Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal recently delivered a highly disappointing judgment in GA. v. Director of Immigration, unanimously deciding that refugees may be denied a right to work in the country. The decision, which has received considerable international attention, has been widely criticized by the public as unjust, inhumane and lacking in common sense.
Although Hong Kong’s law currently provides that asylum seekers, recognized refugees and torture claims may be granted “discretionary permission” to work by the Director of Immigration, in practice, this discretion is rarely exercised. As a result, these individuals are forced to reside in often-intolerable living conditions, work illegally and rely on a minimal government-backed allowance. With only approximately one hundred refugees in the territory, there is little weight to the argument that extending the right to work to refugees would have any notable impact upon Hong Kong’s labor market.