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‘People have been left deeply humiliated and traumatised’
The Consulate General of India in Hong Kong has lashed out at the Hong Kong government over what it describes as the targeting of its nationals in a crackdown on the abuse of the city’s asylum application system.
“Large numbers of genuine Indian travellers have been facing serious difficulties upon arrival in Hong Kong, which include detention and interrogation for long hours, including women and children, and invasive body searches,” the Indian consulate’s media officer, Karun Bansal, said.
Travellers subjected to such treatments, Bansal said, included those with valid documents, ticket reservations and money. “People have been left deeply humiliated and traumatised as the result of such experiences,” he said.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong security bureau said that given recent cases of abuse by Indians , the Immigration Department “is indeed duty-bound to step up examination on passengers of higher immigration risks.” But he said that the “examination will as always be conducted professionally according to laid down policies and procedures.”
According to the Indian consulate, in 2015 alone, more than 3,000 Indian travellers were detained and denied entry into Hong Kong “which is totally disproportionate to the number of torture claim files.”
As of December last year, there were 10,922 outstanding protection claims, which the Hong Kong government is obliged to screen as signatory to the UN Convention against Torture. The biggest numbers are from Vietnam (2,324) and followed by Indian (2,093), Pakistani (1,934), Bangladeshi (1,345) and Indonesian citizens (1,116).
Between late 2009 and December 2015, 42 claims were substantiated — none of them were Vietnamese or Indian nationals.
Despite of the number of protection claimants from Vietnam surpassing those from India, the local government has focused on the latter group. They remained “the second largest group by nationality in the 4th quarter of 2015 and in January 2016. The situation clearly remains worrying,” a spokesman for the security bureau said yesterday .
There were reports last year about agencies in India selling fake ‘asylum visas’, which were being used by black-market labour rackets operating in Hong Kong. Early this month, two residents of Indian descent were arrested for allegedly helping seven Indians, who were here supposedly to play hockey, to overstay and file torture claims. Later in the month, two Indians who were being removed by train escaped along the rail track.
The Indian consulate said it expressed “serious concerns at recent media reports that seem to target and single out the Indian travellers.” It recalled that more than half a million genuine Indian travellers visit Hong Kong annually for recreation and business purposes.
The government said this month that Indian and Indonesian nationals could face visa restrictions, which many doubt would solve the problem. Vietnamese , Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals need a visa to enter the city.
Local enforcement agencies travelled to India in December to study measures. The Indian Consulate said that the country’s authorities have extended full cooperation and made proposals to Hong Kong.
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