In response to media enquiries, Justice Centre Hong Kong provides the following comments:
Everyone’s health and wellbeing is interconnected in a pandemic. This is why for Hong Kong’s public health response to be effective, it is crucial that everyone in our society – including refugees and asylum seekers – are included in the overall public health response, including equal access to COVID-19 vaccines. Championing this, Justice Centre together with a group of NGOs published a list of emergency policy recommendations early in the pandemic in April 2020.
Refugees and asylum seekers have been largely left out of Hong Kong’s public health response. In the early weeks of the pandemic, this community was not provided with hygiene products, such as masks and sanitisers. There was no information on how this community could access healthcare services if they developed symptoms, or whether they could access community testing centres. To date, refugees and asylum seekers are not eligible for the covid-19 vaccine, as they do not have any legal immigration status. The Government’s exclusion of the refugee community from Hong Kong’s public health response further exacerbated barriers already faced by refugees and asylum seekers in accessing healthcare services.
Further, asylum seekers are required to report regularly to the Immigration Department in person. The need to travel – often considerable distances and on public transport – for the purposes of reporting puts people at risk and is against the public health advice to stay at home and practice social distancing. Upon enquiry, the Immigration Department stated that it has arranged to temporarily relax the reporting frequency of recognizance form holders to not more than once every eight weeks since February 2020. However, reports from affected individuals suggest this measure was not communicated clearly to them, and many were left confused about their reporting requirements.
The meagre monthly housing allowance provided to refugees and asylum seekers – HKD$1500 per adult and HKD$ 750 per child – means that many people have had to live in accommodation that is substandard, overcrowded, unsafe or with inadequate infrastructure. These forms of accommodation expose residents to greater risk of contracting and transmitting Covid-19, due to issues such as limited ventilation, substandard drainage and plumbing systems, and overcrowding.
Justice Centre together with NGOs and other stakeholders are hopeful that the vaccine will be made available to this community soon. Equal access to vaccination is important for the health and well-being of refugees in the city, as well as the broader Hong Kong community.
就傳媒查詢，Justice Centre 聲明如下：
在新型冠狀病毒疫情中，香港每個人的健康和福祉明顯是相互依存的。因此，為確保香港公共衛生措施的有效性，相關政策及疫苗接種計劃必須包括我們社會中的每一分子，包括難民和尋求庇護者。正因如此，Justice Centre 早在疫情的初期、2020年4月與其他非政府組織公布了一系列的緊急抗疫政策建議。
Justice Centre 以至其他非政府組織及持份者均希望難民和尋求庇護者社群能盡快獲得接種疫苗的權利。我們重申，接種疫苗的平等權利對於每一位在港難民及市民的健康和福祉同樣重要。