– Marco Carvalho
The Government should, in conjunction with the United Nations, determine the minimum number of refugees to which it can extend a helping hand. The appeal was made by the president of the Association of Relief of Refugees, Paul Pun, on the occasion of the World Refugee Day, which was observed all over the world on Thursday.
Paul Pun, who doubles as the Secretary-General of Caritas Macau argues that the Government should make itself available to help one hundred refugees every year instead of waiting for asylum seekers to knock on its door: “We are not really sure if we can help a hundred asylum seekers because not all of them are truly refugees, but we can help those who have already obtained refugee status in other countries. Why don’t we bring one hundred of these refugees and help them?” Mr. Pun suggests. “Many of these will never be accepted by other countries and they will spend most of their lives confined to refugee camps. We can send someone to these camps, to Jordan, for instance, and ask them how we can be of help. If some of them are willing to travel to the Far East, our doors must be open. I’m quite sure many would be interested,” the head of Caritas Macau assumes.
The Refugees Act has been legislated in the Special Administrative Region in 2004, but the Government didn’t grant refugee status to a single asylum applicant during the last fifteen years. A few foreign nationals – to whom the Association of Refugee Charities provides emotional support – have been waiting for the Government’s decision for more than eight years now. Paul Pun, chairman of the organization, recalls that Macau is “a city of refugees.” The activist believes that the SAR can and must do much better, streamlining decision processes and allowing asylum seekers to work: “I’ve always maintained that they should be allowed to do something. Macau is capable of receiving ten asylum seekers, but it wouldn’t be much different to allow one hundred to come. The Government wouldn’t have to worry about them if it gave them refugee status,” says the Secretary-General of Caritas. “Once they obtain the refugee status, they can be accepted by other countries and they can leave Macau. But even if they don’t, they would at least have refugee status and would be allowed to work, to do something productive. Right know they can’t,” Mr Pun says.
According to the chairman of the Association for Refugees’ Welfare, there is currently a handful of asylum seekers waiting for the local Government to decide on their fate: “I know of an asylum seeker originally from the Middle East and a second one from Africa. In the past, there were some cases from India, but the number was not very significant either. Two years ago, Macau received someone from Pakistan who claimed to be a refugee, but I think the case was dismissed because it was not possible to prove the allegations made by the applicant,” the head of Caritas told O Clarim.