Hong Kong in the near future' before it could consider school placement. Each case was handled on an individual basis, he said.