This is my second week in my new role as Executive Director of Justice Centre, and indeed in Hong Kong, having left Europe in the thick of the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Over the past few months, as I’ve prepared for the big move across the globe, I’ve also been closely following former colleagues and asylum experts commenting on the unfolding events; it has made me feel incredibly proud to see so many of my legal and non-profit fraternity marching in solidarity with the refugee community across capitals in Europe.
Just this past Monday, key EU heads of state met in Brussels to carve out a strategy and propose a resolution to this crisis. While this is good to hear, it is my belief that each and every government around the world should help address the global refugee crisis – read my opinion piece, published in last Saturday’s SCMP on what role Asian powerhouses, in Hong Kong, should be taking to respond.
Now that I’m working on the other side of the world, I am keen to use my expertise in refugee law and human trafficking to help shape public debate, increase awareness, ensure meaningful access to justice and change law and policy for the causes we advocate for and the people we serve. Having worked in legal practice, legal education and in policy and advocacy for both local and international organisations, I hope that my experience can contribute positively to the fantastic work that is already taking place.
Justice Centre’s long-term vision is for Hong Kong to become a just and inclusive society where people from all countries of origin enjoy dignity, human rights and meaningful access to justice. I intend to work fearlessly with my colleagues to protect the rights of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable forced migrants and position us as a key player in the refugee and human trafficking fields locally and regionally. Most importantly, I am looking forward to getting to know you, members of our amazing supporter community without whom our work would not be possible, over the course of my leadership.
Piya is a qualified Barrister in England and Wales and an Advocate in Scotland, and has been working for the past fifteen years in the field of human rights, child rights and refugee law and policy. Piya most recently worked at UNICEF UK as head of policy and advocacy, and Freedom from Torture as their senior legal advisor.
Justice Centre Hong Kong is pleased to announce the call for entries for our annual Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2015. Now in its third year, the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize is a platform for Hong Kong-based artists to explore human rights through the visual arts and to raise awareness of these issues amongst new audiences.
The winner of the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize this year will be announced and shortlisted artworks will be sold at a charity auction in December 2015. The winner will also be awarded HK$ 30,000 to support their work.
Shortlisted artists are respectfully requested to donate their artwork to Justice Centre Hong Kong so all funds raised from the auction will go towards our work to protect the rights of refugees and survivors of human trafficking.
Entries will be judged by an eminent panel of prominent art experts and human rights specialists.
To view the online gallery of artworks shortlisted for the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2014, please click here.
To find out how to enter this year’s Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize, please click here.
In response to the US State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report released yesterday, Justice Centre Hong Kong, a Hong Kong-based human rights organisation, regrets that for the seventh consecutive year, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has once again been ranked at Tier 2 for failing to comply with the minimum standards to combat human trafficking.
In its narrative of Hong Kong, this year’s TIP report states that in the past year “although officials identified 26 potential victims [of human trafficking], they did not refer them to or provide them with protective service, unlike in 2013.” The report goes on to note that in regards to prosecution, the government actually “decreased” its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and only made “modest” efforts to prevent trafficking.
The TIP Report, released on an annual basis, examines the efforts made by governments around the world to combat human trafficking within their borders through a tier-ranking system of 1, 2, 2-Watch List and 3. Tier 1 is the highest ranking, meaning that states in this category comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, acknowledge and make proactive efforts to address the problem. States in Tier 3, the worst possible placement, neither fully comply with the minimum standards nor are making significant efforts to do so.
The Hong Kong Government has frequently gone on the record to wholly deny human trafficking, for example stating, in response to the TIP Report this year, that it “disagree[d] that Hong Kong is a destination and transit and source territory for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.”
In reaction to the report and HKSAR’s continued ranking at Tier 2, Victoria Wisniewski Otero, Acting Director of External Relations of Justice Centre Hong Kong, said:
“It is high time that the Hong Kong Government did more to address human trafficking concerns and graduate out of the Tier 2 ranking, where it has languished since 2009. Progress has been abysmal considering the many high-profile cases of abuse, particularly among foreign domestic workers, that have come to the public eye in the past couple of years, notably that of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih last year.
It is clear that Hong Kong has the resources to do more but lacks the political will. While we acknowledge authorities’ recent efforts, such as public awareness campaigns and law enforcement training, if the starting point for the Hong Kong Government to discussing these issues is consistently one of denial, then it is merely paying lip service to combating human trafficking and forced labour and offering survivors more protection and ensuring their rights are respected.”
For years, Justice Centre Hong Kong, other civil society organisations and human rights experts at home and abroad have been calling for the Hong Kong Government to adopt comprehensive legislation to address human trafficking in all its forms; to develop more targeted policy measures, such as a National Plan of Action, and for the UN Trafficking or “Palermo” Protocol to be extended to the HKSAR territory.
In order to capture a reliable snapshot of what is happening on the ground, Justice Centre Hong Kong has embarked on a ground-breaking three-part research project to examine the prevalence and patterns of human trafficking, forced labour and other forms of exploitation among three vulnerable migrant groups who are often at risk of abuse: foreign domestic workers, migrant sex workers and people seeking asylum in Hong Kong. The first study, surveying over 1,000 foreign domestic workers from eight countries of origin, will be published later this year, and the overall project will be completed in two years.
A copy of the 2015 US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report can be found here.
The Hong Kong Government’s press release in response to TIP report can be found here.
To learn more about Justice Centre’s research project to examine the prevalence and patterns of human trafficking, forced labour and other forms of exploitation among foreign domestic workers, sex workers and people seeking asylum in Hong Kong, click here.
Aleta joined Justice Centre after a career in the UN and steered the organisation through a significant relaunch and rebrand in 2014 that took it from Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre to Justice Centre.
Chair of the Justice Centre Board of Directors, Farzana Aslam, said:
“Aleta has been a dedicated, bold and strategic leader for our organisation. Under her stewardship, Justice Centre has become the dynamic, innovative human rights organisation it is today. She leaves us in a strong position to achieve our ambitious mandate to protect the rights of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable forced migrants through both direct services for refugees and protection claimants, and advocacy programmes on both protection and human trafficking issues. She will be sorely missed.”
Aleta Miller said:
“I am deeply proud to have been part of creating Justice Centre, and incredibly grateful to all our friends, staff, volunteers, supporters, and donors for building this organisation with us. I leave with a heavy heart, letting go of something which I believe so strongly in, something which I’ve been part of building, something which I still hold a vision for, of working with people I care about.
It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve had the privilege to walk alongside many refugees and asylum seekers, to hear their wonderful stories, and horrifying stories, of survival, of hope, of overcoming the impossible to reach safety. These will stay with me forever and inspire me in my future path.”
The recruitment for a new Executive Director at Justice Centre is now open. Visit here for more details.