Hong Kong 'Snowden refugees' seek asylum in Canada

The impoverished refugees living hand to mouth in the city took in the former NSA contractor in 2013


Afp March 09, 2017
Edward Snowden. PHOTO: REUTERS

Refugees who sheltered fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong are formally seeking asylum from the Canadian government as their lawyers said Thursday their lives are in danger.

Russia may hand over Snowden to Trump: report

The impoverished refugees living hand to mouth in the city took in the former National Security Agency contractor in 2013, helping him to evade authorities by hiding him in their cramped homes after he initiated one of the largest data leaks in US history.

Their stories only emerged late last year and lawyers say they are now in the spotlight of Hong Kong and their home countries.

The refugees say they have been specifically asked about their links to Snowden by Hong Kong authorities.

Their lawyers and some city legislators say two Snowden hosts, from Sri Lanka, have been targeted by agents from their own country who have travelled to Hong Kong.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Canadian lawyer Marc-Andre Seguin said "it is a matter of life and death."

Seguin is one of a legal team for the refugees trying to raise awareness of their situation in Hong Kong, Canada and around the world.

The lawyers say they want Canada to consider taking them in because of their "exceptional circumstances", rather than trying to set any kind of precedent. Canada has a track record of accepting refugees.

The asylum petition has been lodged with the Canadian government.
"What we're asking is that he (the immigration minister) expedite the process and give priority given the exceptional circumstances," Seguin said.

US spy agency contractor charged with taking top secret materials

"What adds to the exceptional nature of the case is that there are three stateless children who are involved here and affected by that," he added.

After leaving his initial Hong Kong hotel bolthole for fear of being discovered, Snowden went underground, fed and looked after by refugees for around two weeks.

Hong Kong is not a signatory to the UN's refugee convention and does not grant asylum.

However, it is bound by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) and considers claims for protection based on those grounds.

It also considers claims based on risk of persecution.

After government screening, claimants found to be at risk of persecution are referred to the UN's refugee agency, which can try to resettle them to a safe third country.

But with fewer than one percent of cases successfully substantiated by city authorities, most refugees live in fear of deportation.

Like Snowden's hosts, Hong Kong's 11,000 marginalised refugees spend years in limbo, hoping the government will eventually support their claims.

About 40 Turkish NATO soldiers requested asylum in Germany

Vanessa Rodel from the Philippines, who has a five-year-old daughter and is one of those seeking asylum in Canada, has said she has no regrets about taking Snowden in.

"I am hopeful that we can get into Canada and start a new life (with) safety and freedom," she told AFP.

COMMENTS

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ

E-Publications

Most Read