The UNHCR has seen its local resources depleted as funds are diverted to the humanitarian side of the Iraqi war Hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees in Hong Kong awaiting decisions on their fate have had to go without financial assistance for basic necessities from the United Nations in recent months. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said up to 800 migrants, comprising those seeking asylum and those who have already been granted refugee status, are living in Hong Kong, but only the most vulnerable receive the meagre stipends they are entitled to by UN conventions. The office has been suffering a severe lack of funding because money has been diverted since February to prepare for the humanitarian consequences of the Iraqi war, a senior spokesman for the local office said. 'At the moment our budget is very constrained and will continue to be for the rest of the year,' he said. 'We may not be able to continue throughout the year, even for those who currently receive financial assistance from us.' Refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong used to get several thousand dollars a month to help them acquire basic necessities such as food and shelter, but many find they have now been left to fend for themselves despite being forbidden from seeking employment. Abdul Waheed, a Kashmiri refugee, has been in Hong Kong since November and was granted political asylum at the end of March, but he said he had received only $780. Mr Waheed, who escaped from the district of Rawalakog Poonch in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir last year, had to spend several days sleeping at the Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui. Finally, he was helped out by a fellow Kashmiri who offered him a place to stay and said he would not have to pay rent until the end of the month. But the month is almost over and Mr Waheed has yet to see any sign of money from the UNHCR. 'If I read the UN convention on refugees correctly, it says the basic human needs of refugees should be taken care of, but I am still waiting to be granted basic food and shelter from them,' he said. Mr Waheed has put in eight applications for assistance but said officers at the UNHCR's office in Hong Kong told him all their money was going to Iraq and they had none to give him. He was sent to a hostel where he would have had to share a small unventilated room with seven other people, a measure he said was dangerous, particularly with the Sars situation in Hong Kong. The 33-year-old said he had to run away from his home after being shot at by militants for speaking out against fundamentalist groups in Kashmir opening a training camp near his home. He was granted refugee status on March 31 and is awaiting resettlement in another country. The UNHCR spokesman said the commission could only afford to give financial assistance to the most vulnerable cases. 'Hong Kong is very expensive and we try to provide the minimum standard of living to refugees, but we now have to review which ones are seriously in need,' he said. The Hong Kong government provides no funding to aid the UNHCR's work here and Hong Kong is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, he added. But Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai called on the government to support the UNHCR's work more directly instead of turning a blind eye to the plight of refugees.