SNOW­DEN REFUGEES

Home coun­tries deemed ‘safe’ by au­thor­i­ties

New Straits Times - - World -

HONG KONG

AGROUP of refugees who shel­tered fugi­tive whistle­blower Ed­ward Snow­den in Hong Kong are fac­ing de­por­ta­tion af­ter the city’s au­thor­i­ties re­jected their bid for pro­tec­tion, their lawyer said yes­ter­day.

The im­pov­er­ished Philip­pine and Sri Lankan refugees helped the for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency con­trac­tor evade au­thor­i­ties in 2013 by hid­ing him in their cramped homes for two weeks af­ter he ini­ti­ated one of the largest data leaks in United States his­tory.

They have spent years hop­ing the govern­ment would recog­nise their cases and save them from be­ing sent back to their home coun­tries, where they say they were per­se­cuted.

How­ever, im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties re­jected their pro­tec­tion claims yes­ter­day.

“The de­ci­sions are com­pletely un­rea­son­able,” their lawyer Robert Tibbo said.

Tibbo said their cases had been re­jected be­cause their home coun­tries were deemed safe.

The refugees have said pre­vi­ously they were specif­i­cally asked about their links to Snow­den by Hong Kong au­thor­i­ties.

“We now have less than two weeks to sub­mit ap­peals be­fore the fam­i­lies are de­ported,” said Tibbo along­side the refugees, who were vis­i­bly dis­tressed.

He said there was a risk his clients could be de­tained and their chil­dren placed in govern­ment cus­tody. Their sto­ries only emerged late last year.

The group says they ex­pe­ri­enced tor­ture and per­se­cu­tion in their own coun­tries and can­not safely re­turn.

Their lawyers and some city leg­is­la­tors have said two of the Sri Lankan refugees had been tar­geted by agents from their home coun­try.

Hong Kong is bound by the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion against Tor­ture and Other Cruel, In­hu­man or De­grad­ing Treatment or Pun­ish­ment and con­sid­ers Sumo wrestlers hold up crying ba­bies in front of a ref­eree clad in a tra­di­tional cos­tume dur­ing a “Baby-cry Sumo” event at the Kamegaike-Hachi­man Shrine in Sagami­hara, Kana­gawa pre­fec­ture, Ja­pan, on Sun­day. Some 150 ba­bies aged un­der 2 took part in the an­nual baby crying con­test in the Shinto shrine in Sagami­hara. Ja­panese par­ents be­lieve that sumo wrestlers can help make ba­bies cry out a wish to grow up with good health. claims for pro­tec­tion based on those grounds.

It also con­sid­ers claims based on risk of per­se­cu­tion.

Lawyers for the Snow­den refugees sep­a­rately lodged an asy­lum pe­ti­tion with the Cana­dian govern­ment in March and called for that process to be ex­pe­dited yes­ter­day. AFP

EPA PIC

Re­jected asy­lum seeker Vanessa Mae Bon­dalian Rodel hug­ging her daugh­ter (left) and another asy­lum seeker out­side Im­mi­gra­tion Tower in Hong Kong yes­ter­day.

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